Performativity and language studies

Lawrence Erlbaum Assoc Inc
Publication Type:
Journal Article
Critical Inquiry in Language Studies, 2004, 1 (1), pp. 1 - 19
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Drawing analogies with the crisis in understandings of culture that led to the development of cultural studies, I suggest in this article that a similar crisis in the understanding of language may give an important impetus to the development of language studies. Arguing for the need to rethink the notion of language as commonly formulated in linguistics and applied linguistics, I take up the notion of performativity as a way of thinking about language use and identity that avoids foundationalist categories, suggesting that identities are formed in the linguistic performance rather than pregiven. Such a view of language identity also helps us to see how subjectivities are called into being and sedimented over time through regulated language acts. This further provides the ground for considering languages themselves from an anti-foundationalist perspective, whereby language use is an act of identity that calls that language into being. And performativity, particularly in its relationship to notions of performance, opens up ways to understand how languages, identities and futures are refashioned.
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