Language reform, social imaginaries, interlocutor reference
Keywords:interlocutor reference, linguistic anthropology, language reform, Quakers, Vietnamese
Ludwig Wittgenstein wrote that “to imagine a language means to imagine a form of life.” Here I suggest that the inverse is also true: to imagine a form of life involves imagining a language, or at least, a way of speaking. More specifically, I argue that those who imagine an alternative way life very often target the practices of interlocutor reference (reference to speaker and addressee of an utterance) for reform, apparently seeing such practices as in various ways constitutive of their social existence, including their relations with others. I discuss some of the ways in which thinking about language is constrained and shaped by the very character of language itself. I then turn to consider two cases in which advocates for social change sought to bring about a hoped-for future through reform of the practices of interlocutor reference.
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