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Are emotions universal or culture-specific?

According to Izard and Buechler (1980:168), the fundamental emotions are (1) interest, (2) joy, (3) surprise, (4) sadness, (5) anger, (6) disgust, (7) contempt, (8) fear, (9) shame/shyness, and (10) guilt.... I view[this] claim with skepticism. If lists such as the preceding are supposed to enumerate universal human emotions, how is it that these emotions are all so neatly identified by means of English words? For example, Polish does not have a word corresponding exactly to the English word disgust. What if the psychologists working on the 'fundamental human emotions' happened to be native speakers of Polish rather than English? Would it still have occurred to them to include 'disgust' on their list? An Australian Aboriginal language, Gidjingali, does not lexically distinguish 'fear' from 'shame', subsuming feelings kindred to those identified by the English words fear and shame under one lexical item.... If the researchers happened to be native speakers of Gidjingali rather than English, would it still have occurred to them to claim that fear and shame are both fundamental human emotions, discrete and clearly separated from each other?


English terms of emotion constitute a folk taxonomy, not an objective, culture-free analytical framework, so obviously we cannot assume that English words such as disgust, fear, or shame are clues to universal human concepts or to basic psychological realities. Yet words such as these are usually treated as if they were objective, culture-free 'natural kinds'.


¨ Ask a bilingual person what he/she associates with words like English 'disgust' and its counterpart in her other language. Elicit her associations first in English, then in the other language. Compare the two sets of associations.


Chapter 3 Meaning as action


Text 8


Bronislaw Malinowski: 'The Problem of Meaning in Primitive Languages' in C. K. Ogden and I. A. Richards (Eds); The Meaning of Meaning. Harcourt Brace 1923, pages 457-8.


In this text, we see an anthropologist at work, trying to make sense of the signs that surround him. Malinowski's ethnographies of the Trobriand Islanders have inspired generations of anthropologists, like Clifford Geertz (Text 10).


Imagine yourself suddenly transported onto a coral atoll in the Pacific, sitting in a circle of natives and listening to their conversation. Let us assume further that there is an ideal interpreter at hand, who, as far as possible, can convey the meaning of each utterance, word for word, so that the listener is in possession of all the linguistic data available. Would that make you understand the conversation or even a single utterance? Certainly not.


Let us look at such a text, an actual utterance taken down from a conversation of natives in the Trobriand Islands, N. E. New Guinea...


Tasakaulo kaymatana yakida;

We run front-wood ourselves;


tawoulo oranu; tasivila tagine

we paddle in place; we turn we see


soda; isakaulo ka'u'uya

companion ours; he runs rear-wood


oluvieki similaveta Pilolu

behind their sea-arm Pilolu


The verbatim English translation of this utterance sounds at first like a riddle or a meaningless jumble of words; certainly not like a significant, unambiguous statement. Now if the listener... were to understand even the general trend of this statement, he would have first to be informed about the situation in which these words were spoken. He would need to have them placed in their proper setting of native culture. In this case, the utterance refers to an episode in an overseas tradition expedition of these natives, in which several canoes take part in a competitive spirit. This last-mentioned feature explains also the emotional nature of the utterance: it is not a mere statement of fact, but a boast, a piece of self-glorification, extremely characteristic of the Trobrianders' culture in general and of their ceremonial barter in particular.


¨ Note down one or two utterances from a conversation you have overheard. Write down everything an outsider would need to know in order to understand the full meaning of these utterances in their situational and cultural context.


Text 9


Bronislaw Malinowski: Coral Gardens and their Magic. Vol. n. Dover 1978, page 53.


Rites and rituals are a prime example of meaning as action. However, the power of the ritual does not reside in the words alone, but in the social structure that gives the person who utters them the legitimation, the authority, and the power to create and impose onto others a certain social reality.


There is no strict line of demarcation between the signature on a cheque, a civil contract of marriage, the sacramental vow on a similar occasion, the change of substance in the Holy Eucharist, and the repulsion of bush-pigs by means of a fictitious excrement. One of the contextual conditions for the sacred or legal power of words is the existence, within a certain culture, of beliefs, of moral attitudes and of legal sanctions.


