Linguistic ethnography (LE) is an emerging approach to the study of language in social contexts. It combines the methodological approaches of ethnography and applied linguistics, generating a broad-based sociocultural research lens for scholars interested in addressing questions about the use of language in society. The following article demonstrates that LE provides a flexible approach to studying language as language is shaped by and, in turn, shapes its sociocultural context. The first part of the article gives a critical overview of how LE sits within the social and discursive turns in applied linguistics. It also delineates significant features of LE research in terms of its ontological and epistemological assumptions and explores the implications of some productive tensions in the field. Language and identity research provides a focal point for this argument. The second part of the article gives a practical demonstration of how LE can be approached from a Bakhtinian perspective through using ‘heteroglossia’ as an analytical lens. The data were generated through field observations, semi-structured interviews, fieldnotes, and a research journal. The data present language learning experiences of an adolescent female learner of English as a Foreign Language (EFL), studying in Grade-10 in the northern region of Pakistan. The analysis aims to understand how the student authors various aspects of her sense of‘self’ as she negotiates different ideological voices in her speech acts. It is argued that a heteroglossic understanding of language use and language learning can help researchers to expand the theoretical and methodological base of LE as a research approach. Equally, it can also be incorporated into language pedagogy which can have useful implications for enhancing the learning experience and educational achievements of EFL learners.
linguistic ethnography; identity; Bakhtin; dialogic ‘self’; heteroglossia; translanguaging.