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Ecological Orientations to Sociolinguistic Scale: Insights from Study Abroad Experiences

Badwan, Khawla and Simpson, James (2019) Ecological Orientations to Sociolinguistic Scale: Insights from Study Abroad Experiences. Applied Linguistics Review. ISSN 1868-6311

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Abstract

The sociolinguistics of globalisation, as an emerging paradigm, focuses on the impact of mobility on the linguistic capital of mobile individuals. To understand this, Blommaert advocates a scalar approach to language arguing that some people’s repertoires “will allow mobility while others will not” (2010: 23) and proposing high scale, low scale orderings. In this paper we introduce an ecological orientation to sociolinguistic scale that challenges the fixity of a high/low scale distinction by conceptually drawing on the notions of flat ontology (Marston et al. 2005) and exchange value (Heller 2010). We do this in relation to Study Abroad (SA) contexts, which offer spaces for investigating how mobility influences the exchange value of individuals’ linguistic repertoires. The study speaks to a broader project in social research which emphasises the agency, subjectivity and criticality of the individual and stresses the complex and rhizomatic nature of social interaction. Drawing on moment analysis (Li 2011), we examine the experiences of two study abroad students in the UK. These include tellings of critical and reflective moments through which we interpret their experience of how the interplay of language, place and ecology of interaction results in constant, dynamic changes in the exchange value of their English repertoires. Our contribution is to show how an ecological orientation and a flat, rather than stratified, ontology enables insights into language use and globalisation in a way that empowers multilingual, mobile individuals.

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