What interests us in this type of speech is that, in all communities, certain words are accepted as potentially creative of acts. You utter a vow or you forge a signature and you may find yourself bound for life to a monastery, a woman or a prison. You utter another word and you make millions happy, as when the Holy Father blesses the faithful. Human beings will bank everything, risk their lives and substance, undertake a war or embark on a perilous expedition, because a few words have been uttered. The words may be the silly speech of a modern 'leader' or prime minister; or a sacramental formula, an indiscreet remark wounding 'national honour', or an ultimatum. But in each case words are equally powerful and fateful causes of action.


¨ Find other examples of the 'performative' function of certain words or phrases, i.e. where the mere utterance of a word performs the action intended.

¨ Show how the action is performed only if the context of situation is appropriate.

¨ In Text 8, Malinowski talks about the dependency of words on context. Here he talks about words being 'powerful and fateful causes of action.' Is there a contradiction here?


Text 10


Clifford Geertz: The Interpretation of Cultures. Basic Books 1973, pages 12, 13,14.


In this chapter entitled 'Thick description: toward an interpretive theory of culture', Geertz lays the foundation for an anthropology that is both factually objective and interpretively subjective.


To play the violin it is necessary to possess certain habits, skills, knowledge, and talents, to be in the mood to play, and (as the old joke goes) to have a violin. But violin playing is neither the habits, skills, knowledge, and so on, nor the mood, nor (the notion believers in 'material culture' apparently embrace) the violin ... Culture is public because meaning is. You can't wink (or burlesque one) without knowing what counts as winking or how, physically, to contract your eyelids, and you can't conduct a sheep raid (or mimic one) without knowing what it is to steal a sheep and how practically to go about it. But to draw from such truths the conclusion that knowing how to wink is winking and knowing how to steal a sheep is sheep raiding is to betray as deep a confusion as, taking thin descriptions for thick, to identify winking with eyelid contractions or sheep raiding with chasing woolly animals out of pastures ... What, in places like Morocco, most prevents those of us who grew up winking other winks or attending other sheep from grasping what people are up to is not ignorance as to how cognition works... [but] a lack of familiarity with the imaginative universe within which their acts are signs ...


Looked at in this way, the aim of anthropology is the enlargement of the universe of human discourse. This is not, of course, its only aim - instruction, amusement, practical counsel, moral advance, and the discovery of natural order in human behavior are others; nor is anthropology the only discipline which pursues it. But it is an aim to which a semiotic concept of culture is peculiarly well adapted. As interworked systems of construable signs (what, ignoring provincial usages, I would call symbols), culture is not a power, something to which social events, behaviors, institutions, or processes can be causally attributed; it is a context, something within which they can be intelligibly - that is, thickly - described.


¨ What, according to Geertz, would an outsider have to understand in order to grasp the meaning of violin playing for a child raised in a musical family?

¨ Can you think of a phenomenon from your culture that outsiders cannot possibly understand if they don 't understand 'the imaginative universe' within which this phenomenon is a sign?

¨ To what extent is Geertz' definition of culture similar to the one Malinowski illustrates in Text 8?



Chapter 4 Spoken language, oral culture


Text 11


R. Brown And A. Gilman: 'The pronouns of power and solidarity' in Pier Paolo Giglioli (Ed.): Language and Social Context. Penguin 1972, pages 266, 269-70.


One of the major social deictic devices is the reciprocal or non-reciprocal use of personal pronouns and other forms of address. The reciprocal use of French 'tu' or 'vous' (German 'du' or 'Sie', Spanish 'tú or 'usted') indicates symmetry in power relations among interlocutors. Non-reciprocal use of personal forms of address, such as when one speaker addresses the other with 'tu' but is addressed with 'vous', indicates a difference in power and status among interlocutors. The use of such forms varies historically and culturally.


A historical study of the pronouns of address reveals a set of semantic and social psychological correspondence. The non-reciprocal power semantic is associated with a relatively static society in which power is distributed by birthright and is not subject to much redistribution. The power semantic was closely tied with the feudal and manorial systems ... The static social structure was accompanied by the Church's teaching that each man had his properly appointed place and ought not to wish to rise above it. The reciprocal solidarity semantic has grown with social mobility and an equalitarian ideology ... In France the non-reciprocal power semantic was dominant until the Revolu-tion when the Committee for the Public Safety condemned the use of V as a feudal remnant and ordered a universal reciprocal T... In England, before the Norman Conquest, 'ye' was the second person plural and 'thou' the singular. 'You' was originally the accusative of 'ye', but in time it also became the nominative plural and ultimately ousted 'thou' as the usual singular...


