The Language–Identity–Normativity Interface and Critical Discourse Studies

  • Heiko Motschenbacher
Part of the Postdisciplinary Studies in Discourse book series (PSDS)


The relationship between language and identity has been studied extensively in linguistics (for a detailed research overview, see Joseph 2004: 41–91), mainly in sociolinguistics (e.g. Omoniyi 2006), anthropological linguistics (e.g. McElhinny 2003), applied linguistics (e.g. Block 2006) and discourse analysis (e.g. Benwell and Stokoe 2006). Early variationist work (e.g. Labov 1966; Trudgill 1972) treated sociodemographic data as a pre-given, objective starting point for the analysis of linguistic variation . Speakers were categorised into social macro-groups (e.g. social class, region, gender or ethnic group), and their speech behaviour was correlated with these categories. This is problematic in a number of ways. The attribution of a certain social category label to a person is not always a straightforward process (how would one, e.g., classify speakers whose parents are of mixed origin in terms of social class, region or ethnic group?). Secondly, such an approach foregrounds intra-group homogeneity to the detriment of intra-group diversity (which is often much greater). Finally, people’s sociodemographic characteristics are not automatically relevant for explaining their speech behaviour across communication contexts. The incorporation of ideas from social psychology with its focus on language attitudes, communication accommodation and audience design (e.g. Bell 1984; Giles et al. 1991) has helped linguists to study identities in a multidimensional way. Such work highlights the influence of language ideologies , adjustment to one’s interlocutor and audience targeting on the way identities are constructed and negotiated via language.


Sexuality Identity Language Policy Minority Language Language Variety Critical Discourse Analysis 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


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© The Author(s) 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • Heiko Motschenbacher
    • 1
  1. 1.Goethe-University Frankfurt am MainFrankfurtGermany

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