Language Studies and Methods from the Cross-disciplinary Perspective

Social Sciences in China (Chinese Edition)

No.2, 2017


Language Studies and Methods from the Cross-disciplinary Perspective



Li Yuming, Zhao Ronghui and Huang Xing


The development of contemporary society is intricate, and accordingly, any important question has its high comprehensiveness and unity, so both the discovery and the resolution of such question calls for multi-discipline instead of a single one, and that requires the mutual reference of research methods first. To thinking about language and linguistic life from the point of view of multi-discipline is helpful for the expansion of path and vision of contemporary linguistic research. In order to boost corresponding academic development, the editorial office of the Social Sciences in China Press and the Institute of Linguistics of the Shanghai International Studies University held “the fourth Symposium on Research Methods and Methodology of Chinese Linguistics” in May 2015. The three essays under this special topic are just the achievement of this symposium. Li Yuming, Professor at Beijing Language and Culture University believes that historically, as the media conveying language evolved from sound waves to light waves and thence to electronic waves, so language communication variants have adapted  themselves to a diversity of contexts and communicative tools, substantially enriching the vocabulary, grammar and discourse of human language and expanding language functions. Language technology has exerted a significant influence on language life and even social development. Today, as the world enters the age of online media, we are witnessing tremendous strides in “language apparatus” and language life. Such advances, along with the development of new media language, present new challenges to the field of contemporary linguistics. Zhao Ronghui, Professor at the Institute of Linguistics of Shanghai International Studies University and Research Fellow at the Research Center for Foreign Language Strategies, State Language Commission points out that in the new historical period, the social functions of language have unprecedentedly developed. Language is not only a communicative tool, cognitive instrument and carrier of information, but more of a means of social construction and an approach to social cognition. Contemporarily, language, as an element of hard strength, can become a readiness resource of modern national defense, exert influence upon economic potential, and midwife linguistic industries, so it is a kernel element of technological strength; and being an element and mark of soft strength, language can serve as a political symbol, and acts as a medium and means of public diplomacy to take part in the establishment of and contest for discourse power, hence it is one of the basic forms of contemporary political activities. The expanded social functions of language will make linguistics integrate more deeply with such social sciences as sociology and politics. Huang Xing, Research Fellow at the Institute of Ethnology and Anthropology of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences holds that linguistics and anthropology appear to have much in common in terms of research category and methodology. Whereas the emic/etic approach in linguistics distinguishes the socio-psychological qualities of the sound system of a specific language from the physic-physiological qualities of supra-language sounds, the same approach in anthropology attempts to draw a demarcation line between the “inside” and the “outside” view of culture. Both approaches involve a set of dualistic relationships between linguistic relativity and cultural relativity, linguistic universality and cultural universality, and linguistic/cultural diversity and genetic diversity. Due to authentication difficulties, “linguistic relativity” has received a cold welcome from linguistics. However, “cultural relativity” now constitutes the core of modern anthropology. The inherent links and functional similarity between linguistic/cultural diversity and biological diversity renders possible methodological exchanges across disciplines.