Chapter 6 Language and education
1. Education and linguistic prejudice
Prejudice is most apparent where users of standard varieties are favored over users of non-standard varieties.
A Teachers have prejudice against non-standard varieties.
a) Research by Giles and Poweland (1975) indicates that teachers base their first impression of
pupils on the latter’s speech forms rather than on other more relevant information. This may lead
to self-fulfilling prophecies. The speech sample takes the priority when a teacher judges whether a student is intelligent or skillful. A problem results:
If a teacher’s first impression of a student is bad, the student has to work much harder than others to change the teacher’s impression of him and often fails.
b) Research by Williams (1973) suggests that racial stereotypes held by teachers may lead to
false preconceptions/judgments about the quality of speech of pupils from different racial backgrounds.
A test 3 children: a black (B), a white (W) and an American Mexican (AM)
Teachers’ judgment after watching the three’s speech on TV (mouths, faces)
B: less standard but fluent
W: standard and fluent
AM: less standard and fluent
As a matter of fact, the teachers listen to the exactly same language and their visual stereotypes are based on prejudice.
B Pupils’ Prejudice
a) Research by Rosenthal (1974) indicates that at a remarkably early age children have
prejudices about speech which almost exactly mirror those held by adults.
b) Research by Cairns and Duriez (1976) suggests that children will pay much attention to
things said in an accent that arouses their group loyalty than in one which does not. Test: 30 catholic children and 30 protestant children. They are aged 10 or 11. The same story is read on different occasions. The children are asked how much they can remember. Catholic children believe they can remember much better when the story is read in catholic accent rather than in protestant accent. Protestant children give the opposite answer. 2 Why do children from certain groups fail more often?
A Bernstein’s Language Deficit Theory: the theory that language of some children may be
lacking in vocabulary, grammar, or the means of expressing complex ideas, and may therefore be inadequate as a basis for success in school.)
a) Heavily influenced by the theories of Benjamin Whorf. “An accepted pattern of using words
is often prior to certain lines of thinking and modes of behavior.” (Whorf)
Children growing up in a particular linguistic environment or culture learn the language of that environment and culture. They then pass this on to the next generation. Social classes reveal different types of linguistic behavior. A cycle develops with the result that existing social differences are perpetuated.
A certain linguistic pattern is linked to a social pattern. The next generation uses the certain
linguistic patterns and they produce the same social pattern.
B Two distinct types of language used to varying degrees by different social groups. a) Elaborated/formal Code (EC): complex, precise and logical. It is a language that can be
easily understood without requiring previous or shared knowledge on the part of the speaker and the listener. It is more explicit and speakers using it do not assume the same degree of shared attitudes and expectations on the part of the addressee. Its characteristics include: ?
grammatically accurate (more complicated sentence structures) ? frequent use of I ?use of
adj., ad. and ?remarks are qualified. E.g. it may be that…
b) Restricted (public) Code (RC): simpler, more imprecise language that tends to assume that the listener shares a lot of knowledge (attitudes and expectations) with the speaker. Its characteristics include: ? a more reduced vocabulary range, ? more question tags, ? use of pronouns
instead of nouns, and ? use of gestures such as hand movements to help give meaning to what is said.
c) Bernstein does not claim that RC is inferior to EC. Rather that all groups have access to
and use RC, but not all groups have equal access to EC. Therefore, all individuals are not equally
predisposed to using it. Specifically, in tightly-knit working class communities, where there is a lot of shared knowledge, the need for EC is relatively reduced.
RC is not inferior.
Working class communities have less need to use EC.
There is a natural environment for RC, but not for EC.
“The closer the identifications of speakers, the greater the range of shared interests and the more
probable that speech will take a specific form. The range of syntactic alternatives is likely to be reduced and the lexis to be drawn from a narrow range… In these relationships, the intent of other persons can be taken for granted as the speech is played out against a backdrop of common assumptions, common history, and common interests. As a result, there is less need to raise meaning to the level of explicitness or elaboration. ” -------- Bernstein
d) Children from such backgrounds fail disproportionately in education because the language of education is based upon the use of the EC.
