The sociolinguistics of writing in a global context

Lillis, Theresa (2012). The sociolinguistics of writing in a global context. ESRC End of Award Report.



Non technical summary:

The goal of this programme of work was to critically review what we mean by ‘writing’ in the 21C, to generate an international agenda for future research and to collaborate with potential users. The programme builds on a ten year study of academic writing in four national contexts and a state of the art review of research on writing in sociolinguistics. The review is informed by work in new literacy studies, applied linguistics, semiotics and new media studies.

Key findings are that writing is on the increase globally in all spheres of social life, involving a wide range of technologies, including the continuing use of conventional tools, such as pen and paper, as well as digital technologies, where writing is increasingly produced alongside image and sound. Whilst people’s practices of writing are wide ranging, both common sense and academic approaches to writing often involve rigid assumptions and expectations (for example, expecting writing to be monolingual, in a standard language, using particular design layouts and materials). Such expectations are problematic in that they limit understandings about the complex functions of writing in different domains of social life and can cloud understandings about what any particular piece of writing means. Any misunderstandings can be highly consequential in a globalised world in which writing – in all its forms- plays a key role.

Key activities of the programme have been the writing of 3 books, 11 articles and book chapters, the organisation of two international seminars and collaboration with user groups.

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