[lg policy] book review: Sociolinguistics and Language Education

Harold Schiffman hfsclpp at GMAIL.COM
Wed Jan 5 15:24:18 UTC 2011

Sociolinguistics and Language Education

Announced at http://linguistlist.org/issues/21/21-2684.html
EDITORS: Nancy H. Hornberger, Sandra Lee McKay
TITLE: Sociolinguistics and Language Education
SERIES TITLE: New Perspectives on Language and Education
PUBLISHER: Multilingual Matters
YEAR: 2010

Alexandre Dufaur, Department of Linguistics, Florida Atlantic University at Boca


The objective of this book is to provide language teachers and linguists alike
with a summary of the field of sociolinguistics, through an insightful and
multi-faceted approach to the various subfields, their continuous changes and
evolution, while shedding some light on language teaching. This volume is
particularly relevant to teachers who deal with students coming from
linguistically diverse backgrounds all around the world. In other words, what
makes this book stand out is that it eloquently combines sociolinguistics with
language education in the same volume. The book comes with added significance in
a time where unprecedented population mobility, cross-cultural contact diversity
and bilingualism settings are a constant reality in the demography of the
classroom and fit with the increasing support for socially embedded views of
language and language pedagogy. Topics covered include nationalism and popular
culture, style and identity, Creole languages, critical language awareness,
gender and ethnicity, multimodal literacies, classroom discourse, and ideologies
and power across language education contexts ranging from the teaching of
English as an international language to Indigenous language revitalization.

The book has seven sections and 20 chapters in total. The first section of this
book, Language and Ideology, explains how ideologies can inform specific lines
of research and pedagogies. The chapters in the second section of the text,
Language and Society address the manner in which the larger social and political
context affects language use at a macro level. The chapters in section 3,
Language and Variation, move to a more micro level of linguistic analysis and
examine how the larger social context interacts with the particular linguistic
forms that an individual uses. Section 4, Language and Literacy, has a specific
educational focus in its attention to literacy as an expression of sociocultural
factors, as well as its examination of how various modalities of communication
influence current language use. Section 5, Language and Identity, reflects the
current interest in how identity and sociocultural context mutually influence
one another and language use. Section 6, Language and Interaction, examines the
ways in which specific social interactions and identities lend themselves to
particular types of language use. The final section and last chapter (20),
Language and Education, draws all the foregoing chapters together around themes
of power, fluidity of languages, identity and critical language awareness,
framed in relation to the continua of biliteracy and illustrated in an
innovative bilingual undergraduate program in Limpopo, South Africa, taught
through the medium of English and an Indigenous African language.


In chapter 1, 'Language and Ideologies', Mary McGroarty discusses various
meanings of the term 'ideology' and the conceptual foundations of work in
linguistic ideologies. Next she summarizes seminal quantitative studies on
language attitudes, corpus-based research on language ideologies and qualitative
studies on classroom interaction, interaction around norms for literacy,
language choice in bilingual classrooms and ideologies underlying teaching tasks
and materials.

In chapter 2, 'Language, Power and Pedagogies', Hilary Janks explores the
different theoretical underpinnings of critical literacy and how these have been
translated into different classroom practices in a range of contexts. The
different theories and their associated practices constitute an open set of
approaches that teachers can adapt to their own contexts.

In chapter 3, 'Nationalism, Identity and Popular Culture', Alastair Pennycook
challenges the notion that the nation state is the most productive way to
understand the relationship between language and culture. In order to suggest an
alternative approach to language and culture, one that recognizes that new
identities may have little to do with nationhood, he analyses the global spread
of hip hop music as a way of exemplifying new languages, new cultures, and new
identities brought about by globalization. In closing, he illustrates the
challenges that exist in researching language and pop culture and considers the
pedagogical implications of the recent global flow of people and languages.

In chapter 4, 'English as an International Language', Sandra McKay
differentiates various paradigms used to describe the current spread and use of
English including World Englishes, English as a Lingua Franca and English as an
International Language. She then summarizes central research on the spread of
English related to imagined communities, identity and technology. In closing,
she describes major challenges faced by the field of English pedagogy in terms
of equality of access to language learning, ''othering'' in English pedagogy and
standards in English teaching and learning.

In chapter 5, 'Multilingualism and Codeswitching in Education', Nkonko
Kamwangamalu focuses on codeswitching practices in language classrooms as he
examines the central question of why bilingual teachers and students codeswitch
and whether this is a productive pedagogical strategy. He then distinguishes
codeswitching from other phenomena such as borrowing, language shift, diglossia
and codecrossing. Next he discusses common approaches to codeswitching research
including the interactional, markedness and political-ideological approaches. In
closing, he argues that codeswitching is indeed a resource for second-language
learning and he identifies common research methods employed in codeswitching

In chapter 6, 'Language Policy and Planning', Joseph Lo Bianco begins by
defining key terms in the field; he then describes the predominant approaches to
language planning including language policy as a science, language policy as
problem solving, and language policy as an interactive democratic practice. It
is the latter approach that he considers most promising. In closing, he
elaborates on the pedagogical implications of language planning, emphasizing how
the norms and standards which language teachers promote in their discourse and
classrooms are powerful examples of language planning.

