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Martyn Hammersley CHDL/CREET. Linguistic Capital: A Rogue Concept?. An Early Citing.

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Linguistic Capital: A Rogue Concept?

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Martyn hammersley chdl creet

Martyn Hammersley

CHDL/CREET

Linguistic Capital: A Rogue Concept?


An early citing

An Early Citing

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’.


A recent commentary on kafka

A Recent Commentary on Kafka

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 She comments: ‘so although Kafka was certainly Czech [and Jewish], it seems [this] is superseded by his written German, which is apparently the most pure […]’.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?


Linguistic capital as a liminal concept or boundary object

‘Linguistic Capital’ as a Liminal Concept or Boundary Object

  • It straddles the borders between the study of language and other disciplines, notably sociology and education. As Beasley-Murray remarks, it crosses ‘anxiously controlled disciplinary borders’ (2000:101)

  • Of course, the concept of capital comes originally from economics: an appeal to a high status social science?

  • All the disciplines concerned are internally diverse, so: potentially complex liminalities.


Conflict or cooperation among intellectual fields

Conflict or Cooperation among Intellectual Fields?

‘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)


Some problem contexts

Some Problem Contexts

  • Academic literacy/literacies in the university: differences in background result in some students struggling and being judged to require remedial help because they lack the necessary linguistic capital. Is this justified?

  • A meritocratic concern with social mobility: differences in linguistic capability produce inequalities in educational achievement, and thereby in occupational destination - lack of the required linguistic capital causes relative failure?


The case of academic literacies

The Case of Academic Literacies

  • ‘As is increasingly common in applied linguistics, academic literacies breaches the boundaries of a number of disciplines and subdisciplines (e.g. sociolinguistics, anthropology, linguistic anthropology)’.

    (Lillis and Scott 2007a:3)

  • The study of academic literacies is located ‘at the juncture of research/theory and strategic application’ (Lillis and Scott 2007b:20).


Bourdieu s problem context

Bourdieu’s problem context

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.


Bourdieu s forms of capital

Bourdieu’s Forms of Capital

Physical Symbolic

(i.e. financial)Social

EmbodiedObjective Institutionalised

CulturalCultural Cultural

CapitalCapital Capital

(Knowledge(Books, (Credentials)

and skills)art works, etc)


Bourdieu on linguistic capital in the university

Bourdieu on Linguistic Capital in the University

‘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

Linguistic Capital

  • The capacity to speak particular languages.

  • Linguistic attributes: accent, dialect, etc.

  • Capability in particular language forms, oral and/or written, appropriate to particular purposes.


A plethora of capitals

‘A Plethora of Capitals’

‘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 a metaphor

Capital as a Metaphor

  • ‘Linguistic capital’ and ‘cultural capital’ are, of course, metaphors; though Bourdieu denied this (Beasley-Murray 2000:101).

  • Some of the complexities of the concept arise from this fact, as well as from what Lynne Cameron (2002) has highlighted as the two-way ‘interaction’ between the source of a metaphor and its application in a new context.

  • However, even in its original disciplinary context the concept of ‘capital’ is by no means straightforward in meaning.


A brief history of the concept of capital in economics

A Brief History of the Concept of Capital in Economics

  • The commercial model

    Capital as financial resource.

    Investment = loaning finance for a future monetary return.

  • The production model

    Factors of production = labour, land and capital.

    Investment = production redirected to create capital rather than consumption goods, thereby increasing future production.


Human capital

Human Capital

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.


Issues

Issues

  • ‘Land’ versus ‘capital’: is there ‘investment’?

  • Is capital functionally specific, or is it a generalised means of exchange or power?

  • Can and should linguistic capital be equalised? If linguistic capabilities are positional goods (Hirsch 1977) they cannot be equalised.

  • Is linguistic capital arbitrary in value?

  • Can Linguistics, Sociology, Psychology, or any other academic discipline determine the value of particular cultures or languages, or the value of specific cultural or linguistic features?


