Kathryn Woolard, “Singular and Plural: Ideologies of Linguistic Authority in Twenty-First Century Catalonia” (Oxford UP, 2016)

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Kathryn Woolard is Professor Emerita and Research Professor of Anthropology at the University of California, San Diego. She has authored seminal works on language ideology and the sociolinguistic situation in Catalonia, including the present book Singular and Plural: Ideologies of Linguistic Authority in Twenty-First Century Catalonia (Oxford University Press, 2016) which won the 2017 Society for Linguistic Anthropology Edward Sapir Book Prize. Bringing together two of her longstanding areas of research interest in this book, Woolard develops a framework for analyzing ideologies of linguistic authority and applies it to the evolving political situation in Catalonia.
In this interview, Woolard discusses the key theoretical and contextual elements of the book, broadly following its three-part structure. First, the concepts of linguistic authenticity, anonymity, sociolinguistic naturalism are introduced, and Woolard sets out the changing ideological grounding of linguistic authority there over the course of twenty years of fieldwork in Catalonia. Next, Woolard’s theoretical framework is applied to the case of a popular satirical television program which catalyzed the sociolinguistic rehabilitation of a Catalonian president whose Castilian Spanish was better than his Catalan. Finally, Woolard discusses her early and recent fieldwork in a Catalan-medium high school, and her experiences of following up on research informants first interviewed twenty years ago.
This is a typically rich and fascinating volume from a pioneer of linguistic anthropology. Positioned as a corrective against the banal nationalism of mainstream media discourse about Spain and Catalonia, the book calls on us to rethink our ideologies of language, nationalism and cosmopolitanism, which have become so polarized in the West in recent years.
Kathryn Woolard wrote a post for Indiana University’s Communication, Media and Performance Anthropology blog (08/14/2017) in which she discusses ideas we talked about in the podcast. You can find it here.
John Weston is an Yliopistonopettaja (Associate Lecturer) at the Department of Language and Communication Studies at the University of Jyvaskyla. His research focuses on the relationships between language variation, knowledge and ethics. He can be reached at j.weston@qmul.ac.uk.
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