The relationship between language, perspective and ideology is an issue that has long aroused the interest of a wide audience: linguists, literary theorists, philosophers, anthropologists, sociologists, psychologists, communication theorists. This book approaches the question through recent work in linguistics and sociolinguistics. It begins by considering those characteristics of language that make it an ideal instrument for the mediation of perspective, with a particular focus on the processes of categorisation and selection. Of particular interest is the problematic nature of the fit between language and "reality". The second chapter deals with the historical foundations of the issue in linguistics and the third with the linguistic correlates of world-view in two literary works (Golding's "The Inheritors" and Faulkner's "The Sound and the Fury"). Chapter 4 discusses the role of metaphor in everydahy language (building on the work of linguists Lakoff and Johnson), with illustrative material drawn (a) from our ways of talking about language itself and (b) from discourses about the language of nuclear arms ("nukespeak").
The discussion then moves to a more "delicate" level, considering the complexity and diversity of linguistic practices within a given culture. Illustrations are drawn from newspaper reports and informal conversations. This argument brings the reader to the central point of the book - language as a highly heterogeneous phenomenon, comprising a complex range of interacting socially based ways of speaking and thinking that meet in the production of (spoken or written) texts. There is a particular focus here on the relationship between language and gender. The penultimate chapter relates the notion of discourse to that of variety. The final chapter reviews the general argument by drawing together connecting strands across the principal concepts and illustrative materials. The book is aimed primarily at students in areas such as linguistics and communication. It could form the basis of a course at any level from first to third year.
The book does not assume any specialist knowledge and could be tackled by first-year students, though it would be most effective in a second or third-year course, building on basic courses in linguistics (especially sociolinguistics) and/or communication theory. The book aims to develop critical skills in the analysis of text. Since it contains analysis and discusion of both literary and non-literary texts, it should also be of interest to students in literature, particularly in the context of a course in literary theory.