The pragmatics of emancipation: A critical review of the work of Michael Huspek

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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.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)791-817
Number of pages27
JournalJournal of Pragmatics
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 1996
Externally publishedYes


  • Michael Huspek


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