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J. I. (Hans) Bakker

Subject Linguistics » Sociolinguistics
Sociology » Social Psychology

People Chomsky, Noam

Key-Topics language

DOI: 10.1111/b.9781405124331.2007.x


Language is a very important topic in its own right ( Crystal 1987 ) and in terms of philosophical debates in the social sciences (Rorty 1967; Calhoone 2003), yet, surprisingly, many sociologists pay scant attention to language and find communication entirely unproblematic. For some, for example, it is mainly a question of tracing the history and etymology of specific words (Stevenson 1983). Many classical sociologists did not pay specific attention to language as a phenomenon, but recently there has been a reexamination of the work of outstanding linguists and logicians. The important debates between those who identify with Enlightenment modernism ( Chomsky 1998 ) and those who adhere to postmodernism ( Jameson 1991 ) have forced many social scientists to reexamine long-held assumptions. However, there were important precursors among the moderns, including Johann Gottlieb Fichte, a dialectical thinker who defined language in 1794 as the “expression of our thoughts by means of arbitrary signs” ( Surber 1996 : 32). Critical approaches to the study of gender, race, and class have often involved a rethinking of basic linguistic categories by scholars such as Foucault, Baudrillard, Derrida, Bauman, and many others. For example, Foucault (1985 : 91) has a very ingenious way of defining “aphrodisia” as “acts intended by nature.” Hence, in a sense, the study of language is a window to ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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