In chapter 7, 'Style and Styling', Jürgen Jaspers notes that while early studies
on style were concerned with identifying discrete linguistic features of style,
more recent approaches to styling investigate how it is related to identity and
to community participation. In the second section of the chapter, he examines
the development of variationist sociolinguistics and the challenges that exist
in this approach. Jaspers closes by arguing that future research in styling
should focus on the process rather than on the product of linguistic variation
and seek to reconcile the regularity of linguistic behavior with individual

In chapter 8, 'Critical Language Awareness', Samy Alim opens with an analysis of
the political and media discourse surrounding Barack Obama's language as a way
of illustrating what is meant by critical language awareness. He then examines
the discourse of well-meaning teachers to demonstrate the ideologies that inform
their language use. In closing, he argues for the need for language teachers to
examine their own discourse in order to determine what ideologies they are

In chapter 9, 'Pidgins and creoles', Jeff Siegel begins by defining the two
terms, as their boundaries tend to blend with one another. He continues by
summarizing research in the field that focuses on the development of pidgins and
creoles, their role in the society where they are spoken, their linguistic
features and their educational implications. Siegel closes by discussing the
advantages of using pidgins and creoles in educational programs, especially for
initial literacy, and he highlights the awareness approach -- with
sociolinguistic, contrastive, and accommodation components -- as the most
promising of the ways pidgins and creoles have been incorporated into schooling,
where P/C vernaculars are seen as a resource for learning the standard, rather
than being perceived as an impediment.

In chapter 10, 'Cross-cultural Perspectives on Writing: Contrastive Rhetoric',
Ryuko Kubota opens with an informative and critical review of contrastive
rhetoric, the cross-cultural analysis of the ways written texts are organized.
She summarizes the assumptions, methods and background of this controversial
field, as well as criticisms of its tendency toward fixed and essentialist
characterizations of culture, language and English as a second language (ESL)
writers, and above all its prescriptive ideologies. Kubota concludes with
classroom implications, calling on educators to be reflective about how to
approach cultural and linguistic differences.

In chapter 11, 'Sociolinguistics, Language Teaching and New Literacy Studies',
Brian Street and Constant Leung first review the contributions of
sociolinguistics to language teaching since the 1960s in the areas of
communicative language teaching, classroom ethnography and functional
linguistics, and then the contributions of the New literacy Studies, with its
ideological model and social practices view, toward furthering a social
perspective on language and literacy learning and teaching. Bringing these two
strands together, they close with the example of an academic literacies/English
as an additional language course they and their colleagues offer at their own

In chapter 12, Viniti Vaish and Philip A. Towndrown takes up the topic of
Multimodal Literacy in Language Classrooms, defining key terms and goals for
work in this area, including the need for rich descriptions of actual sites of
multimodal learning, analysis of multimodal design work, theories of multimodal
meaning-making and new multimodal pedagogical approaches. They go on to review
research on multimodal literacy practices in and out of schools and in teacher
education, closing with their own recent study of a new one-to-one laptop
program in a Singapore secondary school.

In chapter 13, 'Language and Identity', Bonny Norton highlights
poststructuralist conceptual foundations and qualitative research methods in
language and identity research. She discusses language and identity in relation
to the constructs of investment and imagined communities, as well as the ways
learners' identities may impact their learning processes, their engagements with
literacy and their resistance to undesirable or uncomfortable positioning in
educational settings. She concludes with recent research on language and
identity in classroom teaching and points to language teacher education and the
decolonization of English language teaching as areas for future research in this

In chapter 14, 'Gender Identities in Language Education', Christina Higgins
expands on these themes with a specific focus on how gendered social relations
and ideologies of gender mediate people's experiences in learning and using
additional languages. She exhorts teachers to engage with structural constraints
that learners face when negotiating access to their desired communities of
practice and presents suggestions for pedagogical practices that incorporate
gendered experiences into learning opportunities, including intercultural
pedagogy and critical pedagogy.

In chapter 15, 'Language and Ethnicity', Angela Reyes presents the focus on
identity by beginning with an overview of key concepts and research methods,
outlining both distinctiveness-centered and performance-based approaches. She
provides brief overviews of language and ethnicity research on African
Americans, Latinos, Native Americans, Asian Americans and European Americans in
the United States. Reyes points to promising recent studies embracing an
emergent account of language and ethnicity and to future avenues of research on
language crossing in language learning contexts, ethnic target varieties for
language learners, and media and popular culture in classrooms. She closes with
a reminder to teachers that ethnicity is a social and political construct,
bearing no one-to-one relation with language.

