In recent years Michael Huspek has attempted to develop a “truly emancipatory linguistics” (1988: 355). His argument is that a critical linguistics with an emancipatory intent must be based on empirical analysis of the “emancipatory potential of language as manifested in speakers' everyday discourses” (1988: 348). This article critically reviews Huspek's work and addresses some of the theoretical, methodological and empirical problems which emerge, and which seem to limit his project. Criticism is developed from a position informed by the works of Vološinov, Bakhtin and to a lesser extent Wittgenstein. Evidence from a case study of working class struggle in the west of Scotland is also introduced to highlight the need to build a more developed theoretical framework, and a broader empirical basis, for Huspek's project. The aim of the paper is to suggest ways in which, through critique, we might further the project of an emancipatory linguistics.