The introduction of practice theory into sociolinguistics
is an important recent development in the field. The community
of practice provides a useful alternative to the speech-community
model, which has limitations for language and gender researchers
in particular. As an ethnographic, activity-based approach,
the community of practice is of special value to researchers
in language and gender because of its compatibility with
current theories of identity. An extension of the community
of practice allows identities to be explained as the result
of positive and negative identity practices rather than
as fixed social categories, as in the speech-community
model. The framework is used here to analyze the linguistic
practices associated with an unexamined social identity,
the nerd, and to illustrate how members of a local community
of female nerds at a US high school negotiate gender and
other aspects of their identities through practice.
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