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Class Language A Luke, Nanyang Technological University, Singapore P Graham, University of Waterloo, Canada ß 2006 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
The relationship between language and social class is a key theoretical and empirical issue in critical discourse studies, ethnography of communication, and sociolinguistic research. It has been a focal point for postwar and current policy in language planning, and language and literacy education. The central questions of a class analysis of language were stated in Mey’s (1985) proposal for Marxian pragmatics: ‘Whose language’ counts? With what material and social consequences? For which communities and social groups? Central concerns are how language factors into the intergenerational reproduction of social and economic stratification, and how communities, families, schools, the media, and governments contribute to ‘‘linguistic inequality’’ (Hymes, 1996). Yet current research continues to table and debate contending definitions of language and social class as social and economic phenomena. Marx viewed language as an intrinsic characteristic of human ‘species being,’ as a form of mental and material labor. The ‘‘language of real life,’’ he argued, is ‘‘directly interwoven’’ with ‘‘material activity and. . . mental intercourse’’ (Marx and Engels, 1845/1970: 118). This ‘‘mental production’’ is ‘‘expressed in the language of politics, laws, morality, religion, metaphysics etc. of a people.’’ ‘Sense experience,’ the work of the eye and ear, was the basis not only of science, but of communal and social life (Marx, 1844/1964: 160–166). At the same time, Marx’s (Marx and Engels, 1845/1970: 37) classical definition of ideology as a ‘camera obscura’ established the centrality of language in the distortion and misrepresentation of social and economic reality in social class interests (see Marxist Theories of Language). Marxist theory establishes three critical traditions in the analysis of language and class. These are: (1) the analysis of language as a form of class-based social action and consciousness; (2) the analysis of social class and linguistic variation; and (3) the analysis of language as the medium for power and control, ideology, and truth in specific linguistic and capital markets (see Power and Pragmatics).
Language as Social Action and Class Consciousness The prototypical class analysis of language was undertaken by Voloshinov (1973) (see Voloshi-
nov, V. N. (ca. 1884/5–1936)). Language was conceptualized as a marker of class consciousness and a medium of class struggle. According to models of heteroglossia and ‘multivocality,’ each utterance and text is a revoicing of previous historical speakers and writers. The ideological content and social functions of each speech act or speech genre bear their own material historical origins. That is, they are produced and reproduced by and through social and economic ‘‘conditions of production’’ (Fairclough, 1992). By this account, face-to-face language exchanges are instances of class conflict and ideological difference, where class-located social actors bring to bear distinctive material interests and discourse positions. The point of such analysis is to extend the notion of the situated speaking and writing subject, to a closer sociological and economic analysis of that positionality. Contemporary work in critical discourse analysis supplements class analysis with attention to the linguistic construction of gender, race, sexual preference, and other forms of social identity ideology, and position (e.g., Lemke, 1995). If utterances and their use are indexical of ideology and social class consciousness, what might this mean for differing cultural groups, communities, and their historical practices? Following Vygotsky (see Vygotskii, Lev Semenovich (1896–1934)), Luria (1982) argued that the cognitive uses of the ‘tool’ of language were mediated by one’s social relations, cultural practices, and material conditions. In his studies of the Uzbeks, Luria made the claim that particular forms of cognition and consciousness, what Marx referred to as capacity for the ‘‘production of ideas,’’ were linked to cultural practices and material conditions of tool use. The cognitive affordances of language and literacy are mediated by material economic and social conditions, including class location and cultural history. In contemporary literacy theory, Paulo Freire also argued for the direct links between language and social class consciousness. Freire’s (1972) prototypical work was concerned with the effects of literacy education upon the language and consciousness of the indigenous population and peasantry of postwar Brazil. Bringing together Marxist dialectics with liberation theology, he argued that autocratic governments and education systems constituted ‘‘cultures of silence’’ where marginalized populations were educated in ways that misnamed and misrecognized the world. Freire’s work views ideologically distorted language as a mode of class-based false consciousness. For Freire, critique of class consciousness was achieved through an educational process of ‘renaming’
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the world in ways that demystified power, consciousness, and life, a similar agenda to that of Mey (1985), Chouliaraki and Fairclough (2001) and other contemporary critical linguists. Current agendas for the teaching of ‘critical literacy’ and critical discourse analysis stand in this Marxist tradition, focusing on the demystification, critique, and reconstruction of ideological language (Luke, 2004).
