JOPOL 6(2022)

The Animal Turn in Postcolonial Linguistics: The Interspecies Greeting of the Dairy Cow
Leonie Cornips

The paper makes a case for an animal turn in postcolonial (socio)linguistics as a way of critically engaging with language ideologies towards animal speakers, and how they create unequal relations of power. An animal turn in linguistics provides the opportunity to develop a theory of a relational framework focusing on language as local meaning-making distributed among and between species, materiality, place and time. Drawing on ethnographic fieldwork in various industrial dairy farms, the paper shows that the dairy cow is a linguistic actor who opens the interaction with the human newcomer in her barn by producing a routinized ‘mmmm’ as the first pair part in a greeting exchange. Power dynamics in the industrial dairy farming context dictate that the human does not produce the expected second pair part of the greeting exchange vocally, revealing at the same time that the dairy cow is not worth recognizing.  

Keywords: Animal turn, dairy cow, greeting, animal linguistics, anthropocentrism