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Language and practice

Collins, Harold Maurice ORCID: 2011. Language and practice. Social Studies of Science 41 (2) , pp. 271-200. 10.1177/0306312711399665

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What are the relative contributions of language and physical practice to practical understanding? The resolution of a series of puzzles depends upon the answer. I argue that language is, and must be, more central than physical practice in individual acquisition of practical understanding. Only this makes it possible for there to be a sociology of scientific knowledge, for there to be scientific specialities, for there to be a division of labour in society and for there to be a society that is more than a set of narrow and isolated worlds. Physical practice remains central to human culture but its influence is at the collective level at which languages are formed, rather than the individual level at which practical abilities are acquired. Domain languages ‘contain’ practices, and it is from these that individuals draw much, usually most, of their practical understanding. Because the individual level and the domain level have not previously been distinguished, certain philosophical problems have been wrongly cast and mistakes have been made. Domains of practice/language are embedded within one another in fractal-like relationships, and this is how we can make sense of higher levels of coordinated action. The ideas of ‘special interactional expert’, ‘practice language’ and ‘methodological interactionalism’ are introduced.

Item Type: Article
Date Type: Publication
Status: Published
Schools: Centre for the Study of Knowledge Expertise and Science (KES)
Social Sciences (Includes Criminology and Education)
Subjects: H Social Sciences > H Social Sciences (General)
P Language and Literature > P Philology. Linguistics
Uncontrolled Keywords: Interactional expertise; Language; Linguistic socialization; Methodological interactionalism; Practice; Practice language
Publisher: Sage
ISSN: 0306-3127
Last Modified: 20 Oct 2022 08:33

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