In chapter 16, 'Language Socialization', Patricia Duff highlights the field's
fundamental focus on acquisition of linguistic, pragmatic and other cultural
knowledge through social experience and on how individuals become socialized
into particular identities, worldviews or values, and ideologies as they learn a
language, whether it is their first language or an additional language. In her
review of classroom research on explicit and implicit language socialization in
both formal and informal educational contexts, she points out that language
socialization involves the negotiation and internalization of norms and
practices by novices, but may also lead to the creation of new or hybrid norms,
failure to learn expected norms, or conscious rejection or transgression of
existing norms. Duff concludes with consideration of methods, challenges and
practical implications of language socialization research, emphasizing that,
especially in diaspora and postcolonial contexts, language socialization is a
complicated multilingual, multimodal process and that teachers and policy makers
must remember that what may be very obvious to them after a lifetime of language
and literacy socialization and professional education into the dominant
discourses of society may not be at all obvious or even comprehensible
to newcomers.

In chapter 17, 'Language and Culture', Gabriele Kasper and Makoto Omori start by
discussing various concepts of culture and approaches to intercultural
communication. They go on to review interdisciplinary research traditions in
intercultural interaction, including communication accommodation theory,
cross-cultural speech act pragmatics, interactional sociolinguistics, and
conversation analysis and membership categorization analysis. Throughout, they
highlight that rather than seeing cultural diversity as fraught with problems as
in sociostructural/rationalist approaches, discursive/constructionist approaches
treat cultural diversity as a resource that participants can exploit to
construct social solidarity or antagonism. Kasper and Omori conclude with a
caution that teaching to students' assumed cultural identities, as sometimes
happens even in well-intentioned multicultural education and culturally
responsive teaching, is a risky under-taking; and they call for continued
research that puts the construction of cultural identities in educational
settings under the microscope.

In chapter 18, 'Conversation Analysis', Jack Sidnell offers a methodology, as he
probes the key concepts, methodological principles and insights of conversation
analysis work with its focus on conversation as a system. After tracing the
emergence of Conversation Analysis and of its crucial insight that analysts can
use the same methods in studying conversation as those that conversationalists
use in producing and understanding it, he turns to the use of collections (in
this case a collection of 'next turn repeats') to uncover participants'
normative practices and orientations. He closes with examples of recent
conversation analysis research findings on interactional organization in
language classrooms, including insights into normatively organized activities
participants orient to, as well as on distinctive features and practices around
'correctness' in second-language classrooms.

In chapter 19, 'Classroom Discourse Analysis: A Focus on Communicative
Repertoires', Betsy Rymes takes us deeper into the classroom as she shows how
teachers may use the concept of communicative repertoire to understand and
analyze interaction in classrooms. After briefly defining the concept of
communicative repertoire, she organizes her chapter around five critical issues:
rethinking correctness, emerging and receding repertoires, accommodating
repertoires different from our own, analyzing communicative repertoires, and
gaining metalinguistic awareness. She closes the chapter with a look at methods
of classroom discourse analysis and some how-to advice to teachers.

For chapter 20 see the comment above from the Language and Education section.


It is without a doubt that each chapter has been written by some of the most
influential figures in the field from all over the world, who have done
extensive research on the topic explored. For each topic, there is an overview
of central terms and issues, a discussion of implications for the language
classroom, suggestions for further reading and a laudable collection of
references. The very size and richness of this volume makes it ideal for
multiple shorter self-designed explorations. Thus, each reader can begin with
the chapter of greatest interest at the moment.

Whether considering the role of English as an international language or
exploring innovative initiatives in Indigenous language revitalization, in every
context of the world sociolinguistic perspectives highlight the fluid and
flexible use of language in communities and classrooms, and the importance of
teacher practices that open up spaces of awareness and acceptance of -- and
access to -- the widest possible communicative repertoire for students. This
volume makes a major contribution to our understanding of the approach to
language education in relation to the complex and diverse social and linguistic
contexts of today.

However, one discussion that might have been useful for Sociolinguistics and
Language Education in the Language and Variation section is a thorough account
of Black English. In a sociolinguistic volume of this caliber, we should expect
a section on African American Vernacular English (AAVE) within the chapter on
'Pidgins and creoles' for example.

In conclusion, this book is rich in material, has useful bibliographies, and is
both interesting and thought provoking. It is readable without over-simplifying
detailed arguments. One of the strengths of this book is the frequent and
explicit reference to learners and their teachers in specific situations.
However, it may also be its weakness, as it will not necessarily please the
purist linguist with its overload of educational materials.

The editors have done a superb job in creating a resource that is comprehensive
in its articulation of the complexities of social interactions in a globalized
world yet simultaneously accessible, lucid, and engaging. All in all, the book
should find its place in postgraduate courses in applied linguistics,
sociolinguistics, language and education, language and diversity and bilingual
education. It is also a suitable introduction to research for both teachers and
novice researchers.


Alexandre Dufaur is a Graduate Student in the Department of
Linguistics at Florida Atlantic University where he teaches
undergraduates French language classes. His research interests include
language variation and change in spoken French and their implications
for French teaching and French teachers. More recently, he has
directed his research in using web 2.0 tools for the development of
socio-pragmatic competence in L2 acquisition for the case of French
and presented along with Dr. Blattner on the topic at the Florida
Foreign Language Association (FFLA) this past October 2010.


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