I'm looking to understand the relationships between two areas of study, folk linguistics (as in Niedzielski & Preston, 2003) and language ideology (as in e.g. Woolard & Schieffelin, 1994 or Silverstein, 2003). They seem to deal with similar questions, but have developed somewhat independently? Anyone able to relate the concepts?

Can anyone point to a nice conceptual or empirical review, or the most classical articles? Or any recent research that has successfully addressed both viewpoints? Many thanks!

  • Niedzielski, N. A., & Preston, D. R. (2003). Folk linguistics (Vol. 122). Walter de Gruyter.
  • Silverstein, M. (2003). Indexical order and the dialectics of sociolinguistic life. Language & Communication, 23(3), 193-229.
  • Woolard, K. A., & Schieffelin, B. B. (1994). Language ideology. Annual review of anthropology, 55-82.

Edit: The post received a downvote, if you have any advice on how I should better phrase my questions on this site, I will do that. At the moment I don't know how to improve, here or in the future, while I'm sure there are established traditions that would be good to follow. Thanks!

  • I can think of two ways they're similar. Both of them are used to refer to stories people tell, and only academics use either one. That means you'll get different stories about the relation between them, too, because both folk and ideology are pejorative terms, which means no one would want their ideas described that way. Like incorrect, it's something to label others, not oneself.
    – jlawler
    Commented May 14, 2015 at 20:34
  • You're right, there is a danger in that they both may be seen as 'wrong' interpretation, and it's been better addressed in more recent work I suppose. It's a good point, that's been written about in either research too. I had in mind quite specific terms used in modern sociolinguistics, so i'll update the question with a few refs. Thanks!
    – puslet88
    Commented May 14, 2015 at 20:38
  • As for the differences, ethnomethological varieties of sociolinguistics were always rife with heresy and schism, producing and mixing competing terminologies of all sorts.
    – jlawler
    Commented May 14, 2015 at 20:47
  • Well, I guess the way to overcome these confusions is to pick one, that works quite well, and try and relate the others to this. It's an issue that they don't want to define terms often therein, but consider it more of an immersive exercise of participation. But still, the eventual outcome can be useful. What do you mean by heresy?
    – puslet88
    Commented May 14, 2015 at 20:57
  • At that level, these are not things you pick so much as people and viewpoints you follow. Whose views are most amenable to you, and why? They're talking about much the same kind of data, though not always the same methodologies or agendas.
    – jlawler
    Commented May 14, 2015 at 21:03

1 Answer 1


Of course, language ideology and folk linguistics are not the only concepts to relate in this semantic space. There's also language politics, language policy, language education, folk etymology, etc.

They all interact in rather complex but at the same time fairly transparent ways. Some of the connections you can draw:

  • Folk linguistics is an expression of language ideology
  • Folk linguistics is used to achieve aims of language politics
  • Language ideology underlies language policy
  • Language education policy is a battleground of language ideology and politics

But, furthermore, you cannot really separate language with other markers of identity when it comes to both folk linguistics and language ideology. It is interwoven with assumptions and stereotypes about culture, race, folk psychology, human nature, etc.

I'm not aware of any comprehensive survey of research and thought that explicitly links all of these concepts in a systematic way but at the same time I'd say that any survey of language politics or even just language contact will touch on the underlying phenomena - perhaps with varying emphasis.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.