ELF in an elite international educational context: Attitudes and perceptions under the ELFel Tower with Annamária Tóth

Boğaziçi University, Istanbul


In this paper, we investigate the use of English as a Lingua Franca (ELF) by highly mobile and globally engaged students and staff involved in a bilingual graduate programme at an elite higher-education institution in France. This paper builds on prior studies that investigate the use of ELF as a communicative tool in multilingual contexts (e.g. Hülmbauer, 2007), on attitudinal studies (e.g. Jenkins, 2007; Zeiss, 2010), and also on a number of recent approaches (e.g. Seidlhofer, 2006; Ehrenreich, 2009; Kalocsai, 2009; Tóth, 2010) that have taken up the notion of groups of ELF users as communities of practice (see Wenger, 1998). While there has been a wealth of studies on the structural and pragmatic features of ELF, there have been comparatively few in-depth qualitative analyses of the attitudes and perceptions towards language use of active ELF speakers. We will address this gap by presenting some findings from our research into a linguistically and culturally diverse community of ELF speakers who work or study on the Master in European Affairs at Sciences Po Paris, using both English and French daily as working languages. These speakers also tend to use other languages on a regular basis, reflecting their diverse backgrounds in terms of national and linguistic identities. We draw on the critical approach to the study of language varieties developed by Unger (2009, 2010) to investigate the discourse on ELF within this community by means of textual analysis of interview data. In doing so, we attempt to situate the discourse on ELF at Sciences Po in the context of Europeanisation and, also more generally, the globalisation of education.


Invited paper: Critical discourse studies: investigating language policy and attitudes towards language use

Nablus, West Bank


In this paper I will outline some of the main theoretical and methodological considerations involved in applying a critical discourse studies framework to the study of language policies and language attitudes. In particular, I will attempt to show how we can best use critical, discursive approaches such as critical discourse analysis when examining language attitudes and policies. Two case studies will illustrate this point: first, drawing on a previous research project, a study of the Scots language, an autochtonous minority language spoken in Scotland, is used to show how language attitudes pervade the public and private spheres, and how often languages are evaluated positively, but not necessarily valued; and second, I will present the preliminary findings from an ongoing investigation into attitudes towards the use of English as a Lingua Franca at a higher education institution in France, in which students in a highly multilingual environment hold sometimes unexpected attitudes towards the various languages in their linguistic repertoires. In each case, “top-down” data such as policy documents and debates among power elites are combined with “bottom-up” data gathered from language users affected by policies and attitudes. I will argue that it is not enough to look at the content of language policies and what people say about language. Rather, to fully account for the impact of policy and attitudes on the lives of language users, we must look at how both powerful and affected groups and structure, instrumentalise, and recontextualise discourse on language and language varieties.

Conference paper: Confronting critical discourse analysis with social media

University of Leicester



In this paper, I examine some of the theoretical and methodological challenges faced by researchers who wish to approach data found in social media from a critical discourse analysis (CDA) perspective. While there is a large and continually growing volume of work in computer-­‐mediated discourse analysis (CMDA, see Herring 2008), and there have been a number of successful attempts to apply CDA in online contexts (e.g. Wright & Wodak 2006), CDA scholars have traditionally been rather reluctant to engage with new media (Mautner 2005), and CMDA scholars have not necessarily engaged with the socio-­‐political contexts of data.

When faced with ‘web 2.0’ phenomena such as social networking, crowd-­‐sourcing and participatory media, current understandings of context found in CDA are not always adequate. This is especially interesting to investigate in relation to activism and political resistance, where offline, online and hybrid practices rapidly evolve in response to political events, as could be seen in recent revolutions and political upheaval (e.g. the Arab Springs and the Occupy movement). Different technologies, which are often controlled by governing elites, are nevertheless adapted and exploited by grass-­‐roots activists to achieve their aims. Ultimately, CDA is advantageously placed, as a loose, adaptable theoretical approach rather than a rigid methodological framework, to investigate these new contexts, but it requires new tools to fully realise its potential.


Herring, S. C. (2008). Computer-­‐Mediated Discourse. In D. Schiffrin, D. Tannen, & H. E. Hamilton (Eds.), The Handbook of Discourse Analysis (pp. 612-­‐634). Malden, MA: Blackwell.

