Invited Paper: Discursive approaches to language policy – challenges and opportunities



In this talk, I argue that language policy and discourse are interconnected and outline the ‘discursive approach to language policy’ proposed by Elisabeth Barakos and myself (Barakos and Unger 2016). This approach combines insights from the fields of critical language policy (e.g. Shohamy 2006, Tollefson 2006) and critical discourse studies (e.g. the discourse-historical approach developed by Reisigl and Wodak 2016, among others). Specifically, I outline how the discursive approach to language policy incorporates a focus on close textual, contextual and socio-historical analysis of language policies, ideologies and associated practices from a critical perspective. I also add a methodological orientation: to consider what can be gained by bringing together language policy and critical discourse studies, and also what challenges this combination gives rise to.

I will use examples from a critical analysis of discourse on language and language policy in Scotland – specifically relating to Scots, which has been a more or less salient part of debates about identity, nation and culture for some time. I will trace constructions of language from the pre-devolution era to this decade. I combine text analysis of ‘top-down’ language policy-related texts such as official documents, parliamentary debates and guidelines with an analysis of ‘bottom-up’ data from focus groups and interviews consisting of people affected by the policies. Through this, I examine the dialectic between policies and practices: between the linguistic and discursive power of the policy per se, which values languages in strategic material and symbolic ways, and the power of social actors that construct, live and breathe policies.

Critical discourse analysis for language assessment

Lancaster University





In this workshop participants will be invited to consider the relationship between language assessment as a social phenomenon and politics in the broadest sense, from state-level policies to classroom-level practices. While the role of politics in language assessment has been discussed extensively by a number of scholars, it has not necessarily been subjected to systematic and theoretically rigorous analysis. Participants will be introduced to (or reminded of) the key principles of critical discourse studies (CDS) as an interdisciplinary endeavour, and the methodologies typically associated with one specific form of CDS, the discourse-historical approach. There will follow an opportunity to explore how these could be applied to a range of assessment-related contexts, including the language of test instructions and items, government language policies related to immigration, and media discourse on language assessment. In advance of the workshop, participants are invited to think about examples of language assessment contexts they feel are ideologically fraught or ethically problematic, and should come prepared to briefly describe one or two of these to the other participants.

One of the most clear-headed assessments of the current situation re: staff pay I’ve read

The Disorder Of Things

Justice League Super Hero Strike

In the face of a UK higher education marking boycott due to start in 11 days time, universities have come forth with a new pay offer. Having unilaterally imposed a 1% rise (read: real terms cut) for 2013/14, they are now proposing 2% for 2014/15, with a small bonus for those on the lowest band to bring them up to a living wage level (at Sussex, that’s an increase on the existing annual pay of £13,621). A consultative ballot is open to union members, and the boycott is delayed. It seems likely that there will be appetite for the deal, given the general tone of despondency and how drained staff are by repeated small scale actions and by mounting work pressures. There had, after all, been doubts that a boycott could compete with aggressive tactics from management (including threats to deduct full pay from anyone who participated in the boycott).

We might…

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