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American Speech 79.4 (2004) 428-438
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A Debt Repaid:
Honoring Roger Shuy
Terry Lynn Irons
Language in Action: New Studies of Language in Society honors the achievements of Roger Shuy, a pioneer in defining the field of sociolinguistics, who advanced the state of the art in dialect variation, education, law, medicine, and discourse analysis. Edited by Joy Kreeft Peyton, Peg Griffin, Walt Wolfram, and Ralph Fasold, the volume comprises 31 chapters written by former students, colleagues, and associates of Shuy. It includes an introduction by Peyton and Griffin and a foreword by Deborah Tannen. The chapters are organized into six parts: (1) "Language and the Fabric of Society," (2) "Language and Cultural Belief Systems," (3) "Features of Language in Communication," (4) "Places of Language Use in Society," (5) "Language in Education," and (6) "Language of the Young and Old." In general, this collection is an excellent introduction to current trends in the study of the socially situated use of language and is accessible to student and professional alike. The chapters in this volume feature a range of methodologies (from qualitative discourse analysis to quantitative variation analysis) and emphases (from broad survey to microlevel attention to detail), yet they hang together by a unifying thread, the belief that "the work of social scientists, and sociolinguists in particular, can further social justice" (15), bringing to bear linguistic expertise to solve real-life problems in the areas of language planning and policy, education, industry, communication, law, and health care.
The five chapters in part 1, "Language and the Fabric of Society," generally address issues of language maintenance, planning, and policy in the United States, Hungary, and Australia. In "Endangered Dialects and Social Commitment," Walt Wolfram argues that "investigators who have obtained linguistic data from a speech community should actively pursue positive ways in which they can return linguistic favors to the community" (22), a concept he refers to as the PRINCIPLE OF LINGUISTIC GRATUITY. In this respect, [End Page 428] he details efforts to preserve the endangered dialect of the Ocracoke community on the Outer Banks of North Carolina. In "Sociolinguistics in Deaf Communities: Where Have We Been and Where Are We Going?" Ceil Lucas provides an excellent overview of research in the sociolinguistics of the Deaf community. After reviewing a set of considerations about the relation between the spoken language and the sign language that defined and limited the earliest research in the Deaf community, she emphasizes the need to realize that the "models developed for spoken languages cannot be automatically applied to sign language situations" (48) and that eventually studies of Deaf communities may provide models that shed insight into the nature of spoken languages. In "Language Politics and the Sociolinguistic Historiography of Spanish in the United States," Reynaldo F. Macías argues that an informed understanding of the history of Spanish and English in the United States is crucial to overcome the "distorted notions tied to a popular language ideology" (80)—the English-Only Movement. He emphasizes the need for research detailing the sociolinguistic history of other languages in the United States. Drawing upon limited records, he presents a series of language profiles for the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, demonstrating the persistence of Spanish language and language loyalty in the face of increasingly repressive language policies focused on racial language minorities. The final two chapters focus on efforts to revive and strengthen endangered languages through bilingual education programs. In "Language Planning for Education: A Sociolinguistic Profile of the Torres Strait Region of Northeast Australia," Anna Shnukal discusses the sociolinguistic situation of Kala Lagaw Ya, an Australian language, and Meriam Mir, a Papuan language, which have become endangered through contact and accommodation with English and Pacific Pidgin English (now called Torres Strait Creole) in the Torres Strait islands. While the negotiation of social life and personal experience in Torres Strait is carried out by use of the indigenous languages...