We believe ... that the development of open societies with an equalitarian ideology acted against the non-reciprocal power semantic and in favor of solidarity. It is our suggestion that the larger social changes created a distaste for the face-to-face expression of differential power... Award of the doctoral degree, for instance, transforms a student into a colleague and, among American academics, the familiar first name is normal. The fledgling academic may find it difficult to call his former teachers by their first names. Although these teachers may be young and affable, they have had a very real power over him for several years and it will feel presumptuous to deny this all at once with a new mode of address. However, the 'tyranny of democratic manners' does not allow him to continue comfortably with the polite 'Professor X'. He would not like to be thought unduly conscious of status, unprepared for faculty rank, a born lickspittle. Happily, English allows him a respite. He can avoid any term of address, staying with the uncommitted 'you', until he and his addressees have got used to the new state of things. The linguistic rite de passage has, for English speakers, a waiting room in which to screw up courage.


¨ How do you think power differences are expressed in societies where there is no choice between second person pronoun forms (for example, 'tu'/'vous') in the language itself?

¨ In your view, how would 'an equalitarian ideology' affect the use of these pronouns, or other forms of address, in the languages yon are familiar with?


Text l2


Erving Goffman: 'Footing' in Forms of Talk. University of Pennsylvania Press 1981, p. 124-5.


Power relations are expressed among speakers not only through social deictics but also through subtle changes in alignments of speaker to hearers, as the following example given by Goffman illustrates. The White House incident occurred during the small talk phase that usually follows more serious business, and that generally involves a change of tone and an alteration of the symmetrical power relationship between the President and representatives of the Press.


Washington [up1] - President Nixon, a gentleman of the old school, teased a newspaper woman yesterday about wearing slacks to the White House and made it clear that he prefers dresses on women.


After a bill-signing ceremony in the Oval Office, the President stood up from his desk and in a teasing voice said to UPI's Helen Thomas: "Helen, are you still wearing slacks? Do you prefer them actually? Every time I see girls in slacks it reminds me of China."


Miss Thomas, somewhat abashed, told the President that Chinese women were moving toward Western dress.


"This is not said in an uncomplimentary way, but slacks can do something for some people and some it can't." He hastened to add, "but I think you do very well. Turn around."


As Nixon, Attorney General Elliott L. Richardson, FBI Director Clarence Kelley and other high-ranking law enforcement officials smiling [sic], Miss Thomas did a pirouette for the President. She was wearing white pants, a navy blue jersey shirt, long white beads and navy blue patent leather shoes with red trim.


Nixon asked Miss Thomas how her husband, Douglas Cornell, liked her wearing pants outfits.

"He doesn't mind," she replied.

"Do they cost less than gowns?"

"No," said Miss Thomas.

"Then change," commanded the President with a wide grin as other reporters and cameramen roared with laughter [The Evening Bulletin (Philadelphia), 1973]


This incident points to the power of the president to force an individual who is female from her occupational capacity into a sexual, domestic one during an occasion in which she ... might well be very concerned that she be given her full professional due, and that due only ... Behind this fact is something much more significant: the contemporary social definition that women must always be ready to receive comments on their "appearance", the chief constraints being that the remarks should be favorable, delivered by someone with whom they are acquainted, and not interpretable as sarcasm. Implied, structurally, is that a woman must ever be ready to change ground, or, rather, have the ground changed for her, by virtue of being subject to becoming momentarily an object of approving attention, not - or not merely - a participant in it.


¨ In the incident as it is reported here, what do you think are the verbal and non-verbal aspects of the change of footing that Goffman talks about?

¨ This change in footing corresponds to a change in the frame that the President imposes on the events and that Helen Thomas is forced to accept. How would you characterize this change in frame?


Text l3


Penelope Brown and Stephen C. Levinson: Politeness. Cambridge University Press 1978, page 13.


