Communication and community. An ELF perspective on critical contexts


This paper examines current ways in which the concept of ‘community’ has been operationalized in sociolinguistics and how they relate to thinking about communication. It argues that in the age of globalization, well-established ideas about community need to be radically re-thought in order to ensure compatibility with contemporary life, characterized by de-territorialization, fluidity and virtuality. This is particularly crucial when it comes to high-stakes encounters in critical contexts, such as international conflict mediation, interpreting, asylum procedures and international publishing. These are very often carried out via (English as) a lingua franca, (E)LF for short. Describing and analyzing these encounters is not just a matter of carrying out sociolinguistic, ethnographic and anthropological research but is essentially an applied linguistic undertaking, in that the conditions of ELF communication are inextricably interwoven with significant socio-political, socio-economic and humanitarian issues of misunderstanding, inequity and disenfranchisement. It is therefore imperative to think clearly about the concepts that provide the basis for wide-reaching decisions in these critical contexts. The contribution of ELF research is thus that it not only helps us to understand how “communication communities” work; but also has an important part to play in the critical appraisal of well-entrenched but potentially unsuitable and anachronistic notions in sociolinguistics and in bringing our conceptual and methodological tools in line with the realities of globalization.

DOI Code: 10.1285/i22390359v38p25


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