Disinventing and (Re) Constituting Languages

Lawrence Erlbaum
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Journal Article
Critical Inquiry in Language Studies: an International Journal, 2005, 2 (3), pp. 137 - 156
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In this paper we argue that although the problematic nature of language construction has been acknowledged by a number of skeptical authors, including the recent claim in this journal (Reagan, 2004) that there is no such thing as English or any other language, this critical approach to language still needs to develop a broader understanding of the processes of invention. A central part of our argument, therefore, is that it is not enough to acknowledge that languages have been invented, nor that linguistic metalanguage constructs the world in particular ways; rather, we need to understand the interrelationships among metadiscursive regimes, language inventions, colonial history, language effects, alternative ways of understanding language, and strategies of disinvention and reconstitution. Any critical (applied) linguistic project that aims to deal with language in the contemporary world, however estimable its political intent may be, must also have ways of understanding the detrimental language effects it may engender unless it confronts the need for linguistic disinvention and reconstitution.
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