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Language ideologies

27 October 2011

LinC is hosting the following research seminar on November 21st 2012 at 4pm in room 3.58 (Humanities Building, Cardiff University):

Investigating ideologies in Canadian corpora:

Using systemic functional grammar in cross-linguistic corpus-assisted discourse studies

Rachelle Freake, Queen Mary, University of London

This paper presents findings on language ideologies in French and English Canadian newspapers. French and English have important functions in Canada where they are not only official languages but also serve as markers of social difference (Bouchard, 2002; Heller, 1999; Oakes & Warren, 2007). Throughout Canadian history, beliefs and understandings of language have come to be shared across social groups, ingrained in ways of life, and significant symbols of the nation (Karim, 1993; Kymlicka, 2004; Resnick, 1994). Here, systematically shared naturalized beliefs about language shall be understood as “language ideologies”, and these are often manifested in discourse (Blommaert, 1999; Boudreau & Dubois, 2007; Woolard, 1998). Since language ideologies are socially shared, they tend to differ between social groups. When groups are largely monolingual, ideologies may be unique to speakers of a single language. Since the vast majority of Canadians speak only one of Canada’s two official languages, it is unclear whether French speakers and English speakers share language ideologies even if they ostensibly share the same society (i.e., Canada). To ascertain whether French and English speakers’ language ideologies differ, a cross-linguistic analysis is required. Since newspapers serve as a rich site for studies of language ideologies (DiGiacomo, 1999; Johnson and Ensslin, 2007), this paper takes French and English newspapers as data. The aim, then, is to highlight some of the similarities and differences between language ideologies in French and English Canada and to demonstrate how specific methods can help in this endeavour.

Cross-linguistic corpus-assisted discourse studies (Baker et al., 2008; Freake et al., 2011) is a methodological approach that combines corpus linguistics tools, analysis, and theory with discourse analytic tools, analysis and theory. Both of these components have strong links to systemic functional grammar (see e.g. Eggins, 2004; Halliday & Matthieson, 2004; Hunston & Thompson, 2006; Martin, 2009; Young & Harrison, 2004), and thus the method used here, too, combines corpus linguistics and discourse analysis in a Hallidayan approach. Data are drawn from 17 Canadian newspapers (12 in English; 5 in French) over a three-week period in 2009 for a total of over 7.5 million words in English and 3.5 million words in French. The method proves to be useful in the study of language ideologies in Canada for many reasons. As discussed in other research (e.g. Baker et al., 2008), the flexibility and triangulation of the combined quantitative and qualitative approach allows for increased objectivity, larger data samples, and the examination of both minority and majority trends. The addition of a cross-linguistic component further enhances the comparative and contrastive capability of the approach (cf. Johansson, 2007; Partington, 2010). Finally, grounding both of the methodological components (i.e. discourse and corpus) in a systemic functional approach ensures a shared theoretical foundation for the findings. Results from this study suggest that French and English speakers draw on some similar and some divergent language ideologies. While language ideologies in French newspapers suggest integrative evaluations of French and instrumental evaluations of English, in English, newspapers suggest only instrumental understandings of the English and French languages. These overall different evaluations of Canadian official languages may have implications for conceptualizations of and consensus on Canadian nationhood.