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[Xmca-l] Re: Ruqaiya Hasan

So my apologies for not sticking with Hasan. I confess to lacking adequate
familiarity with her work to be able to address it adequately (David,
please feel free to fill in more gaps for us), but it seems that we have
gotten onto a discussion of her mentor Bernstein and I thought I'd run with
that. (this also happens to be particularly relevant for me since I've just
collected data for a project in which me and a colleague will be
investigating "academic talk" among 2nd grade Latino immigrants here in
Provo, and it turns out that the notion of "academic talk" that is being
put forward (Van Kleeck 2014) is very similar to Bernstein's "elaborated"

So I'll limit myself to Bernstein with implications for Van Kleeck and
others who are proposing "academic talk" as a register.

[Hymes' appraisal can be found on pp. 46-51 of Ethnography, Linguistics,
and Narrative Inequality: Toward an Understanding of Voice].

Here is my somewhat lengthy and quotation-rich summary of Hymes' appraisal
of Bernstein's project:

Here is Hyme's sense of what is important about Bernstein's project:

"We must be thankful to Bernstein for the courage to insist on an essential
truth -- with one and the same language there are socially shaped contrasts
in way of speaking and verbal resource -- but we must go beyond his
analytic scheme." (p. 47).

Here Hymes is pointing to the fact that Bernstein brought to light the fact
that, just because people speak the same language, does not mean that they
have equal access to the goods obtained by that language. In this sense,
Bernstein is an important corrective.

Further, Hymes notes, "More than anyone else in sociolinguistics, he
[Bernstein] has called attention forcefully to essential dimensions of the
organization of ways of speaking and styles of speech.

Hymes then raises a number of substantial concerns with Bernstein's project:

"The implication of Bernstein's argument is that command of the more
explicit style ('elaborated code') should be common to all", but then "To
apply such a remedy, one would have to enable others to identify reliably
the more explicit style, on the one hand, and the desired kind of cognitive
power, on the other, and assume a necessary link between them."

Here, Hymes is pointing to the need to be able to draw some kind of link
between the explicit style ('elaborated code') and cognitive power of some
kind or other (I would prefer to call this competence in a domain or
something like that, but I take his meaning here).

Hymes makes it clear that he is willing to entertain the idea that not all
verbal repertoires are created equal: "Certain kinds of analysis of social
life no doubt require certain kinds of verbal resource, but we are far from
knowing how much of the verbal style in which we now couch such analysis is
necessary, how much merely customary. There are verbal repertoires without
something of what is necessary -- in this I agree with Bernstein." (p. 47).

But Hymes notes a further problem "no use of language is ever wholly
context-free." This means that Bernstein's elaborated codes may not always
be associated with analytic prowess (or cognitive power or whatever) that
it is assumed to be associated with and vice-versa: "Certainly there are
differences in degree of dependence and independence, but their
relationship to forms of social life and cognitive power is not
self-evident. We may think of science and scholarship as dealing in
universalistic, context-free meanings, but such work can be highly
particularistic and context-dependent, if one thinks in terms of ability
and opportunity to share in it. There are large elements of faith and
authority, both for those outside these fields and for those within them…"

Furthermore, "If public communicability of analytic knowledge is
considered, then adaptation to particular contexts of understanding may
have an essential role. Some forms of knowledge, indeed, may require
literary rather than scientific methods for their effective transmission,
and it is not clear where such verbal methods fit within the contrast in
question [restricted vs. elaborated]."

And "we tend to think of explicitness as frankness, as egalitarian and
democratic (at least in public communication), yet in some societies (cf.
Rosaldo, 1973) explicitness is experienced authoritarian, whereas
implicitness, allusion, and indirectness is essential to traditional,
reciprocal, consensual modes of resolving issues" (p. 48).

Further concerns raised by Hymes:

-Hymes proposes that we should speak of "styles" rather than "codes" b.c.
while the latter presupposes the meaning of the code, "style" leaves open
the meaning of style to those who use it.

-Bernstein's work suggests that people either speak one or the other code
and, with a few rare exceptions, Bernstein does not consider how these
codes might be differently used by the same person in different contexts.
As Hymes puts it, "the thrust of his analysis continues to be that the
distribution of code orientations in the society is tantamount to a
distribution of people. (Else why distinguish distinct codes as underlying
parallel variants?)" (p. 51).

-Hymes proposes instead that people can in fact have alternative
code-orientations and that "The central problem is the management of the
relation between the two" (p. 51).

-Here Hymes suggests that people have "repertoires" of code-orientation and
that they "[have] to adapt to a communicative ecology that favors now one,
now another, element of the repertoire, there being often enough serious
tension between person and niche." This seems to me to be a very CHAT point
to begin to ask about the communicative ecology that favors one or another
element of the repertoire of the speaker

And I thought this was a nice way to put it all together:

"The problem, then, is not absence of the orientation in the person, nor
absolute absence of contexts for an orientation, but a specific network of
relations between orientations, contents and contexts" (p. 51).