Linguistic Variation and Social Class A further concern in the analysis of language and social class is how language variation acts as a marker and instrument of social class, and of racial and other forms of social stratification. A principal concern of sociolinguists in the postwar period has been over the effects of the differential and inequitable spread of economic and social capital on the language minority, postcolonial, and economically marginal communities (Hymes, 1996) (see Minority Languages: Oppression). The postwar origins of language planning reflect the impact of colonization, decolonization, migration, and geopolitical conflict upon linguistic retention and stability. The flow of global, regional, and national capital visibly impacts upon language loss, use, and retention (Pennycook, 1998). In the postwar period, sociolinguistic and language planning research has engaged with the effects of the unequal spread and distribution of economic capital upon language loss. Yet attempts to theorize and empirically describe the complex reproductive relationships of language and social class have been debated and contested (see Linguistic Decolonization). The sociological and sociolinguistic research on U.K. children by Basil Bernstein and colleagues (e.g., Bernstein, 1975) took up this challenge. This work provided an account of the role of language in the institutional production of stratified levels of educational achievement. Bernstein’s argument was that working class students spoke a ‘‘restricted code,’’ characterized by embedded and literal meanings, limited command of deixis, and thresholds in technical complexity. Middle-class children, he argued, mastered an ‘‘elaborated code’’ which was fitted for educational success and mastery of academic and scientific discourses. These, he argued, were tied to particular forms of early childhood language socialization and family structure (Bourdieu and Passeron, 1992). Bernstein’s work was the object of several decades of controversy. Labov’s (2001) studies of urban African-American language registers and nonstandard dialects, and Heath’s (1983) studies of early class-based language socialization made the case against models of linguistic deficit. Bernstein’s model has been defended by systemic functional
linguists, who argue that there are indeed elaborated technical registers and contents, specific language domains affiliated with power, some of which particular social classes make explicitly available in early language socialization and educational training (Hasan and Williams, 1996) (see Codes, Elaborated and Restricted (Bernstein)). As distinctive sociodemographic speech communities, particular social classes may indeed have different speech patterns, varying in lingua franca, register, dialect, accent, and practices of diglossia (see Multilingualism: Pragmatic Aspects; Register: Overview). These, further, are affiliated with class-based social ideologies and cultural practices (Fishman, 1991). Ethnographic studies have shown how these variations are made to count in local social networks and institutions (Milroy, 1987). But the social and cultural bases and material consequences of such differences remain localized and contentious. To move past descriptive claims requires a broader sociological theory of social class, of ‘‘linguistic markets’’ (Mey, 1985; Bourdieu, 1992), and of changing media and modes of production and information.
Language as Capital in Linguistic Markets Classical sociological definitions of social class begin from conceptions of structural economic location and material position. They attempt to define position and power vis-a`-vis dominant means of production. The tendency of Marxist models is to further affiliate social class with particular ‘class consciousness,’ of which language, its use and its expression, is a constitutive speech marker. Bourdieu’s (1992) sociology began from a view that class position is at least in part structurally determined. But it is also embodied by human subjects in their ‘habitus,’ the sum total of socially acquired dispositions. By this account, the bodily performance of linguistic competence is an element of cultural capital. This capital and affiliated forms of embodied taste, style, and ideology, constitute a key marker of one’s social class position and mobility. Linguistic capital is deployed in specific social fields, which constitute ‘linguistic markets.’ Each market, each institutional context, in turn has variable rules and conventions of exchange whereby linguistic competence and literate proficiency in specific languages is valued or not. There, language use – as class marker and tool – has exchange value and power only in relation to other forms of capital, including social capital (e.g., networks, institutional access), economic capital, formal institutional credentials, artifacts, and so forth.