Mautner, G. (2005). Time to get wired: Using web-­‐based corpora in critical discourse analysis. Discourse & Society, 16(6), 809-­‐828.

Wodak, R., & Wright, S. (2006). The European Union in Cyberspace: Multilingual Democratic Participation in a virtual public sphere? Journal of Language and Politics, 5(2), 251-­‐275.

Conference plenary: Is CDA ready for web 2.0 (and vice-versa)


Conference paper: The discursive dynamics of online political activism

Adam Mickiewicz University, Poznan

The internet comprises a constantly changing communicative space in the public (and semi-public) sphere. ‘Online activism’, i.e. the use of the internet by activists to raise awareness about social issues, to organise campaigns, or to exert pressure on institutions, has seen an exponential increase in recent years, which has accompanied the exponential increase in the use of social media such as Facebook. This fundamental change in social practices has led some commentators to point to the rise in online activism as a sign that political activism is not dead, and young people are anything but apathetic. However, others have identified a corresponding decline in offline, ‘real’ activism, and have also pointed to one of the problems inherent in using public social media to organize political dissent: while it is quick and easy to reach a huge volume of people, these people can also be identified by oppressive regimes, both during campaigns, when dissent can be silenced to prevent further activism, and after ‘failed’ campaigns, when dissenters can be brutally punished for their role as organizers or participants in campaigns.



Panel paper: Political resistance practices online: activism meets the web

Georgetown University



The exponential rise in social media use has been accompanied by an increase in ‘online activism’, whereby activists use the internet to raise awareness about social issues. The purpose of this paper is to examine the huge gamut of these discursive practices, which range from simply posting a link to an online news article or website, to setting up complex satirical websites. While the former can be done with one click, the size and distributed nature of online social networks means that messages can quickly reach huge, diverse groups, who might not otherwise have been aware of the issues. Satirical spoof websites (such as the fake World Trade Organisation site operated by ‘The Yes Men’, or the Swiss anti-foreigner site ‘OLAF’) work in a far more sophisticated way, by appearing to advocatefar more extreme positions, on a range of topics such as exploitation of natural resources or immigration, than even those held by the multinational organisations or extremist politicians they are satirising. However, they are sometimes mistaken for ‘the real thing’, and thus an interesting tension, manifested in online media articles, discussions and forum posts, develops between those who are ‘in on it’ and those who ‘fall for it’.
Through discourse-historical analysis involving a series of case studies, the paper attempts to show how political resistance practices have developed over time, and have changed to take advantage of (or have been limited by) changing formats on the web (e.g. web 2.0) and social media (e.g. Facebook, Twitter). In addition to extending the discourse-historical approach developed by Ruth Wodak and others to a new research context, the paper will draw on the work of Phil Graham, Jay Lemke and other scholars who have concerned themselves with critical discursive analysis of new media.


Panel paper: Discourse on multilingualism in the Scottish Parliament

University of Southampton


Like many other European legislatures, the Scottish Parliament has recently debated and passed legislation on the autochthonous and immigrant languages that fall under its auspices. Language policy-making in the UK as a whole is complicated by the different responsibilities of the UK-wide and devolved administrations. For example, while broadcasting policy is reserved by the UK Parliament in Westminster, educational policy in Scotland is governed by the Scottish Parliament. This fragmented picture is matched by a disconnected approach to languages in the Scottish Parliament.
In this paper, I examine discourse on multilingualism in the Scottish Parliament since it was reconvened in its modern form in 1999. By employing a discourse-historical approach (Wodak 2001) in combination with Bourdieu’s (1991) concepts of symbolic capital and the linguistic market, I show that mere content analysis (i.e. examining what is said about language) is insufficient to give a full account of language policy-making. Rather, how languages are debated and discussed in the parliament is equally important.

For instance, despite the apparently high valuations of minority languages found in some of the debates, it is apparent these valuations apply only to certain very restricted ‘linguistic markets’, e.g. public celebrations and literary education. Policy-makers can therefore claim to be taking decisive action to support languages, but are not taking account of the low value they will continue to have on the ‘linguistic markets’ of daily life, (e.g. in dealing with local government, non-literary educational settings, job interviews, etc.), and in international contexts (e.g. multinational companies based in Scotland, call centres). Multilingualism is thus constructed as desirable only when it does not interfere with mainstream communication in English.