Historical foundations

The foundations of linguistic ethnography lie in the work of scholars allied to the British Association for Applied Linguistics (BAAL). In the 1990s, BAAL provided an arena for debate among researchers interested in interactional sociolinguistics, literacy studies, critical discourse analysis, language and cognitive development, and interpretively oriented applied linguistics (Rampton, Tusting, Maybin, Barwell, Creese and Lytra 2004). In 2000, five BAAL members - David Barton, Angela Creese, Janet Maybin, Ben Rampton and Karin Tusting - established a new special interest group, the Linguistic Ethnography Forum (known then as UK LEF). The aim was to unite researchers who were interested in bringing together linguistic and ethnographic perspectives and, collectively, to engage in methodological and theoretical debate.

Linguistic ethnography has been influenced significantly by linguistic anthropology and shares many of the same theoretical underpinnings (Copland and Creese 2015). However, while linguistic anthropology has prospered in North America, this has not been the case in Europe where the idea of an 'institutionalized linguistic anthropology' (Rampton 2007b, p. 594) has not materialised (Flynn, Van Praet and Jacobs 2010; Jacobs and Slembrouck 2010; Copland and Creese 2015). Rather, the Linguistic Ethnography Forum has provided an intellectual and supportive home for those interested in exploring the disciplinary boundaries of linguistics and sociolinguistics. Members of the LEF have produced a position paper introducing the term (Rampton et al. 2004), a special journal edition (Rampton, Maybin and Tusting 2007), entries on linguistic ethnography to encyclopaedias and handbooks (Creese 2008; Maybin and Tusting 2010; Snell and Lefstein 2015) and a book to support researchers with doing linguistic ethnographic research (Copland and Creese 2015). All have emphasised the emergent state of the field.

The label 'linguistic ethnography' does not, of course, guarantee the quality of the research: as with any emerging field there is some excellent and some mediocre work. Nevertheless, the group of researchers aligning to linguistic ethnography has grown rapidly since the Linguistic Ethnography Forum was first set up. At the time of writing, it has over 600 members from more than 30 countries, many of whom attend LEF's biennial conference on Explorations in Ethnography, Language and Communication. A search of Google Scholar also indicates a growth in research and referencing of linguistic ethnography work, with citations growing steadily since the inception of LEF (Table 1.1).

Despite increasing interest, there remains a question about whether linguistic ethnography is a new interdisciplinary field or, whether, as Martin Hammersley has suggested, such growth reflects a wider 'obsession with re-branding and relaunching' (2007, p. 690) that is characteristic of the social sciences in the late 20th and early 21st centuries. This

Table 1.1 Citations of 'linguistic ethnography' on Google Scholar

Year

Citations

2013

171

2012

147

2011

128

2010

121

2009

104

2008

67

2007

58

2006

32

2005

28

2004

16

2003

27

2002

24

2001

7

2000

2

collection showcases a current of work which has appropriated linguistics, ethnography and linguistic anthropology in interesting ways and which share a number of commonalities (see below). Taken together, they suggest that linguistic ethnography should be considered as more than a simple rebranding exercise.

 
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