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This is a more complex view of the relationship of language and social class. Language matters, as a primary marker of class, gender, culture, training, education, networks, traditions, and ideological consciousness. Yet like post-structuralist theories of discourse, Bourdieu’s model viewed language not just as an index or marker of class position, but as reflexively constituting position and identity, power, and categorical social status. In this way, how language marks class, capital, and power is sociologically contingent, rather than determined by the characteristics of linguistic code or class position per se, or the ostensive power of any given utterance, genre, or text (Luke, 1996). This contingency is dependent on the availability of other forms of capital, and the variable, historically shifting norms, rules, and conventions of particular social institutions, fields of knowledge, and linguistic markets (see Discourse, Foucauldian Approach; Poststructuralism and Deconstruction; Structuralism).
Current Issues One of the principal critiques of postwar sociolinguistics, ethnography of communication, and functional linguistics was that they lacked a sufficient analysis of power, capital, and conflict. Indeed, sociolinguistic models of ‘social context,’ ‘context of situation,’ and ‘social network’ are often based on structural functionalist models of society and culture. The study of language and social class requires the rigorous analysis of social and economic relations within and between speech communities. Current work on language and social class continues to examine how language represents class consciousness, how it is implicated in ongoing issues of class conflict and cohesion, and how its acquisition and use are central to intergenerational production of social stratification of material and discourse resources. Language variation, diversity, change, and ideology can be systematically linked to social class. Linguistic performance in text and discourse production does indeed have both symbolic and material exchange value, particularly in service- and information-based economies. But this depends upon the complex local economic and institutional formations of particular speech communities. Bourdieu offered a stronger analytic frame for analyzing how language ‘counts’ in specific institutional, disciplinary, and knowledge fields, and everyday social contexts. He suggested that issues around ‘whose language’ counts, which classes have power, require a rigorous socioeconomic analysis. Particularly under conditions of late capitalism and globalization, these sociological and sociolinguistic contexts and conditions are under considerable historical transition and challenge.
As the medium of consciousness and labor, language is entailed in the production of ideology, material goods, and social relations. The move in globalized economies towards information- and discourse-based forms of labor raises a number of key challenges to linguistic and ethnographic studies. First, linguistic, semiotic, and discourse competence will have increased significance in productive labor and consumption, shifting social class relations to means of production. Second, social class location and membership is determined by relations to dominant modes of communication, semiosis, and information (Castells, 2000) as much as it might be defined in classical Marxist terms. Finally, the formation of social class identity, ideology, and speech community have become more complex. They are now strongly influenced by forces of mass culture, media, and globalized information flows. One of the principal claims of post-structuralist and postmodern theory of the past decade has been a breakdown of essential relationships between discourse and social class as a primary analytic category. It is increasingly difficult to analyze social class formation without due consideration of the complexity of cultural, racial, gender, and religious identity and position. Any analysis of language and social class must engage with this complexity. But indeed, any contemporary analysis of class and intersecting categories must engage with the constitutive place of language, text, and discourse. See also: Codes, Elaborated and Restricted (Bernstein); Critical Discourse Analysis; Discourse, Foucauldian Approach; Language Planning and Policy: Models; Linguistic Decolonization; Marxist Theories of Language; Minority Languages: Oppression; Multilingualism: Pragmatic Aspects; Poststructuralism and Deconstruction; Power and Pragmatics; Structuralism; Voloshinov, V. N. (ca. 1884/5– 1936); Vygotskii, Lev Semenovich (1896–1934).
Bibliography Bernstein B (1971). Class, codes and control: theoretical studies towards sociology of language (Vol. 1). London: Routledge. Bourdieu P (1991). Language and symbolic power. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press. Bourdieu P & Passeron J C (1992). Reproduction in education, culture and society (2nd edn.). Beverley Hills, CA: Sage. Castells M (2000). The rise of the network society (2nd edn.). Oxford: Blackwell Publishers. Chouliaraki L & Fairclough N (1999). Discourse in late modernity: rethinking critical discourse analysis. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press.
