Martyn Hammersley CHDL/CREET. Linguistic Capital: A Rogue Concept?. An Early Citing.
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Writing about Karl Kraus’s work, Kafka suggests that it ‘principally consists of Yiddish German – mauscheln★ – no one can mauscheln like Kraus, although in this German-Jewish world [of writing] hardly anyone can do anything else. […] It consists of boisterously or secretively or even masochistically appropriating foreign capital, something not earned, but stolen […]. This is not to say anything against mauscheln – in itself it is fine. It is an organic compound of bookish German and pantomime.’ (Kafka 1929)
★ Anti-semitic term, one meaning of which is ‘mumbling’.
Butler (2011:5) refers to ‘the long and curious tradition of praise for Kafka’s “pure” German’. She comments: ‘so although Kafka was certainly Czech [and Jewish], it seems [this] is superseded by his written German, which is apparently the most pure […]’. She notes that, given Angela Merkel’s recent announcement of the failure of multiculturalism, admonishing new immigrants for failing to speak German correctly, Kafka ‘could be a model of the successful immigrant’. Does this mean he has stolen, earned, or purchased the required linguistic capital?
‘It is reasonable to believe that certain educational problems could be handled more successfully if […] educational researchers had a clearer understanding of the sociolinguistic forces at work in schools and classrooms’ (Stubbs 1983:23)
‘The division between linguistics and sociology is unfortunate and deleterious to both disciplines’ (Bourdieu in Wacquant 1989:47)
(Lillis and Scott 2007a:3)
How does the dominant class reproduce its dominant position within contemporary France?
It reproduces its position across generations by turning its wealth into cultural (including linguistic) capital, inherited by its children, who can turn this into educational credentials, and then cash these for lucrative occupational positions.
Furthermore, in this manner class domination is legitimated as the product of ‘natural’ abilities plus effort, in other words as meritocratic.
and skills)art works, etc)
‘Constrained to write in a badly understood and poorly mastered language, many students […] try to call up and reinstate the tropes, schemas or words which to them distinguish professorial language. Irrationally and irrelevantly, with an obstinacy that we might too easily mistake for servility, they seek to reproduce this discourse in a way which recalls the simplifications, corruptions and logical re-workings that linguists encounter in “creolized” languages’ (1994:4).
‘Linguistic capital’ is only one of many phrases currently in use that distinguish varieties of capital.
These include: human, material, physical, cultural, social, scholastic, moral, ethnic, gender, urban, rural, subcultural, intellectual, informational, scientific, bodily, and spiritual capital.
‘Sociologists have begun referring to virtually every feature of life as a form of capital’
(Baron and Hannan 1994:1122)
Capital as financial resource.
Investment = loaning finance for a future monetary return.
Factors of production = labour, land and capital.
Investment = production redirected to create capital rather than consumption goods, thereby increasing future production.
Human capital = knowledge and skills whose deployment brings a future financial return
Individuals invest in themselves through acquiring knowledge and skills that can subsequently be cashed in the employment market.
Countries invest in their populations by providing various levels and kinds of education, thereby boosting their future national income.
Economists are preoccupied with calculating the rate of return on various kinds of ‘educational investment’, on the part of individuals and governments.
Certain sorts of linguistic capability are essential:
‘not literature, still less the avant-garde, but the imitation of literature, and of the avant-garde’
‘[…] the pretence of being a writer, or a philosopher, or a linguist, or all of those at once, without being any of them or knowing anything about all that’
‘when one “knows the tune” of culture but not the words, when one only knows how to mimic the gestures of the great writer […]’
‘Bourdieu’s […] discursive style can be interpreted as a strategy designed to bolster […] his own academic […] distinction’
‘Idiosyncratic usages and neologisms allied to frequently repetitive, long sentences […] with a host of sub-clauses, […] discursive detours…’
‘The same linguistic and presentational devices which he identifies in academic discourse in general are conspicuously present in his own work’ (Jenkins 1992:pp169, 9, and 171)
Sociology, linguistics, sociolinguistics, psychology, etc are academic disciplines concerned with describing and explaining. They can document disparities between varieties of language used within and outside of educational institutions; the consequences of variations in linguistic repertoire; and perhaps even the effects on the acquisition of particular socio-cognitive skills. But they cannot legitimately go beyond this to evaluate linguistic varieties as superior/inferior, nor even declare them to be of equal value.
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