Dick Smakman – Abstract

Is it necessary or possible to globalise sociolinguistics?

Like many fields in the Humanities in which culture plays a role, the field of Sociolinguistics suffers from a dominance of Anglowestern influence. The relative contributions from western academics is problematic, not only for obvious moral concerns, but also because analyses are relatively often modelled on western ways of thinking regardless of the research locations. Asian and African perspectives, as well as Asian and African scholars, in particular are not sufficiently represented in publications. The work and interpretations of this group are underrepresented, and their general visibility is too low in view of the fact that they represent the majority. 
This issue has been acknowledged (Coulmas, 2013; Meyerhoff & Nagy, 2008; Smakman & Heinrich, 2015). Efforts to give more attention to lesser used languages are common, and a recent example of this is a Specials issue of Language Ecology, entitled ‘Styles, Standards and Meaning in Lesser-Studied Languages’, which is scheduled to appear in 2021.
In this talk, which is inspired by a text on this issue written by Cassie Smith-Christmas, Sandra Barasa, Nathan Albury, and myself, I seek to bring attention to this substantive issue and offer some preliminary but practical ideas for combatting it. Ahead of the field becoming more holistically engaged in the decolonisation of its theories and methods, we suggest that initial gains in diversifying the field can be made by peer-review processes, including more focus on the content than form of articles as well as using translation as a tool to alleviate language issues. Academics from within certain lesser-known areas could, furthermore, work together with academics from outside, and cultural interpretations of data could be critically negotiated. Such cooperation may be enabled by a flow of funds from more affluent institutions to fund research with less affluent ones. Finally, the editorial boards of journals and the ways articles are disseminated deserve critical attention.

Coulmas, F. (2013). Sociolinguistics. The Study of Speakers’ Choices. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Meyerhoff, M., & Nagy, N. (2008). Social lives in language. Sociolinguistics and multilingual speech communities celebrating the work of Gillian Sankoff. Amsterdam / Philadelphia: John Benjamins.
Smakman, D., & Heinrich, P. (2015). Globalising Sociolinguistics. Challenging and Expanding Theory. London: Routledge.