The incident related in Text 12 illustrates the public facework that even a president has to do in order to put down a professional woman with impunity in a democratic society. Such facework is part of an elaborate system of politeness that has universal validity, even though its realization varies from culture to culture.


Cultural notions of 'face'

Central to our model is a highly abstract notion of 'face' which consists of two specific kinds of desires ('face-wants') attributed by interactants to one another: the desire to be unimpeded in one's actions (negative face), and the desire (in some respects) to be approved of (positive face), This is the bare bones of a notion of face which (we argue) is universal, but which in any particular society we would expect to be the subject of much cultural elaboration. On the one hand, this core concept is subject to cultural specifications of many sortswhat kinds of acts threaten face, what sorts of persons have special rights to face-protection, and what kinds of personal style (in terms of things like graciousness, ease of social relations, etc.) are especially appreciated .... On the other hand notions of face naturally link up to some of the most fundamental cultural ideas about the nature of the social persona, honour and virtue, shame and redemption and thus to religious concepts.


¨ Analyze the incident related in Text n in terms of face. How does Nixon's behavior manage to both satisfy and threaten Helen Thomas' positive and negative face?

¨ Explain the differing reactions to personal compliments in France and in the US, mentioned before, in terms of face-wants. Speculate as to how each links up to a different view of the social persona in France and in the US.


Text 14


Shirley Brice Heath: Ways with Words. Cambridge University Press 1983, pages 186-187.


In her classical study of language, life, and work in three Black and White, working-class and middle-class, communities in the United States, Heath compares the 'ways with words' of adult residents of two communities only a few miles apart in the Piedmont Carolinas: 'Roadville', a white working-class community of families steeped for four generations in the life of the textile mills, and 'Trackton', a black working-class community whose older generations grew up farming the land, but whose current members work in the mills. Here she analyzes the narrative styles of adults in both communities.


In both communities, stories entertain; they provide fun, laughter, and frames for other speech events which provide a lesson or a witty display of verbal skill. In Roadville, a proverb, witty saying, or Scriptural quotation inserted into a story adds to both the entertainment value of the story and to its unifying role. Group knowledge of a proverb or saying, or approval of Scriptural quotation reinforces the communal experience which forms the basis of Roadville's stories. In Trackton, various types of language play, imitations of other community members or TV personalities, dramatic gestures and shifts of voice quality, and rhetorical questions and expressions of emotional evaluations add humor and draw out the interaction of story-teller and audience. Though both communities use their stories to entertain, Roadville adults see their stories as didactic: the purpose of a story is to make a point - a point about the conventions of behavior. Audience and story-teller are drawn together in a common bond through acceptance of the merits of the story's point for all. In Trackton, stories often have no point; they may go on as long as the audience enjoys the storyteller's entertainment. Thus a story-teller may intend on his first entry into a stream of discourse to tell only one story, but he may find the audience reception such that he can move from the first story into another, and yet another. Trackton audiences are unified by the story only in that they recognize the entertainment value of the story, and they approve stories which extol the virtues of an individual. Stories do not teach lessons about proper behavior; they tell of individuals who excel by outwitting the rules of conventional behavior.


¨ How do you think these story-telling events illustrate the nature of spoken language (see Chapter 4)?

¨ What different kinds of 'truth' do you think are conveyed by these culturally different narrative styles?

¨ In Text 1, Sapir claims that the 'real world' is to a large extent built upon the 'language habits of the group'. Would it follow that the two groups of people described in this passage belong to two different cultures?


Chapter 5 Print language, literate culture


Text 15


Walter J. Ong: Orality and Literacy. Methuen 1982, pages 175, 178, 179.


The oral language can be seen as primary in that it develops naturally both in the life of the individual (ontogenetically) and in the history of humankind (phylogenetically); but writing, Ong argues, has forever changed the way human beings think and act in the world. Even people who don't know how to read nor write are affected by modes of thought brought about by the technology of writing.


The interaction between the orality that all human beings are born into and the technology of writing, which no one is born into, touches the depths of the psyche. Ontogenetically and phylogenetically, it is the oral word that first illuminates consciousness with articulate language that first divides subject and predicate and then relates them to one another, and that ties human beings to one another in society. Writing introduces division and alienation, but a higher unity as well. It intensifies the sense of self and fosters more conscious interaction between persons. Writing is consciousness-raising.



