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Issue 34 - English(es) as a social practice

Submission deadline: 15 May 2022
  • 1 In a quest for clarity, “English” is used in place of “(varieties of) English” from this point f (...)

English is perhaps the most widely-spoken, widely-taught and widely-researched language in the world. For these reasons, research centred on (varieties of) English1 has been fundamental to the development of sociolinguistics and related disciplines, as with many branches of linguistics and language sciences. From insight into the social stratification of linguistic variables (Labov), to understanding of the way in which language intertwines with social communities and identity (Eckert), via explorations as to how context is embedded in language (Gumperz), studies focusing on English have played a key role in shaping the questions, methods and concepts of sociolinguistics and other disciplines that adopt a social approach to researching language.

This dynamic shows no signs of abating and recent research has continued this exploration of English as a social practice, shedding light on the reciprocal influence between English and matters relating to gender (Eckert and McConnell-Ginet), sexuality (Ehrlich et al.), political resistance (Reisigl and Wodak), race (Makoni et al.), climate change (Flottum) and all nature of social, sanitary and/or economic crises (Piller et al.), to name but a few key areas of interest. In sum, English – whether as a first language, as a lingua franca (Mauranen and Ranta) or within multi- or plurilingual practices (Forlot) – is deeply intertwined with extremely diverse sociolinguistic configurations. Linguistically speaking, these different social contexts contribute profoundly to shaping all aspects of the genesis, evolution and variation of English (Glain). Seen from another angle, these same English(es) constitute social, cultural, ideological, identity, political, or sometimes even economic, resources (e.g. Heller; Eckert; Trudgill), deployed by speakers in any number of social contexts, to any number of social ends.

This special issue aims to draw inspiration from this continuously growing body of research, inviting contributions that view English as a set of pratiques langagières (Boutet), that is, as a collection of social practices in their own right. Such an approach – dealing with English as both influenced by, and constitutive of, social context – would seem particularly relevant in the current climate of rapid, unpredictable and intense social change. With this in mind, we especially welcome contributions that deal with one (or more) of the following themes:

  • New social contexts, new English(es)
    This theme invites contributions that explore how new social contexts or identities are linked with the emergence of new varieties of English, or new forms of language practice that include English.
    How, where, when and why do new varieties of English develop? How is the maintenance or shift of linguistic variables intertwined with changing social configurations? What sociolinguistic conclusions can be drawn from the study of particular linguistic variables and/or social contexts that have not yet been the object of extensive research? How do new media or modalities of language use affect linguistic form? Do social changes also contribute to the creation of new standards or varieties of reference to add to English’s existing status as a pluricentric language (Leitner; Peters)? What roles does English play in the elaboration of our individual and collective identities? How does English contribute to, and reflect, the reconfiguration of our social world?

  • English(es) as a language of resistance
    This theme explores situations in which English(es) may constitute a tool for social change. How does English act as a resource that allows social actors to challenge, call into question or destroy social configurations? How is it used in forms of political resistance? Are there situations in which English constitutes a tool that leads to social inclusion? Or, on the contrary, in which it forms part of an apparatus of oppression and exclusion? How is English related to linguistic insecurity and the fight against it? How and why is English appropriated in unexpected places and what are the social repercussions of this appropriation? How is English used as a tool in the fight for, or denial of, social justice or as an aggressor/peacemaker in situations of discrimination, violence or inequality?

  • English(es) in the globalising linguistic marketplace
    In a nod to Fishman’s classic interrogation (Fishman), this theme invites contributions that explore the age-old question: “Who speaks (which) English(es) to Whom and When?”. When and why do people (not) select (certain varieties of) English in situations of multi- or plurilingualism? How and why is English (not) included in pluri- or multilingual practices (code-switching, code-mixing, translanguaging, etc.)? How is English dealt with in language policy and planning? How is English ascribed value (or not) in different linguistic marketplaces (Bourdieu)? What are the social and/or linguistic repercussions of these different phenomena and their underlying dynamics?

