The concluding chapter considers how sociolinguists have handled social theory. It argues that, to an extent, how the field has derived from cultural anthropology with its emphasis on the ethnographic method has been influential. This, together with treating Linguistics as the predominant interest, informs the relationship of sociolinguistics to social theory. The social has been treated by reference to the ‘macro’ and the interaction by reference to the ‘micro’.
An overview of claims about the existence of a ‘sociolinguistic theory’ is followed by a focus on the work of three sociolinguists, each working within different sociolinguistic perspectives. The work of Heller on bilingual schooling links ethnography with the structural. The macro or universal is accommodated through the relationship between the individual and the school as a state agency. This dovetails with the ethnographic method and its relationship to interaction, resolving the ‘micro/macro’ dilemma.
Rampton’s work on language crossing strives to operationalise the notion of ‘new social movements’ wherein minorities contest the official construction of themselves, their communities and their relationship to the state. Resistance is formulated through shared ‘belief’. His focus on how the social movement operates, rather than on its place within the social order, is influenced by his insistence on the importance of the ethnographic method. Social networks are invoked as the basis for linking the particular with the universal, this being unacceptable by reference to a sociological understanding.
Eckert’s work on variationism builds on Wenger’s notion of communities of practice. Subjects place themselves within the social through stylistic practices, constantly striving for acceptance within the relevant ‘community’. Again there is a failure to accommodate the sociological in terms of the relationship between the particular and the universal.