1 Norms in educational linguistics: An introduction | Christiane Brand ...
1 Norms in educational linguistics: An introduction Christiane Brand, Thorsten Brato, Stefanie Dose and Sandra GÃ¶tz Jus...
1 Norms in educational linguistics: An introduction Christiane Brand, Thorsten Brato, Stefanie Dose and Sandra Götz Justus Liebig University Giessen 1.1 Educational linguistics: An emerging field of study The articles in the present volume are all concerned with norms in educational linguistics – but what exactly is educational linguistics (EL)? To explore the notion of EL, we will first take a brief look at possible definitions, its relationship to applied linguistics (AL) and its significance for research and teaching at the University of Giessen. This leads us to the second point, i.e. the concept of ‘norms’ and its relevance to EL; in other words, the reason why we have decided on dedicating a symposium to the relationship between norms and this particular field. Finally, short summaries of the contributions to this volume give an overview of the richness, diversity and interdisciplinarity involved in this captivating topic. As an articulated field of study, EL is relatively young, as its foundation only dates back some 30-40 years. It was first named, defined and described by Bernard Spolsky in the 1970s (e.g. Spolsky 1971, 1974, 1978) and continues to establish itself in the 21st century. What is probably obvious to someone who has never heard of ‘educational linguistics’ as a discipline is that it can be situated somewhere at the intersection of educational and linguistic concerns. A definition by Francis Hult suggests that “[e]ducational linguistics is an area of study that integrates the research tools of linguistics and other related disciplines of the social sciences in order to investigate holistically the broad range of issues related to language and education” (Hult 2008: 10). At first sight this also seems to hold true for applied linguistics. However, researchers suggest that educational linguistics is to be separated from AL (cf. Hornberger 2001; Hult 2008; Spolsky 2008). The field of AL itself has been notoriously difficult to describe and we can now distinguish various points on a continuum between a very narrow and a very wide definition. In a nutshell, the former is exclusively concerned with the teaching of foreign languages, while the latter covers “everything but language theory, history and description” (Spolsky 1999: 1), i.e. fields such as lexicography, translation, language planning, language teaching etc. Not all interests in AL are thus necessarily tied to educational issues, which is why Bernard Spolsky defined a new field that could be considered a subfield within the larger discipline of AL in its wider sense: “It was the very lack of a core in applied linguistics that led me to propose educational linguistics. On the analogy of educational psychology, I hoped it would be possible to define a field relevant to education but based on linguistics” (Spolsky 2008: 2). Education naturally interacts with language in numerous ways. As a consequence, the scope of EL under this definition is fairly wide, ranging from issues such as ‘vernacular dialect use at school’ to ‘second language phonological acquisi-
Christiane Brand, Thorsten Brato, Stefanie Dose and Sandra Götz
tion’ and ‘teacher training in linguistics’. Spolsky elaborated his previous conception of EL over the years in so far as he now views EL’s core task as “providing the instruments for designing language policy and for implementing language education management” (Spolsky 2008: 3). EL is continually expanding as an independent area of study all over the globe, which is also indicated by the growing number of publications and university programs in this field. Yet, EL is still in its infancy in Europe. At Justus Liebig University Giessen, the definition of EL is somewhat wider than that of Hornberger (2001), Hult (2008) or Spolsky (2008). This is also reflected in the various interdisciplinary EL-related research and teaching activities at this institution. At the University of Giessen, EL focuses on the conceptual and methodological combination of linguistic and language-pedagogical research with regard to socially relevant issues and questions related to education and teaching. 1.2 The concept of norms in educational linguistics 1. a. That which is a model or a pattern; a type, a standard. […] b. A standard or pattern of social behaviour that is accepted in or expected of a group. Usu. in pl. […] c. A value used as a reference standard for purposes of comparison (OED 2009: ‘norm’)
