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A critique of the principle of error correction as a theory of social change

  • Mark C. Lewis (a1)
Abstract

This article assesses the historical failures and limits of the dominant ‘error correction’ approach within sociolinguistics. The error correction approach supposes that social change can be achieved when knowledge is shared by researchers with the public or figures of institutional authority. This article reviews reflections on sociolinguists’ work toward social change, especially those of Labov, through scholarship in language ideologies and critical race theory. From a language ideological and critical race perspective, error correction is limited in its engagement with marginalizing representations of language because it does not jointly address material conditions and social positions supported by these representations. Exemplifying these limitations, sociolinguistic error-correction efforts that address the evaluation of language practices racialized as Black may have unfortunately distracted from social change agendas that confront material and institutionalized racism directly. To address these limitations, this article highlights existing critical reflexive scholarship that explicitly interrogates disciplinary assumptions. (Critical race theory, error correction, language ideologies, social change, critical reflexivity)*

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Corresponding author
Address for correspondence: Mark C. Lewis, University of Pennsylvania, Graduate School of Education, 3700 Walnut Street, Philadelphia, PA 19143, USA markle@gse.upenn.edu
Footnotes
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*

I wish to thank Nelson Flores, Robert Moore, Jennifer Phuong, and Aldo Anzures Tapia, as well as Jenny Cheshire and two anonymous reviewers, for their helpful feedback on earlier versions of this article. I also appreciated the feedback of attendees of a videoconference sponsored by the Penn-King's Link, with faculty and students from King's College London (Language, Discourse & Communication) and the University of Pennsylvania (Educational Linguistics). Finally, thank you to Diane Downer Anderson, who provided space for the very earliest version of this article to form.

Footnotes
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