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A Voice and So Much More: The Neglect and Representation of Language in Social Psychology



Linguistic diversity is an irreducible characteristic of the world we live in today, yet the study of language remains relatively neglected in mainstream and critical social psychologies alike. In order to argue for a renewed confrontation between language and critical social psychology, this study presents an overview of both the absence of language from mainstream, experimental social psychology and of the emergence, since the 1970s, of the social psychology of language as a distinctive subfield in the discipline. It is argued that although the social psychology of language made the subject perceptible as a speaking and above all accented subject, foregrounding language as an index of class, ethnicity and race, it achieved this perceptibility without challenging the basic ideological coordinates according to which experimental social psychology conceptualises the world and subjects in relation to language. For this reason, the social psychology of language, despite its important contributions, reproduces an essentially national and monolingual imagination of language related phenomena and linguistic subjectivities. The task for a critical social psychology of language, it is argued, is to ‘demythologise’ and ‘disinvent’ language and language ideologies in the discipline.