Anyway, that was a lot for a single post so I'll leave it at that. If
anyone has any interest or familiarity with the Van Kleeck notion of an
"academic talk" register, I'd love to chat but maybe we should start a new

Cheers to all,

On Mon, Jun 29, 2015 at 4:52 PM, David Kellogg <dkellogg60@gmail.com> wrote:

> Martin:
> A good example! Labov says:
> 'Some educational psychologists first draw from the writings of the British
> social psychologist Basil Bernstein the idea that "much of lower-class
> language consists of a kind of incidental 'emotional accompaniment' to
> action here and now." Bernstein's views are filtered through a strong bias
> against all forms of working-class behavior, so that he sees middle-class
> language as superior in every respect--as "more abstract, and necessarily
> somewhat more flexible, detailed and subtle."'
> Bernstein is making an empirical statement about a specific corpus of
> data--similar to the kinds of statements that Labov himself makes later in
> the article when he re-examines Bereiter's data. The same thing is true of
> Bernstein's comment on language which is "more abstract and necessarily
> somewhat more flexible, detailed, and subtle". These are all empirical
> facts, based on data.  Ruqaiya's contribution (with Clare Cloran) was to
> provide a LOT more data--and also to provide grammatical categorires that
> made it clear exaclty what "flexible", "detailed" and "subtle" referred to.
> But to take these empirical statements about specific corpora--and then to
> say that "Bernstein's views are filtered through a strong bias against all
> forms of working class behavior" is about as fair as to take the statement
> that middle class language is "more abstract" and then to conclude that
> Bernstein "sees middle class language as superior in every respect". This
> proves one thing and one thing only: Labov is being ill-tempered and
> demagogic.
> Of course, any fair linguistic comparison will reveal that the rules of
> black English are more complex than the rules of white English, and they
> are just as binding. But that's trivial: there are African languages that
> have more than a hundred and seventy case endings. Even if this were not
> largely a matter of how you define case, it would prove nothing about how
> language is implicated in distributing information, much less in
> distrubting material goods and reproducing class differences.
> There's something much worse going on here, Martin. American culture has
> appropriated a lot from black English--and yes, a lot of it has necessarily
> been the appropriation of emotional responses to tragic and harrowing
> material processes. Somehow, when black people try to turn the tables and
> appropriate some of the really powerful abstract thinking that is, for
> historical reasons--because of slavery and murderous, genocidal repression,
> not to put to fine a point on it--concentrated in an academic discourse
> dominated by whites, we are told that this is not necessary or even
> desirable. Somehow, when black church leaders like Jesse Jackson say that
> blacks are now "African Americans" on a par with Irish-Americans or
> Italian-Americans, nobody even bothers to point out that a continent is not
> a country, and this kind of relabelling is a kind of rewriting history,
> just as the claim that the slavery was not the key issue in the Civil War
> is. And somehow, when Obama makes speeches to black people, he gets to say
> things like "we express God's grace", even though this implies that grace
> is something man gives rather than God, and nobody sees the contradiction.
> (I was too easy on Obama's speech: what he really said was not that grace
> was unasked for, but rather that it was undeserved, and unmerited. Yes--the
> kind of grace that God delivers through the barrel of a racist's gun is
> utterly undeserved and unmerited. But how can anyone say such stupid and
> heartless things, much less believe them? Only by assuming that what you
> say and even what you believe doesn't matter so long as you feel right.)
> David Kellogg
> On Tue, Jun 30, 2015 at 7:15 AM, Martin John Packer <
> mpacker@uniandes.edu.co
> > wrote:
> >
> > On Jun 29, 2015, at 4:51 PM, David Kellogg <dkellogg60@gmail.com> wrote:
> >
> > > But
> > > Ruqaiya and her student Clare Cloran were the ones who really provided
> > > empirical evidence that class dialects were not simply matters of
> > phonology
> > > and phonetics. There were differences in lexical choice, and difference
> > in
> > > grammatical patterns as well. So class "dialects" were not simply
> > dialects.
> > > In fact, they were NOT dialects at all.
> >
> > David, where does this leave Labov's analysis of the negative in Black
> > vernacular English, in which he seems to see "radically different kinds
> of
> > grammatical operations"?  And here's his rebuttal of the notion that
> > African American kids are intellectually deficient; he writes that "All
> > linguists agree that nonstandard dialects are highly structured systems";
> > evidently not just different in phonology and phonetics.
> >
> > <http://www.theatlantic.com/past/docs/issues/95sep/ets/labo.htm>
> >
> > Martin
> >

Gregory A. Thompson, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor
Department of Anthropology
880 Spencer W. Kimball Tower
Brigham Young University
Provo, UT 84602