Superdiversity and linguistic ethnography: Researching people and language in motion
Karrebæk, Martha Sif
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In their position paper on language and superdiversity, Blommaert and Rampton state: “Rather than working with homogeneity, stability and boundedness as the starting assumptions, mobility, mixing, political dynamics and historical embedding are now central concerns in the study of language, language groups and communication” (2011: 3). Blommaert and Rampton’s main point is that increased and more varied mobility to and within Europe, together with rapidly increasing technological innovations and modes of interconnectivity, have led to new social formations, including new forms of commonality and differentiation, and that this requires new perspectives in (socio)linguistic research. A ‘state-centric’ approach (Moore 2015; Silverstein 2015) is no longer adequate, and instead, researchers must embrace a condition of constantly changing social realities, expect the unexpected, learn to understand the unfamiliar, and accept a lesser degree of uniformity and agreement across the board. Blommaert and Rampton argue that language is a particularly sensitive instrument for capturing these dynamics of social transformations (cf. Blommaert 2014: 432). Specifically, the combination of linguistic ‘tools’ with ethnography, which is known in the UK and Europe as ‘Linguistic Ethnography’ (Rampton et al. 2015: 4), appears as a particularly adept way to move “beyond pattern analysis - no matter how detailed, delicate and fine-grained [the] … description” and to “respect … uniqueness, particularity and creativity just as much as convention and structure” (Deumert 2014: 118). Before expanding on this, we will say a few more words on the sociolinguistic uptake of the notion of superdiversity.