Language in Society


DIANA BOXER, Applying sociolinguistics: Domains and face-to-face interaction

Kristine L.  Fitch  a1
a1 Department of Communication Studies, University of Iowa, Iowa City, IA 52242-1498,

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DIANA BOXER, Applying sociolinguistics: Domains and face-to-face interaction. Philadelphia: John Benjamins, 2002. 244 pp. Hb $108.00, Pb $47.95.

This book has many fine qualities, including careful attention to what is meant by APPLYING linguistics as opposed to APPLIED linguistics. The author's goal is to show readers how research findings in micro-sociolinguistic interaction can be applied to several domains of public and private life: family, education, religion, the workplace, cross-cultural encounters, and so on. Application, in this case, involves awareness of subtleties that go unnoticed in face-to-face interaction, particularly those that create or sustain a power imbalance between participants. That awareness, in turn, sets the stage for “transform(ing) the social order” (p. 22, italics omitted) by empowering “individual speakers in their ordinary day-to-day interactions in all spheres of life and in all stages of life” (222). Instead of a social or political agenda, the book suggests in each domain what would constitute more “humane” interaction: stories would be addressed to children, as well as told about them; collaborative ways of speaking associated primarily with women would be given more status in the workplace and used more often by both women and men; gatekeepers who deal with international students (and other U.S. Americans who interact with speakers for whom English is a second language) would be more sensitive to the potential for face threat to arise from misunderstanding.

(Received August 2 2004)