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The academic discipline of linguistics is at a critical stage of development. Whatever consensus there may have been fifteen or even ten years ago is fast disappearing. A process of redefinition is underway, and it is the aim of this volume to contribute to that process, explain why a redefinition is needed, and how it should proceed. In the case of linguistics the subject is also the subject matter. Many linguists have ignored the problem of definition, simply regarding linguistics as the ‘science of language itself’. What, though, is ‘language itself’? Is it a language, ie English, Swahili? Or, language in a more general sense?
The primary goal of a redefinition of linguistics should be to demonstrate that language is not an objective matter. Linguistics is, and should be, the study of whatever is linguistically pertinent. A linguistics redefined would look at how we interpret and construct our day-to-day communication acts, what views of language are shared by and opposed by societies, and the source and roles that these views play in our living and learning experience. These papers argue the case for such a redefinition more explicitly than has ever been done before in modern linguistic theory. Such a redefined perspective, precisely because it is a perspective, subject to ‘outside’ influence, and in constant dialogue with the perspective of the other human sciences, must be endlessly redefined.