We’re very much looking forward to our next English Language and Linguistics seminar at 12noon on Wednesday 9th of February 2022. The full title of the talk, by Dr. Ian Cushing from Edge Hill University, is ‘Word gaps’, raciolinguistic ideologies and the renormalisation of deficit discourses in England’s schools

Ian has published important research on language policies in educational contexts, particularly in relation to racialised and classed language stigma and surveillance. His work examines the ways in which standard language and raciolinguistic ideologies get transformed into policies and practices, and how these are constructed, negotiated and resisted by teachers and students. His research considers how we might address these issues through the use of critical, sociolinguistic tools, culturally sustaining pedagogies and the use of children’s literature as a vehicle for interrogating language stigma in schools.

The talk will be delivered online.

Email Billy Clark for the link to join: billy.clark@northumbria.ac.uk

Here is Ian’s abstract:

Since the 1960s, educational linguists, sociolinguists and social anthropologists have critiqued deficit-based approaches to language education underpinned by theories of verbal deprivation. In the last decade however, deficit ideologies have seen a re-normalisation in England’s education policy via discourses, funding and pedagogical materials related to the so-called ‘word gap’ or ‘vocabulary gap’. This talk conceptualises ‘word gaps’ as manifestations of raciolinguistic ideologies in which the language practices of racialised, low-income speakers are heard as deficient, lacking, and indeed, full of ‘gaps’ because they fail to meet benchmarks set by the white listening subject. Using methods associated with policy diffusion and a raciolinguistic genealogy, I trace how such ideologies and ‘word gap’ interventions have circulated between education policy in England and America. I draw on a cluster of data to do so, including education policy documents, Hansard records, political discourse, textbooks for teachers, research reports, media coverage and the work of the schools inspectorate, Ofsted. I show how ‘word gap’ ideologies continue to be durable and attractive to policy makers in England, despite decades of criticism exposing how they perpetuate racial stratification which points the blame at minoritised speakers for their apparent failure to speak adequately.

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