Modern social theory highlights the role of language in social
change/reproduction, yet rarely draws on actual linguistic resources
or theory. Equally, sociolinguistics situates linguistic practice within
the social domain, but only weakly makes links to social theory. Using a
linguistic analysis of policing discourses in Northern Ireland, this
article considers how such analyses can both inform and be informed by
broader social theories. Policing is a contentious issue for nationalists,
and despite recent reforms, many continue to regard the (new) police force
with suspicion. Data from nationalist women in Belfast are used to explore
the thematic frameworks and interactional/pragmatic strategies
(pragmatic blocking) through which the speakers jointly produce a
“discourse of resistance,” effectively blocking acceptance of
the new service. The analysis is discussed in relation to theories of
social change (with particular reference to Bourdieu's habitus).
Considered are implications for sociolinguistics, social theory, and
policing policy in Northern Ireland.
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