To say that a great many changes in the psyche and in culture connect with the passage from orality to writing is not to make writing (and/or its sequel, print) the sole cause of all the changes. The connection is not a matter of reductionism but of relationism. The shift from orality to writing intimately interrelates with more psychic and social developments than we have yet noted. Developments in food production, in trade, in political organization, in religious institutions, in technological skills, in educational practices, in means of transportation, in family organization, and in other areas of human life all play their own distinctive roles. But most of these developments, and indeed very likely every one of them, have themselves been affected, often at great depth, by the shift from orality to literacy and beyond, as many of them have in turn affected this shift.


¨ What does Walter Ong mean by the statement: 'Writing introduces division and alienation, but a higher unity as well'?

¨ Some scholars have pointed out that it is not writing per se that is 'consciousness-raising', especially under certain school conditions, but only certain uses of writing. Under what conditions can writing intensify a person's sense of self?


Text 16


H. G. Widdowson: 'The realization of rules in written discourse' in Explorations in Applied Linguistics. Oxford University Press 1984, page 39.


Literacy can intensify a sense of self only if written texts are put in relation with readers' selves, i.e. if they are read not just as linguistic products but as discourse.


Reading is most commonly characterized as an exercise in linguistic analysis, an activity whereby information is extracted from a written text which signals it. The information is thought to be there, statically residing in the text and in principle recoverable in its entirety. If, in practice, the reader cannot recover the information it is assumed that he is defective in linguistic competence. Such a view represents written language as the manifestation of syntactic and semantic rules and the reader's task as a matter of recognition. I want to propose an alternative view: one which represents written text as a set of directions for conducting an interaction. From such an interaction, which in effect creates discourse from text, the reader derives what information he needs, or what information his current state of knowledge enables him to take in. Meanings, in this view, are not contained in a text but are derived from the discourse that is created from it, and since this will be determined by such factors as limitation of knowledge and purpose in reading, these meanings can never be complete or precise. They are approximations. What I want to propose, then, is an approach to reading which focuses on the procedures which the language user employs in making sense of written communication.


¨ Can you think of other factors that determine which discourse is created by readers from a text, besides 'limitation of knowledge and purpose in reading'?

¨ In Text 8, Malinoivski demonstrates how 'linguistic data' alone cannot lead to an understanding of spoken language use. How far is this consistent with what Widdowson says here about written language?


Text 17


James Gee: Social Linguistics and Literacies: Ideology in Discourses. The Falmer Press 1990, pages 142-43.


Literacy, says Gee, is much more than just the ability to read and write. It is an ability to signal one's membership in a socially meaningful discourse community.


At any moment we are using language, we must say or write the right thing in the right way while playing the right social role and (appearing) to hold the right values, beliefs and attitudes. What is important is not language, and surely not grammar, but saying (writing)-doing-being-valuing-believing combinations. These combinations I will refer to as 'Discourses' with a capital 'D' ('discourse' with a little 'd', I will use for connected stretches of language that make sense, like conversations, stories, reports, arguments, essays; 'discourse' is part of 'Discourse' - 'Discourse' with a big 'D' is always more than just language). Discourses are ways of being in the world, or forms of life which integrate words, acts, values, beliefs, attitudes, social identities, as well as gestures, glances, body positions and clothes.


A Discourse is a sort of 'identity kit' which comes complete with the appropriate costume and instructions on how to act, talk, and often write, so as to take on a particular social role that others will recognize...


Another way to look at Discourses is that they are always ways of displaying (through words, actions, values and beliefs) membership in a particular social group or social network (people who associate with each other around a common set of interests, goals and activities). Being 'trained' as a linguist meant that I learned to speak, think and act like a linguist, and to recognize others when they do so (not just that I learned lots of facts about language and linguistics). So 'being a linguist' is one of the Discourses I have mastered....


To sum up, by 'a Discourse' I mean:


A Discourse is a socially accepted association among ways of using language, of thinking, feeling, believing, valuing, and of acting that can be used to identify oneself as a member of a socially meaningful group or 'social network', or to signal (that one is playing) a socially meaningful 'role'.