Classical Antiquity: Language Study 431 Fairclough N (1992). Discourse and social change. Cambridge, UK: Polity Press. Fishman J A (1991). Reversing language shift: theoretical and empirical foundations of assistance to threatened languages. Clevedon, UK: Multilingual Matters. Freire P (1972). Pedagogy of the oppressed. Ramos M B (trans.). London: Penguin Books. Hasan R & Williams G (eds.) (1996). Literacy in society. London: Longman. Heath S B (1983). Ways with words: language, life, and work in communities and classrooms. Cambridge/ NewYork: Cambridge University Press. Hymes D (1996). Ethnography, linguistics, narrative inequality: toward an understanding of voice. London: Taylor & Francis. Labov W (2001). Principles of linguistic change: social factors (Vol. 2). Oxford: Blackwell Publishers. Lemke J (1995). Textual politics: discourse and social dynamics. London: Taylor & Francis. Luria A R (1982). Language and cognition. New York: John Wiley.
Luke A (1996). ‘Genres of power? Literacy education and the production of capital.’ In Hasan & Williams (eds.) Literacy in society. London: Longman. 308–338. Luke A (2004). ‘Two takes on the critical.’ In Norton B & Toohey K (eds.) Critical pedagogies and language learning. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 21–29. Marx K (1844/1964). Karl Marx: early writings. Bottomore T B (trans. & ed.). New York: McGraw-Hill. Marx K & Engels F (1845/1970). The German ideology. London: Lawrence & Wishart. Mey J L (1985). Whose language: a study in linguistic pragmatics. Amsterdam: John Benjamins. Milroy L (1987). Language and social networks (2nd edn.). Oxford: Blackwell. Pennycook A (1998). English and the discourses of colonialism. London: Routledge. Voloshinov V N (1973). Marxism and the philosophy of language. Matejka L & Titunik I R (trans.). Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.
Classical Antiquity: Language Study D J Taylor, Lawrence University, Appleton, WI, USA ß 2006 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
As is the case with so many other Western intellectual endeavors, the formal study of language begins in ancient Greece and is transmitted to the modern world by the Romans, but only after the latter have creatively adapted and transformed the linguistic legacy bequeathed to them by their Greek predecessors. The original historical context is the dynamic symbiosis of philosophical speculation and literary experimentation that characterized and helped to define the golden age of classical Greece, but that context changed dramatically over the centuries and ranged from the scholarly ambience of Alexandria to the bilingual reality of Constantinople and from the fledgling philology of early Rome to the monumental tradition of the late Latin artes grammaticae. Graeco–Roman language science features numerous noteworthy accomplishments: the obligatory inclusion of vowels in the alphabetic inventory, an achievement of momentous import for the development of literature; the enumeration of four illocutionary forces, what they called sentence-types; the invention of and reliance upon the four pathe¯ or transformations (addition, deletion, substitution, permutation) as both heuristic procedures and explanatory devices; the coining of an entire metalanguage (much of which is still in use) to refer to the hundreds of grammatical
phenomena they discovered; the canonical definitions of the parts of speech; carefully composed and cogent arguments on the arbitrariness of language and the relationships between signifiant and signifie´e; meticulous and copious descriptions of accidence including, in the case of the Romans, the discovery and identification of the declensions and conjugations that form the keystone of all subsequent Latin grammatical treatises and textbooks; the publication and widespread dissemination of linguistic knowledge throughout both the Greek and Roman worlds via grammatical manuals (technai) and tomes (artes); and in general the conscious acknowledgment of, and emphasis upon, the central and ubiquitous role of grammar in education and intellectual discourse as well as an unremitting insistence upon scientific rigor in linguistic exegesis. So classical linguistics is much more familiar to modern language scientists than might at first be supposed.
Historiographical Problems The lamentable loss of so much of ancient grammatical literature has made it difficult to chronicle accurately the course of classical language science: no Stoic linguistic treatise is extant; the dating and authorship of the only surviving Alexandrian grammatical manual have been questioned for centuries; almost all of ancient Rome’s early scholarly forays into the study of the Latin language, i.e., Aelius Stilo’s