Three explanatory options

Three Explanatory Options

Certain sorts of linguistic capability are essential:

  • For particular levels of intellectual development: cultural deprivation.

  • For the intellectual demands of those sorts of activity that became central as a result of ‘modernisation’ in societies; a process that may or may not be viewed as uniquely realising human ideals: cultural disadvantage.

  • For high status to be awarded in terms of the ‘arbitrary’ culture of the dominant class: cultural domination.


Distinct policy implications

Distinct Policy Implications

  • Cultural deprivation: Equity requires equal access to the linguistic capabilities required for high level intellectual development.

  • Cultural disadvantage: Equity requires equal access to the capabilities demanded by high level intellectual labour in modern societies.

  • Cultural domination: Equity requires equal representation within the education system, and society at large, for different cultures and for the linguistic capabilities associated with them. But socio-economic revolution required?


A fundamental ambiguity in bourdieu s work

A Fundamental Ambiguity in Bourdieu’s work?

  • Bourdieu: ‘The only thing I share with neomarginalist economists are the words.’ (Waquant 1989:42) Not quite!

  • Is all linguistic and cultural difference arbitrary? In what sense? (Moore 2004:454)

  • Are some kinds of linguistic and cultural capability of functional value? What might this mean?


A critique of philippe sollers and tel quel

A Critique of Philippe Sollers and Tel Quel

‘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 1998:11-12)


Bourdieu s own use of linguistic capital

Bourdieu’s Own Use of Linguistic Capital

‘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)


A proposed solution

A Proposed Solution

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.


More generally

More Generally

  • Academic disciplines cannot claim authority in making evaluations of the phenomena they study. In other words, they cannot provide a practical perspective on the world, political or otherwise, not even a ‘critique’.

  • Nor should they portray evaluation as ‘arbitrary’.

  • They must suspend any interest in making value-judgments about the phenomena they study, and use values only so as to determine what is worth investigating and what is relevant to an investigation.


Linguistic capital a rogue concept

Coda

  • This does not mean that academic disciplines can, or should attempt to be, value-free in some absolute sense. Indeed, they cannot operate without researchers making evaluative judgments about how best to pursue them, including about better and worse linguistic forms in writing research reports.

  • Indeed, it is in precisely these terms that I have been evaluating the concept of linguistic capital, and the metaphorical use of the notion of capital more generally.


Bibliography

Bibliography

Albright, J. and Luke, A. (eds.) (2008) Pierre Bourdieu and Literacy Education, London, Routledge.

Baron, J. and Hannan, M. (1994) ‘The impact of economics on contemporary sociology’, Journal of Economic Literature, 32, 3, pp1111-46.

Becker, G. (1964) Human Capital, New York, Columbia University Press.

Bernstein, B. (1973) Class, Codes and Control, Volume 1, London, Paladin.

Blair, M. (2011) ‘An economic perspective on the notion of “human capital”’, in Burton-Jones (eds.)

Boldizzoni, F. (2008) Means and Ends: The idea of capital in the West, 1500-1970, Basingstoke, Palgrave-Macmillan.

Bourdieu, P. (1986) ‘The forms of capital’, in Richardson, J. (ed.) Handbook of Theory and Research for the Sociology of Education, Cambridge MA, Harvard University Press.

Bourdieu, P. (1991a) Language and Symbolic Power, Cambridge, Polity (Originally published in French between 1977 and 1984)

Bourdieu, P. (1991b) The Political Ontology of Martin Heidegger, Stanford CA, Stanford University Press.

Bourdieu, P. (1998) ‘Sollers tel quel’, in Acts of Resistance, Cambridge, Polity. (First published in French, in Liberation, 1995.

Bourdieu, P., Passeron, J-C. and Saint Martin, M. (1994) Academic Discourse: Linguistic misunderstanding and professorial power, Cambridge, Polity. (First published in French in 1965)

Burton-Jones, A. and Spender, J-C. (eds.) (2011) Oxford Handbook of Human Capital, Oxford University Press.

