WP208 Metapragmatics in the ethnography of language policy
This paper traces briefly the origins and development of the ethnography of language policy. It argues that, although this tradition has put ethnography firmly on the language policy and planning (LPP) research agenda since the turn of the 21st century, it has not yet sufficiently addressed some persistent problems. These include: a) the reproduction of dichotomies, such as that of agency/structure, that go against well-established developments in both social theory and communication studies; b) a focus on explicit commentaries on policy documents by participants, which are taken as the primary context of interpretation; c) an event-based entry point to data collection/analysis that is taken as the relevant platform to understand the implementation and appropriation of policies in a given context, even in multi-sited research where a compound of events is defined a priori by researchers; and d) a tendency towards portrayals where research participants appear as mere ciphers in the matrix. Against this background, metapragmatics is presented as suitable epistemological framework to overcome some of these challenges, one that draws from two contemporary shifts in the study of texts, contexts and meanings within the fields of linguistic anthropology and sociolinguistics, namely: 1) a departure from emphasis on denotational meanings, towards closer description of performative actions; and 2) a shift in the analytical entry point, from communicative events to trajectories of identification. These shifts are examined with reference to some existing work in LPP, and illustrated via ethnographic work that is revisited through the lens being proposed. Some of the implications for the study of LPP processes in conditions of late modernity are also addressed.