As a term designating a particular configuration of interests within the broader field of socio- and applied linguistics, ‘linguistic ethnography’ (LE) is a theoretical and methodological development orientating towards particular, established traditions but defining itself in the new intellectual climate of late modernity and post-structuralism.
The debate about ‘what is’ and ‘what is not’ distinctive to an understanding of linguistic ethnography is current and the term linguistic ethnography itself is in its infancy. On the one hand it positions itself very much alongside anthropological traditions to the study of language, such as the ethnography of communication and interactional sociolinguistics while on the other hand, it claims a distinctiveness by keeping the door open to wider interpretive approaches from within anthropology, applied linguistics and sociology. Linguistic ethnography typically takes a poststructuralist orientation by critiquing essentialist accounts of social life. In conjoining the two terms ‘linguistic’ and ‘ethnography’ it aligns itself with a particular epistemological view of language in social context.