¨ How would you define 'a socially meaningful group'? Show through one or two examples not only that a Discourse is defined by the social group who uses it, but that it helps co-construct that social group as well (see Chapter 3).

¨ Can you think of a type of literacy that would enable someone precisely to subvert the Discourse of the group to which he/she belongs?


Text 18


Bill Cope and Mary Kalantzis (Eds.): The Powers of Literacy. A Genre Approach to Teaching Writing. University of Pittsburgh Press 1993, page 7.


To understand how Discourses operate in society, it is important to understand the notion of 'genre'. It is through genres that texts are linked to their contexts of production and reception, i.e. to culture.


'Genre' is a term used in literacy pedagogy to connect the different forms text take with variations in social purpose. Texts are different because they do different things. So, any literacy pedagogy has to be concerned, not just with the formalities of how texts work, but also with the living social reality of texts-in-use...


Genres are social processes. Texts are patterned in reasonably predictable ways according to patterns of social interaction in a particular culture. Social patterning and textual patterning meet as genres ... It follows that genres are not simply created by individuals in the moment of their utterance; to have meaning, they must be social. Individual speakers and writers act within a cultural context and with a knowledge of the different social effects of different types of oral and written text. Genres, moreover, give their users access to certain realms of social action and interaction, certain realms of social influence and power.


¨ Compare this functional definition of 'genre' with the more traditional one you may find in the dictionary. What kind of link between language and culture is established by each of these definitions?

¨ Find one example of an oral and a written genre respectively that might give its users 'social influence and power'.

¨ How far is the notion of genre as discussed in this passage related to the notion of the literacy event as discussed before.



Chapter 6 Language and cultural Identity


Text 19


Benedict Anderson: Imagined Communities. Verso 1983, pages 80, 81.


Print technology has played a major role in the development of a country's cultural identity because it fixes public memory of past events in a way that makes them understandable and hence memorable. These events can then be used by future generations to understand other events in that country's history.


Hobsbawm observes that 'The French Revolution was not made or led by a formed party or movement in the modern sense, nor by men attempting to carry out a systematic programme. It hardly even threw up "leaders" of the kind to which twentieth century revolutions have accustomed us, until the post-revolutionary figure of Napoleon.' But once it had occurred, it entered the accumulating memory of print. The overwhelming and bewildering concatenation of events experienced by its makers and its victims became a 'thing' - and with its own name: The French Revolution. Like a vast shapeless rock worn to a rounded boulder by countless drops of water, the experience was shaped by millions of printed words into a 'concept' on the printed page, and, in due course, into a model. Why 'it' broke out, what 'it' aimed for, why 'it' succeeded or failed, became subjects for endless polemics on the part of friends and foes: but of its 'it-ness', as it were, no one ever after had much doubt.


¨ This author suggests that the concept of the French Revolution has been created through printed language. How far do you think this idea consistent with what is said in Text 6 about the conceptual power of metaphor?


Text 20


R.B. Le Page and Andree Tabouret-Keller: Acts of Identity. Cambridge University Press 1985, pages 13, 14.


Every act of language, be it written or spoken, is a statement about the position of its author within the social structure in a given culture. Through code-switchings and language crossings of all kinds, speakers signal who they are and how they want to be viewed at the moment of utterance.


Whatever views we may hold about the nature of linguistic systems and the 'rules' they embody, about 'correctness' in pronunciation, in grammar, in the meanings of words and so on - and most educated people do have views, sometimes very strong views, on these subjects - in our actual behavior we are liable to be somewhat unpredictable.... The behavior of the old lady telling the story in Belize provides us with a case in point. She began by using her most standard English; that was because she was talking directly to two visitors whom she knew were not Creole, and whom she assumed to be English. She started telling the story in what was more or less Creole English, and at a particular point where she related some crucial dialogue she switched into Spanish, finally reverting to Creole to finish the story off. Some of the characters of her story - for example, the carpenter, who evidently is a somewhat superior tradesman - speak in more standard English than others... Here we introduce, then, the concept which is the theme of this book, that of linguistic behavior as a series of acts of identity in which people reveal both their personal identity and their search for social roles.