In the educational-linguistic context, norms appear to be a particularly interesting object for study because norms and the related issue of standards play an important role on a number of levels in the complex interplay of language, culture, society and education. Education, or rather, educational institutions, shape a society and the people that live in it, but society or culture can also influence education. Certain norms, here understood in the classic sociological sense as ‘accepted and expected patterns of social behaviour’ (cf. the OED 2009 definition 1. b.) are thus formed, fostered, perpetuated and sometimes even deconstructed or newly created in socializing institutions such as schools and higher education. It is at schools, among other places, that children acquire a sense of what is ‘normal’, what kind of behaviour is acceptable and expected of them – not only because that is where they see many other people do the same things or behave in the same way, but also because educational institutions function as an authority which explicitly teaches them certain norms. Of course, then, these dynamics also apply to language norms as a special type of social norms. Language norms and standards represent everyday issues in an educational context, even though we might not always be aware of the extent. Language norms come into play e.g. when the selection of the language of instruction is concerned, when first, second or foreign languages are learned, when curricula are designed (an example of an explicit set of norms formulated for the foreign language classrooms in Europe is the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages [Council of Europe 2001]) and when reference and teaching materials such as dictionaries, grammars (as result of codification) and textbooks are designed. These are but a few examples. Language policy and language management
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in general are further areas in which the discussion about norms can have an enormous impact, both in monolingual countries like France and Poland, as well as in many highly multilingual countries such as some of the former colonies in Africa. Which language or variety is regarded valuable enough to be made the official language and express the country’s identity – that of the majority of the population, that of the former coloniser or a combination of local and coloniser languages? The answers to these questions always influence education in a variety of ways, too, of course. The question of what exactly constitutes a norm is one that is extremely hard to answer and always relies on a society’s cultural values. While some norms are generally accepted without much discussion or even consideration (e.g. that the typical paper size in Germany is DIN A4), when it comes to language, the question of norms and how to deal with them is discussed much more vigorously. Thus, it is no surprise that also in EL there is no clear-cut definition of what constitutes a norm. The matter is further complicated by the fact that most of the ‘factors’ and disciplines involved in EL – such as those mentioned in Spolsky’s (1999: 2-6) taxonomy of EL1 and the “core themes”2 described in Spolsky and Hult (2008) – contribute their own, sometimes even opposing, set of norms. If we just focus on the linguistic side, there are those who argue that norms are a set of grammatical rules that have to be followed, whereas sociolinguists have argued for a variety of other forms of linguistic norms such as that of “communicative adequacy” (Gloy 1976: 335, 1980: 364, cited in Neuland 1996: 57). This approach takes into account linguistic factors (grammatical and stylistic norms, norms for oral, written and non-verbal communication), social factors (age, gender, hierarchy) and legitimation criteria (cultural authorities, clerical elite, forms that developed historically, supraregional span, mutual understandability). They even argue for the logic of the nonstandard (Labov 1969), which in educational contexts is often referred to as ‘wrong’ or as an ‘error’ (Hudson 2004: 109). When talking about norms, then, it is essential to be aware of the double meaning of the word ‘norm’ as describing both normal, as in ‘common, usual, used in everyday settings’, but also normative, as in ‘what is valued most highly and thus is considered most prestigious’ (Favreau this volume: 74): the standard (also see the OED definition above). In other words, we can distinguish between a descriptive and a prescriptive sense of a ‘norm’. For sociolinguists, nonstandard usage and variation is the norm. In teaching, on the other hand, and especially in foreign language teaching, a norm that is prescriptive and normative is common and to a large extent necessitated by the practical needs of the language classroom. Nonstandard 1
Spolsky includes the following factors: social context, individual learner, school context, teaching language, teaching additional languages and language testing. 2 These are linguistically and culturally responsive education, language education policy and management, literary development and language assessment.
