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Social categories and sociolinguistics: applying a realist approach

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal article

<mark>Journal publication date</mark>12/2001
<mark>Journal</mark>International Journal of the Sociology of Language
Number of pages19
Pages (from-to)1-19
Publication statusPublished
Original languageEnglish


In a previous article (Carter and Sealey 2000) we have suggested that sociolinguistics can benefit from recent developments in social theory that are broadly termed 'sociological realism.' This rests on the claim that social reality is stratified, comprising not only the activities and interactions of human beings (agency) but also the structured social relations arising from these activities and interactions (structure), as well as the products of human consciousness or thought (culture). The present article develops these ideas to argue for a close collaboration between sociolinguistics and social theory, starting with the realist claim that empirical descriptions of the world are always incomplete, since the social world is not fully or directly intelligible to its inhabitants. The article explores some of the implications of this for concept formation and methodology in sociolinguistics, using as examples social categories such as 'racial' and 'ethnic' groups. It considers how sociolinguistic research can take account of actors' own understandings and mobilizations of such categories while also embedding these within a theoretically adequate description of the social world.; Reprinted by permission of Mouton de Gruyter