¨ In your opinion, why do educated people have such strong views about grammatical correctness if they themselves often speak 'incorrectly'?

¨ The authors here distinguish between personal identity and social roles. What do you think is the difference between them?


Text 21


Ben Rampton: Crossing: Language and Ethnicity among Adolescents. Longman 1995, pages 180, 313.


While code-switching is usually seen as a device used to affirm a speaker's claim to solidarity with members who belong to two different language groups, crossing is seen as temporarily borrowing a language that is not your own. Rampton describes the language crossing practices of multiracial urban youth in British schools from among Panjabi, Caribbean Creole, and Stylized Asian English (SAE) language varieties.


Crossing ... focuses on code alternation by people who are not accepted members of the group associated with the second language they employ. It is concerned with switching into languages that are not generally thought to belong to you. This kind of switching, in which there is a distinct sense of movement across social or ethnic boundaries, raises issues of social legitimacy that participants need to negotiate, and that analysts could usefully devote more attention to....


In Ashmead, crossing arose out of solidarities and allegiances that were grounded in a range of non-ethnic identities - identities of neighborhood, class, gender, age, sexual orientation, role, recreational interest and so on - and it was these that generated, among other things, the local multiracial vernacular. It was their base in these connections that allowed adolescents to explore the significance of ethnicity and race through language crossing. Indeed, crossing not only emerged from a plurality of identity relations: it also addressed a range of the meanings that ethnicity could have....


Panjabi crossing was more independent of the ways in which ethnic minorities were generally represented than either Creole or SAE. In informal recreation, it took shape within the relatively subterranean traditions of playground culture, and in the context of bhangra [music] ... Crossing in Creole tended to reproduce popular conceptions and to accept and embrace its stereotypic connotations of vernacular vitality, counterposed to the values of bourgeois respectability ... With SAE, practical reinterpretation of established ideology took its most complex form. With white adults, crossing into Asian English evoked racist images of Asian deference in a manner that could subvert the action of any interlocutor that entertained them. Of course this could be done playfully, but at the moment when it was performed, crossing of this kind constituted an act of minor resistance to the smooth flow of adult-dominated interaction.


¨ When an Anglo adolescent addresses a Bangladeshi fellow student with the Stylized Asian English (SAE) typical of Indian immigrants, what kind of 'social legitimacy' do you think needs to be negotiated?

¨ What factors, according to Rampton, allowed these adolescents to dare cross into languages that belonged to someone else and that they themselves didn't even fully master?

¨ Rampton's study shows how multiracial youth groups create for themselves a counter-culture through complex language crossings. What would you suppose are the characteristics of this counter-culture?


Text 22


Alastair Pennycook: The Cultural Politics of English as an International Language. Longman 1994, pages 12, 13.


The spread of English around the world has usually been assumed to be natural, neutral, and beneficial. Pennycook puts in question all three assumptions, and argues that we have to see English as an international language in terms of the cultural identities it offers its speakers.


Sorely lacking from the predominant paradigm of investigation into English as an international language is a broad range of social, historical, cultural and political relationships. First, there is a failure to problematize the notion of choice, and therefore an assumption that individuals and countries are somehow free of economic, political and ideological constraints when they apparently freely opt for English. It is this failure to look critically at global relations that allows for a belief in the natural spread of English. Second, there is a structuralist and positivist view of language that suggests that all languages can be free of cultural and political influences; and, more particularly, there is a belief that by its international status English is even more neutral than other languages. And finally, there is an understanding of international relations that suggests that people and nations are free to deal with each other on an equal basis and thus, if English is widely used, this can only be beneficial...


A number of writers have pointed to a far broader range of cultural and political effects of the spread of English: its wide-spread use threatens other languages; it has become the language of power and prestige in many countries, thus acting as a crucial gatekeeper to social and economic progress; its use in particular domains, especially professional, may exacerbate different power relationships and may render these domains more inaccessible to many people; its position in the world gives it a role also as an international gatekeeper, regulating the international flow of people; it is closely linked to national and increasingly non-national forms of culture and knowledge that are dominant in the world; and it is also bound up with aspects of global relations, such as the spread of capitalism, development aid and the dominance particularly of North American media.