Christiane Brand, Thorsten Brato, Stefanie Dose and Sandra Götz
and variant forms are often restricted to a minimum, such as the differences between British and American English. Questions like those mentioned above warrant further discussion of the concept of norms in the context of educational linguistics. For our symposium, we decided to focus on three major areas which appeared to be particularly promising research fields: first of all, Language policy as a reflection of cultural norms. Language norms are an influential tool to codify, maintain or revive the own language or language variety, sometimes also to consciously distance oneself from ‘the Other’, i.e. other languages or language varieties. Secondly, Norm, standard, deviation. Language norms in the sense of ‘standards’ tend to be developed slowly over time (influenced by language-internal and -external factors) and are just as constructed as the deviations from them; they are furthermore subject to change. Linguistic research into language variation and change has long been a rewarding endeavour. The third thematic area was titled Target norms in foreign language teaching. Pluricentric languages are particularly challenging in the foreign language classroom, but different styles and registers of languages are topics that have also received more attention in the past years. Furthermore, there are interesting questions such as how to deal with mistakes or errors and there is also the tension between a ‘focus on forms’ and a ‘focus on meaning’. The multifaceted nature of EL, i.e. the multitude of philologies, theoretical frameworks and applications involved is also reflected in the papers presented at our conference in September 2008 and consequently in the contributions to the present conference proceedings as well. 1.3 Overview of chapters In accordance with the foci of our symposium, we have structured the present book in four major parts, beginning with a thematic section on Language policy as a reflection of cultural norms. The first contribution in this section is the paper by the founding father of educational linguistics, Bernard Spolsky. He illustrates the Navajo Reading Study, which he describes as the starting point for exploring the richness of educational linguistics. Spolsky gives an account of the beginning of the process and shows how he and his team found that linguistic science proved to be useful in dealing with the challenges posed by bilingual education. Almost 40 years ago they put science into practice by setting up a Navajo/English education scheme in the Southwestern US. The insights of this study are still valuable today. The paper by Ruth Bartholomä focuses on textbooks as a means for language planning in schools. She uses the Tatar language in Russia to illustrate issues of language policy in Russia from a diachronic perspective. Tatar belongs to the Turkic languages and is an everyday language that was subject to norm debates throughout the last century. Bartholomä focuses on the development of a written norm represented in dictionaries, official wordlists and most importantly textbooks used in the education of children in the 1920s, 1930s and 1990s.
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The second section of the book deals with the theme of Norm, standard, deviation. Richard Hudson sets the scene by first discussing each of the three concepts individually to subsequently bring them together, focusing on their importance to the field of educational linguistics. In doing so, he questions the idea of norm and deviation and makes a plea for a more flexible approach that shows greater tolerance for diversity. Hudson outlines in detail the relevance of tackling these issues as he points out their practical implications for education and linguistics as well as for cultural studies. The second paper in this section by Chahrazed Messadh discusses foreign language speaking anxiety among students. She reports on a research study conducted in Algeria and introduces the idea of speaking anxiety as a factor relevant to curriculum design and foreign language speaking instruction in an EFL university context. Messadh illustrates different variables, ranging from personal to procedural, that could have an influence on the level of anxiety in the beginners’ and advanced learners’ classroom. She uses a modified version of the FLCAS developed by Horwitz et al. (1986) as a primary instrument to measure anxiety and implements focus groups to examine the participants’ beliefs, experiences, and feelings related to anxiety in foreign language speaking. Hélène Favreau’s contribution to the section tackles linguistic norms and standards from a social perspective. She poses the question of the likelihood and extent of social exclusion if norms and standards are not shared by both teacher and learner. She discusses attitudes towards given norms in France and illustrates the consequences for institutional education. Favreau’s particular interest is the identity-constructing function of different sociolinguistic norms and the deviance between standard and non-standard forms. She outlines how norms can act as a tool of exclusion rather than communication and how this might result in a profound social depreciation on the part of some speakers. Mailin Antomo concludes the theme of norm, standard and deviation with a discussion about major syntactic, semantic and pragmatic differences that arise from different possible verb placements in German adverbial clauses of cause/reason with weil (= ‘because’). She takes differences in spoken and written German into consideration and examines verb placement in canonical vs. noncanonical subordinate and coordinate clauses. Antomo emphasises the importance of integrating her findings into German grammar teaching to increase the learners’ awareness of register differences and the adequacy of the variants in specific contexts. The third section of this volume focuses on Target norms in foreign language teaching. In the first paper Frank G. Königs presents a survey of how researchers in foreign language teaching have gradually been including the – originally linguistic – discussion about language norms in their research field. Based on this framework, he critically discusses the learner-centred approach to foreign language teaching and