Butler, J. (2011) ‘Who owns Kafka?’, London Review of Books 33, 5, pp3-8.


Bibliography continued

Bibliography Continued

Cameron, L. (2002) ‘Metaphors in the learning of science: a discourse focus’, British Educational Research Journal, 28, 5, pp673-88.

Collins, J. (1993) ‘Determination and contradiction: an appreciation and critique of the work of Pierre Bourdieu on language and education’, in Calhoun, C., LiPuma, E. and Postone, M. (eds.) Bourdieu: critical perspectives, Chicago, University of Chicago Press.

Cook-Gumperz, J. (ed.) (1986) The Social Construction of Literacy, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press.

Cooper, D. E. (1984) ‘Labov, Larry and Charles’, Oxford Review of Education, 10, 2, pp. 177-192.

Dar, A. (2010) draft chapter for Career trajectories of British Pakistani women, PhD thesis in preparation.

Easley-Murray, J. (2000) ‘Value and capital in Bourdieu and Marx’, in Brown, N. and Szeman, I. (eds.) Pierre Bourdieu: Fieldwork in culture, Lanham MD, Rowman and Littlefield.

Fine, B. (2001) Social Capital versus Social Theory, London, Routledge (esp. Ch4), and (2010) Theories of Social Capital, London, Pluto.

Grenfell, M. (ed.) (2008) Pierre Bourdieu: Key Concepts, London, Acumen.

Grenfell, M, and James, D. (1988) Bourdieu and Education, London, Falmer Press.

Grenfell, M., Bloome, D., Hardy, C., Pahl, K., Rowsell, J., and Street, B. (2011) Language, Ethnography, and Education: Bridging New Literacy Studies and Bourdieu, London, Routledge, forthcoming.

Hirsch, F. (1977) Social Limits to Growth, London, Routledge.

Jenkins, R. (1992) Pierre Bourdieu, London, Routledge.


Bibliography continued1

Bibliography Continued

Kafka, F. (1929) Letter to Max Brod, June 1921, in Kafka, F. Letters to Friends, Family, and Editors, London, John Calder. (Translation: Heller, E, Kafka, London, Fontana, 1974, p14).

Labov, W. (1969) ‘The logic of non-standard English’, in Alatis, J. (ed.) Georgetown Monographs on Language and Linguistics 22, Washington, Georgetown Press.

Lillis, T. and Scott, M. (2007a) ‘Introduction’, Journal of Applied Linguistics, 4, 1, 2007, pp1-4..

Lillis, T. and Scott, M. (2007b) ‘Defining academic literacies research: issues of epistemology, ideology and strategy’, Journal of Applied Linguistics, 4, 1, 2007, pp5-32

Mehta, J. (2010) ‘Viewing all but seeing nothing: Review of Ben Fine Theories of Social Capital: Researchers Behaving Badly’, Times Higher, 29 April. Available at:

http://www.timeshighereducation.co.uk/story.asp?storycode=411366

Moore, R. (2004) ‘Cultural capital: objective probability and the cultural arbitrary’, British Journal of Sociology of Education, 25, 4, pp445-56. (see also entry on ‘cultural capital’ in Grenfell

Rampton, B. (2010) ‘Social class and sociolinguistics’, in Wei, L. (ed.) Applied Linguistics Review 1, Berlin, De Gruyter Mouton.

Robbins, D. (2004) ‘The Transcultural Transferability of Bourdieu's Sociology of Education’, British Journal of Sociology of Education, 25, 4, pp. 415-430.

Safford, K. and Kelly, A. (2010) 'Linguistic capital of trainee teachers: knowledge worth having?', Language and Education, 24: 5, pp401 — 414.

Schatzman, L. and Strauss, A. (1955) ‘Social class and modes of communication’, American Sociological Review, 40, 4, pp329-38.


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