¨ Give examples to show that indeed the spread of English as an international language is both an instrument of linguistic imperialism and a means for individual and societal empowerment.

¨ How do you think Pennycook's argument here supports the idea that language and culture are inevitably bound up with each other?

¨ In reference to Text 20, to what extent, in your view, can English as an international language serve to perform acts of identity?



Chapter 7 Current issues


Text 23


Braj B. Kachru: 'The alchemy of English. Social and functional power of non-native varieties' in Cheris Kramarae, Muriel Schulz, and William M. O'Barr (Eds.): Language and Power. Sage 1984, pages 190,191.


The large-scale migrations of the last decades, and the spread of English around the world, have led linguists to question the notion of 'native speaker' and the monolingual native speaker norm in language use.


Since [Indian] independence, the controversy about English has taken new forms. Its "alien" power base is less an issue; so is its Englishness or Americanness in a cultural sense. The English language is not perceived as necessarily imparting only Western traditions. The medium is non-native, but the message is not. In several Asian and African countries, English now has national and international functions that are both distinct and complementary. English has thus acquired a new power base and a new elitism. The domains of English have been restructured. The result is that one more frequently, and very eloquently, hears people ask, 'Is English really a non-native ("alien") language for India, for Africa, and for Southeast Asia?'...


The wider implications of this change in the ecology of world Englishes are significant: The new nativized (non-native) varieties have acquired an ontological status and developed localized norms and standards. Purists find that the situation is getting out of hand... they are uncomfortable that the native speakers' norms are not universally accepted. There are others who feel that a pragmatic approach is warranted and that a 'monomodel' approach for English in the world context is neither applicable nor realistic.


¨ Does the fact that English is used in many different cultural contexts mean, in your view, that the English language is a culturally neutral language?

¨ Do you think that the example of English as an international language confirms or invalidates the principle of linguistic relativity as described by Whorf in Text 2?


Text 24


Charles Taylor: Multiculturalism. Edited by Amy Gutmann. Princeton University Press 1994, pages 37 and 38, 72 and 73.


In pre-modern times, people did not speak of 'identity' and 'recognition' because these were unproblematic, fixed as they were by one's social position in a hierarchical society. Modern societies that emphasize the equal dignity of all citizens make it difficult to recognize the unique cultural identity of an individual, because identities in modern societies are supposed to be formed in open dialogue, unshaped by a predefined social script. Thus the politics of democratic universalism clash with the politics of cultural difference.


With the move from honor to dignity has come a politics of universalism, emphasizing the equal dignity of all citizens, and the content of this politics has been the equalization of rights and entitlements ... With the politics of equal dignity, what is established is meant to be universally thc same, an identical basket of rights and immunities; with the politics of difference, what we are asked to recognize is the unique identity of this individual or group, their distinctness from everyone else. The idea is that it is precisely this distinctness that has been ignored, glossed over, assimilated to a dominant or majority identity.... There must be something midway between the inauthentic and homogenizing demand for recognition of equal worth, on the one hand, and the self-immurement within ethnocentric standards, on the other. There are other cultures, and we have to live together more and more, both on a world scale and commingled in each individual society.


What there is is the presumption of equal worth: a stance we take in embarking on the study of the other. Perhaps we don't need to ask whether it's something that others can demand from us as a right. We might simply ask whether this is the way we ought to approach others.


Well is it? How can this presumption be grounded? One ground that has been proposed is a religious one. Herder, for instance, had a view of divine providence, according to which all this variety of culture was not a mere accident but was meant to bring about a greater harmony ... There is perhaps after all a moral issue here. We only need a sense of our own limited part in the whole human story to accept the presumption. It is only arrogance, or some analogous moral failing, that can deprive us of this. But what the presumption requires of us is not peremptory and inauthentic judgments of equal value, but a willingness to be open to comparative cultural study of the kind that must displace our horizons in the resulting fusions.


¨ What do you think the author means by 'self-immurement within ethnocentric standards'? How is this opposed to the universalism based on a principle of universal equality?

¨ Can you find in your experience a time when your cultural horizon of understanding was 'displaced' as you entered into contact with a person from a different culture?



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