Christiane Brand, Thorsten Brato, Stefanie Dose and Sandra Götz
illustrates different scenarios of potential conflicts arising from the inclusion of different degrees of normativity in the foreign language classroom. In his empirical study, Ralf Gießler investigates the written output of German learners of English. He based his study on the (poor) performance of learners from secondary schools in state-wide mandatory assessments and large-scale assessments. Gießler’s qualitative analysis of learner texts from 2005 reveals that the learners’ poor performance is to a large extent caused by their limited access to frequently used prefabricated units, chunks and sentence patterns in English. As a consequence, Gießler makes a plea for a greater focus on these particular areas in foreign language teaching. Gabriela Marques-Schäfer and Eva Platten continue this section by taking the discussion of norms in foreign language teaching to the World Wide Web. They investigate how learners of German as a foreign language deal with explicit and implicit norms in a supervised and unsupervised didactic chat as well as in an unsupervised Wiki Web. They reveal that learners follow the explicit linguistic and social norms more often in the Wiki Web than in the chat (especially when the chat is unsupervised), but they also show major parallels of how learners deal with the implicit norms in both media, e.g. they strive for a high level of well-formedness of their output. Eirini Monsela focuses in her paper on the different realisations of speech acts in German and Greek and puts special emphasis on the differences between how two verbs are used in the two languages in the perfect and the preterite. Her study reveals some areas that are especially error-prone for Greek learners of German and offers concrete exercises that cover these difficult areas. Martina Möllering completes the present volume in the final section with her paper on language norms and integration. She addresses the different concepts of norms discussed in the previous sections by describing the role of educational linguistics in today’s multicultural and global society. She outlines the impact that language norms and language standards have on specifying (minimum) language requirements in the context of immigration and the conferral of citizenship in Australia and Germany. In doing so, Möllering emphasises the importance of future research in the field of EL as its practical implications are of major relevance in our era of increasing globalisation.
References Council of Europe. 2001. Common European Framework of Reference for Languages: Learning, teaching, assessment. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Hornberger, Nancy H. 2001. “Educational linguistics as a field: A view from Penn’s program on the occasion of its 25th anniversary”. Working Papers in Educational Linguistics 17 (1-2), 1-26. Horwitz, Elaine K., Michael B. Horwitz and Joann Cope. 1986. “Foreign language classroom anxiety scale”. Modern Language Journal 70 (2), 125-132.
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Hudson, Richard. 2004. “Why education needs linguistics (and vice versa)”. Journal of Linguistics 40 (1), 105-130. Hult, Francis M. 2008. “The history and development of educational linguistics”. In: Bernard Spolsky and Francis M. Hult (eds.). Handbook of educational linguistics. Oxford: Blackwell, 1024. Labov, William. 1969. “The logic of non-standard English”. Journal of Language and Culture in Education 7 (1), 60-74. Neuland, Eva. 1996. “Sprachvarietäten – Sprachnormen – Sprachwandel”. In: Ursula Bredel (ed.). Didaktik der deutschen Sprache. 2nd ed. Paderborn: Schönigh, 52-69. Oxford English Dictionary. 2009. “norm, n1”, http://dictionary.oed.com/cgi/entry/00327030 (last checked: 13/01/2010). Spolsky, Bernard. 1971. “The limits of language education”. The Linguistic Reporter 13 (3), 1-5. Spolsky, Bernard. 1974. “The Navajo Reading Study: An illustration of the scope and nature of educational linguistics”. In: Jaques Quistgaard, Helge Schwarz and Henning Spang-Hanssen (eds.). Applied linguistics: Problems and solutions. Proceedings of the Third Congress on Applied Linguistics, Copenhagen, 1972. Heidelberg: Julius Groos Verlag, 553-565. Spolsky, Bernard. 1978. Educational linguistics: An introduction. Rowley, MA: Newbury House. Spolsky, Bernard. 1999. “General introduction: The field of educational linguistics”. In: Bernard Spolsky (ed.). Concise encyclopedia of educational linguistics. Oxford: Elsevier, 1-6. Spolsky, Bernard. 2008. “Introduction”. In: Bernard Spolsky and Francis M. Hult (eds.). The handbook of educational linguistics. Oxford: Blackwell, 1-9. Spolsky, Bernard and Francis M. Hult (eds.). 2008. The handbook of educational linguistics. Oxford: Blackwell.