What is language and what have people got to do with it?

Hultgren, Anna Kristina (2011). What is language and what have people got to do with it? In: Third CIP Symposium, 11 Nov 2011, University of Copenhagen.

URL: http://cip.ku.dk/english/events/previous_events/sy...

Abstract

In this talk Hultgren takes a closer look at the debate about the use of English in Danish universities as it has unfolded in Danish print media and other relevant documents over the past decade. She shall scrutinize taken-for-granted assumptions about language as a living organism existing independently of language users, for example as reflected in representations of it as being ‘society-bearing’ and at risk of ‘losing domains’. She shall then contrast such conceptualizations of language with theories which have recently been developed within sociolinguistics to capture the messy and complex linguistic realities of globalization, characterized by an extensive mobility of people and practices. In essence, such theories reverse conventional understandings of language as an idealized and abstract system existing a priori of it being used and propose instead to take language use as the starting point and consider the output, whatever form it takes, as language. Hultgren concludes by raising the question of whether such radically different views of language can be reconciled. The overall objective is to seek a middle way which might usefully move forward both the debate about English at Danish universities as well as theoretical developments within sociolinguistics.

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