These themes are not to be taken as an exhaustive list of possible approaches or questions; any and all contributions that relate to (varieties of) English as a social practice will be taken into consideration. Indeed, the special issue editors aim to adopt a particularly “open-minded” approach in terms of:

  • (Inter)disciplinarity. We hope to include articles from a wide range of disciplines or “sub-disciplines”, as well as contributions that are interdisciplinary in and of themselves. The questions raised may be of particular interest to researchers working in the following domains (or sub-domains thereof) but this call for papers is by no means limited to scholars of these disciplines: sociolinguistics, pragmatics, linguistic anthropology, (critical) discourse analysis, interaction/conversation analysis, sociophonetics, intercultural communication, English as a Lingua Franca, etc.

  • Data types and media. Analyses may be focused on oral, written, interactional, mediated, multimodal or any other forms of data, or a combination of different forms.

It is our hope that this approach will help us to bring together diverse work that will showcase how a focus on social practice might prove to be fruitful in exploring the use and form of (varieties of) English(es), pushing towards a deeper understanding of what English is and what it means to study it.

Submissions should be sent to: Adam Wilson (, Marc Deneire (, Catherine Chauvin ( and

Please follow the author guidelines for submission:

Important dates

  • Call for papers: February 2022

  • Manuscript submissions: 15 May 2022

  • Reviewing: June-July 2022

  • Submission of revised papers: October 2022

  • Publication: December 2022


Bourdieu, Pierre. Langage et pouvoir symbolique. Seuil, 2001.

Boutet, Josiane. ‘Pratiques langagières, formations langagières’. Dictionnaire d’analyse du discours, edited by Patrick Charaudeau and Dominique Maingueneau, Seuil, 2002, pp. 458-460.

Eckert, Penelope. ‘The Limits of Meaning: Social Indexicality, Variation, and the Cline of Interiority’. Language, vol. 95, no. 4, 2019, pp.751-76.

Eckert, Penelope, and Sally McConnell-Ginet. Language and Gender. 2nd edition, Cambridge University Press, 2013.

Ehrlich, Susan, et al. The Handbook of Language, Gender, and Sexuality. 2nd Edition, John Wiley & Sons, 2014.

Fishman, Joshua A. ‘Who Speaks What Language to Whom and When?’ La Linguistique, vol. 1, no. 2, 1965, pp. 67-88.

Flottum, Kjersti, editor. The Role of Language in the Climate Change Debate. 1st edition, Routledge, 2019.

Forlot, Gilles. L’anglais et le plurilinguisme: Pour une didactique des contacts et des passerelles linguistiques. Editions L’Harmattan, 2009.

Glain, Olivier. Variations et changements en langue anglaise : évènements historiques, perspectives humaines et sociales. PU Saint-Étienne, 2021.

Gumperz, John J. Discourse Strategies. Cambridge University Press, 1982.

Heller, Monica. ‘Globalization, the New Economy, and the Commodification of Language and Identity’. Journal of Sociolinguistics, vol. 7, no. 4, Nov. 2003, pp. 473-92.

Labov, William. Sociolinguistic Patterns. University of Pennsylvania Press, 1972.

Leitner, Gerhard. ‘English as a Pluricentric Language’. Pluricentric Languages: Differing Norms in Different Nations, edited by Michael Clyne, De Gruyter Mouton, 1991, pp. 178-237.

Makoni, Sinfree, et al. Black Linguistics: Language, Society and Politics in Africa and the Americas. 1st edition, Routledge, 2003.

Mauranen, Anna, and Elina Ranta. English as a Lingua Franca: Studies and Findings. Cambridge Scholars, 2009.

Peters, Pam. ‘Pluricentricity and Codification in World English’. English and Spanish: World Languages in Interaction, edited by Danae Perez et al., Cambridge University Press, 2021, pp. 139-62.

Piller, Ingrid, et al. ‘Linguistic Diversity in a Time of Crisis: Language Challenges of the COVID-19 Pandemic’. Multilingua, vol. 39, no. 5, De Gruyter Mouton, Sept. 2020, pp. 503-15.

Reisigl, Martin, and Ruth Wodak. Discourse and Discrimination: Rhetorics of Racism and Antisemitism. 1st edition, Routledge, 2000.

Trudgill, Peter. ‘Sex, Covert Prestige and Linguistic Change in the Urban British English of Norwich’. Language in Society, vol. 1, no. 2, Cambridge University Press, Oct. 1972, pp. 179-95.

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1 In a quest for clarity, “English” is used in place of “(varieties of) English” from this point forward. However, all occurrences of “English” should be taken to include “(varieties of) English”.

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