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Penelope Eckert. High school ethnography

Penelope Eckert is a professor of linguistics at Stanford University in Stanford, California. She is a prominent scholar of variationist sociolinguistics, and is the author of several scholarly works on language and gender.

Penelope Eckert interpreted variationist sociolinguistics as developing in three ways:

1)               The first was based on survey methodology and establishing correlations between linguistic variation and sociodemographic categories, from Labov’s New York study onwards.

2)               Then came the use of ethnographic methods to identify local categories that affect variation. This began with the Milroy’s Belfast studies, and included Eckert’s Belten High project.

3)               In the third wave, variation itself constructs social meaning, and styles are the focus. This includes Eckert’s more recent research, and work by Kiesling, Campbell-Kibler and many others. It has increasingly become the current orthodoxy.

Penelope Eckert’s input into sociolinguistic research emerged in response to criticisms of William Labov’s studies. People asked whether Labov’s focus on people in terms of their demographic categories (age, gender, ethnicity, social class) was indeed the biggest influence on language use.

So along came Eckert with the idea of the role of social practice.

A ‘social practice’ is what we share when we, as speakers, engage in an activity together. So, if you and someone else you know play football together, you are sharing a social practice.

What Eckert did in her research was define groups in terms of the social practices the speakers engaged in. She did this by observing friendship groups in a school in Detroit; this method of detailed observation of a community is known as ethnography.

She established two very different groups in the school, the jocks and the burnouts, each containing individuals with a mix of social class (parental occupation, housing etc.).

The jocks were a group in the school who actively engaged in and enjoyed school life. They respected the authority and they were school-orientated.

The burnouts were quite the opposite of the jocks, choosing not to become involved and interactive with the goings-on of the school and engaging in rebellious behavior.

Eckert came to the conclusion that people tend to speak more like their friends – those who shared social practices together – than others belonging in the same demographic category as them, i.e. social class.

Source:

Penelope Eckert is a professor of linguistics at Stanford University in Stanford, California. She is a prominent scholar of variationist sociolinguistics, and is the author of several scholarly works on language and gender.

Penelope Eckert interpreted variationist sociolinguistics as developing in three ways:

1)               The first was based on survey methodology and establishing correlations between linguistic variation and sociodemographic categories, from Labov’s New York study onwards.

2)               Then came the use of ethnographic methods to identify local categories that affect variation. This began with the Milroy’s Belfast studies, and included Eckert’s Belten High project.

3)               In the third wave, variation itself constructs social meaning, and styles are the focus. This includes Eckert’s more recent research, and work by Kiesling, Campbell-Kibler and many others. It has increasingly become the current orthodoxy.

Penelope Eckert’s input into sociolinguistic research emerged in response to criticisms of William Labov’s studies. People asked whether Labov’s focus on people in terms of their demographic categories (age, gender, ethnicity, social class) was indeed the biggest influence on language use.
So along came Eckert with the idea of the role of social practice.
A ‘social practice’ is what we share when we, as speakers, engage in an activity together. So, if you and someone else you know play football together, you are sharing a social practice.

What Eckert did in her research was define groups in terms of the social practices the speakers engaged in. She did this by observing friendship groups in a school in Detroit; this method of detailed observation of a community is known as ethnography.

She established two very different groups in the school, the jocks and the burnouts, each containing individuals with a mix of social class (parental occupation, housing etc.).

The jocks were a group in the school who actively engaged in and enjoyed school life. They respected the authority and they were school-orientated.

The burnouts were quite the opposite of the jocks, choosing not to become involved and interactive with the goings-on of the school and engaging in rebellious behavior.

Eckert came to the conclusion that people tend to speak more like their friends – those who shared social practices together – than others belonging in the same demographic category as them, i.e. social class.

Penelope Eckert is a professor of linguistics at Stanford University in Stanford, California. She is a prominent scholar of variationist sociolinguistics, and is the author of several scholarly works on language and gender.

Penelope Eckert interpreted variationist sociolinguistics as developing in three ways:

1)               The first was based on survey methodology and establishing correlations between linguistic variation and sociodemographic categories, from Labov’s New York study onwards.

2)               Then came the use of ethnographic methods to identify local categories that affect variation. This began with the Milroy’s Belfast studies, and included Eckert’s Belten High project.

3)               In the third wave, variation itself constructs social meaning, and styles are the focus. This includes Eckert’s more recent research, and work by Kiesling, Campbell-Kibler and many others. It has increasingly become the current orthodoxy.

Penelope Eckert’s input into sociolinguistic research emerged in response to criticisms of William Labov’s studies. People asked whether Labov’s focus on people in terms of their demographic categories (age, gender, ethnicity, social class) was indeed the biggest influence on language use.
So along came Eckert with the idea of the role of social practice.
A ‘social practice’ is what we share when we, as speakers, engage in an activity together. So, if you and someone else you know play football together, you are sharing a social practice.

What Eckert did in her research was define groups in terms of the social practices the speakers engaged in. She did this by observing friendship groups in a school in Detroit; this method of detailed observation of a community is known as ethnography.

She established two very different groups in the school, the jocks and the burnouts, each containing individuals with a mix of social class (parental occupation, housing etc.).

The jocks were a group in the school who actively engaged in and enjoyed school life. They respected the authority and they were school-orientated.

The burnouts were quite the opposite of the jocks, choosing not to become involved and interactive with the goings-on of the school and engaging in rebellious behavior.

Eckert came to the conclusion that people tend to speak more like their friends – those who shared social practices together – than others belonging in the same demographic category as them, i.e. social class.

Source: https://sites.google.com/a/sheffield.ac.uk/all-about-linguistics/home

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One thought on “Penelope Eckert. High school ethnography

  1. This idea of Penelope Eckert is a most valuable one, espesially for Russian scholars, who have developed the theory of functional styles – theory of language variation depending on the type of communicative and non-communicative activity the speakers are engaged in.
    I believe reading might be very profitable for many of us.

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