“For schools are predicated upon基于 elaborated code and its system of social
Responsibilities for failure lie not with the individual pupil but with the school. According to Bernstein, children from the working class lack EC and as a result, they fail in education and in life. Schools should be responsible for the failure because they lack sensitivity to the change that these students have to make. The students lack the ability to use or manipulate EC. e) Bernstein’s impact—“Compensatory Education Programmes” in UK and USA. The
programmes were intended to help children with unfamiliar EC. Now they are largely
C Evidence for the differential distribution of EC and RC.
Much of the evidence comes from research into the language of “socialization” (used to children by their parents in the early state of development
Researcher MC parents WC parents
Wells(1979) Questions in full form Inadequate questions
Henderson (1972) Abstract explicit language Words to transmit moral
to transmit moral principles and feelings
principles and feelings
Cook，1971！ When scolding children, Scolding children is based
they tend to point out the on their personal authority
consequence of their action. e.g. because I say so. /
I’m your mother.
Robinson& Rackstraw When the child asks The parents give no explanation
(1967) questions to assort because it does.
parent gives general
explanation. E.g. fall is
due to gravity.
Hess & Shipman When the child has a task The parent is unable to give
(1965) to perform with his help.
mother, she gives instructions
and explicit help
D Is this evidence reliable?
a) The main attack on Bernstein’s theory has come from USA. In the 1960’s and 1970’s,
Bernstein and Engemann suggested that Black children were not capable of logical thought
pattern the education system required of them because BE did not allow them to move beyond RC.
UK: How different classes use language.
US: How different ethnic groups use language.
In US, Black children fail in education because BE is deficient. According to Bernstein, standard American English is not useful to Blacks because they can’t use the language to process.
b) Labov directed a three-pronged attack on such views:
(1) He criticized the way in which the data about Black children’s English had been gathered.
The data were gathered in the situations in which Black children were intimidated. Since they didn’t offer the realistic opportunities for Black children to reveal their abilities, the view is not correct.
(2) He argued that the proponents of RC theory did not recognize that what they interpreted as
an inability to form concepts was simply a reflection of their own prejudices against certain
dialects. He showed that BE speakers could be at least as logical as those of any standard
(3) He claimed that EC is simply a middle class style of speaking, not a more powerful
instrument for the expression of thought. In fact, he showed that EC often substitutes the
appearance of thought for thought itself.
“Isn’t EC often turgid, redundant and empty? The initial impression of Charles as a good speaker
is simply our long-conditioned reaction to middle class verbosity: we know that people who use these stylistic devices are educated people, and we are inclined to credit them with saying something intelligent.” --------Labov
People thinking Charles more intelligent, by examination, found redundancy, repetition, circumlocution but they tried to conceal the truth. In comparison with Larry, Charles gave little information.
E What steps can be taken to overcome the educational difficulties suffered by some children because of their language?
(1) Trudgill suggests that there are three options:
a) Elimination of non-standard varieties.
Prevent children from using non-standard/wrong/bad forms.
Wrong: ----It has a bad psychological effect (“inferior varieties” means inferior social groups).
----It is socially wrong and has less value.
----Practically it does not work because children play an important role in their own ethnic group.
The school should help the child to develop ability in “code-switching”
At school: standard variety
Within one ethnic community: nonstandard variety
The child switches between the two varieties which are equal. In Britain, this is successful with writing but unsuccessful with spoken language unless the child has a desire to become the member of a new group.
c) Appreciation of dialect differences.
Attitudes need to be changed. The two are equal. The nonstandard variety is as good as the standard variety. Is this Utopian?
In the case of b) and c), in short term, consciously, one may use socially standard language but in long term, one still uses a dialect.
F Language, Sex and Educational Prejudice
(1) Teacher/student talks in the classroom
In the West, the male maintain and control the topic and the female are cooperative. “Boys: the limelight” they tend to dominate the lessons.
Mixed classroom: a teacher called answers from boys 8 times more than from girls. It’s obvious that the teacher favors boys.
Seans and Feldman (1974)
Teachers interact with boys much more than with girls.
Video of the class: directions of gaze twice as much on boys as on girls. Teachers choose topics broached by boys because boys don’t tolerate girls’ topics