The Concepts of ` Language` and `Discipline` in

The Concepts of 'Language'
and 'Discipline' in
A paradigmatic, critical and
comparative study of 'Norwegian'
Language versus
• a) Form/content + use = communication (addition)
(categorical) ((applied) linguistics)
Syntax/semantics + pragmatics = communication
• b) Form/content/use = communication (integration)
(systemic) (systemics, pragmatics)
Syntax/semantics/pragmatics = communication
Text versus lifeworld
• a) Utterance or text as category (a closed
phenomenon) separated from context
• b) Utterances or texts as dialogical to
lifeworlds as systemic contexts (genres
and discourses)
Theory-driven scenarios…
…attempt to establish the status of language as a chiefly theoretical
entity abstracted away from its connections to practice and from the
many ‘non-scientific’ or ‘pre-scientific’ discourses about language.
Here, a language is regarded not as a general theory of human
knowledge and experience but as a theory about itself: a uniform,
abstract system constituted by exclusively linguistic principles. A
noteworthy early example was Saussure’s (1966 [orig. 1916], pp.
232, 14) pronouncement that ‘the true and unique object of
linguistics is language studied in and for itself’ — ‘langue’ as
opposed to ‘parole’ (language in practice) — and that this ‘language
is a well-defined object in the heterogeneous mass of speech facts’
(cf. § 69) (Beaugrande, 1998: §21).
Formalism versus functionalism
The exclusive theorising of theory-driven
linguistics has established formalism in
numerous ‘descriptive’ and ‘generative’
variations, whereas the inclusive
theorising of the practice-driven linguistics
has established functionalism in
relatively few variations (Beaugrande,
1994, 1997b) (Beaugrande, 1998: §45)
• (...) formalism, a radical version of the exclusive
theorising that disconnects things or divides
them into opposites (Beaugrande, 1998: §31).
• Insofar as ‘modern science’ loosens social
connections and favours exclusive theorising,
and ‘the language of science projects a fixed
and determinate reality (§ 23f), formalism could
claim to best represent ‘mainstream linguistics’
and to secure its legitimation and autonomy as a
scientific discipline (Beaugrande, 1998:§45)
Taken together…
• a) elements, categories, clarity,
specific, concrete, logic, well-defined…
…as different from and part of…
• b) relations, paradox, coherence, simultaneity
open-ended, general, systemic…
(...) Our theorising might start from the principle
that all human issues or activities have three
basic aspects: the cognitive relates to
knowledge, the social relates to actions and
interactions, and the linguistic relates to
language (Beaugrande, 1996a). (...) Cognition is
socially and linguistically determined; social
actions are cognitively and linguistically
determined; and language is socially and
cognitively determined (Beaugrande, 1998:§21,
SO’s underlining).
A three-fold dialectic
More often, exclusive projects predominated, such as
modelling cognition without society in psychology, or
society without cognition in sociology, or language
without either society or cognition in linguistics (critique
in Pike 1967; Neisser, 1976; Beaugrande, 1984)
(Beaugrande, 1998)
Truly rational reform would require education [to] be
explicitly defined as a three-fold dialectic among
cognitive, social, and linguistic progress toward wider
inclusion in theory and practice (Beaugrande, 1998).
• This [Halliday’s] theory also takes account of the
three-way dialectic among linguistic, cognitive,
and social, proposed as the basis for a science
of text and discourse in section B. These three
terms have actually not been widely used,
presumably because functionalism
programmatically foregrounds the social as a
counter-move against the formalist withdrawal
into a cognitive idealisation. (Beaugrande,
Systemic interaction of all main
• Yet systemic functional linguistics does make a parallel
distinction among its three meta-functions: the textual
is what language gets used and why, the ideational is
what gets talked about and how, and the interpersonal
is who talks to whom and why ( cf. Halliday, 1967-68,
1985a, 1985b, 1994a). Just as linguistic, cognitive, and
social determine each other while they evolve (§ 21f),
the three meta-functions continually interact and
presuppose each other: the textual is in principle also
ideational and interpersonal (Beaugrande, 1998:§63).
Context as field, tenor and mode
• Dialectical interactions also determine the
triad developed for analysing the Firthian
‘context of situation’: ‘mode’ as ‘symbolic
organisation’ (‘what part language is
playing in the situation’) ‘field’ as ‘social
action’ (‘who is taking part’), and ‘tenor’ as
‘role structure’ (‘what is happening’),
(Halliday, 1985b, p. 12; Halliday & Martin,
1993, pp. 32f).
Simultaneity and parallellity between textual
and contextual aspects according to Halliday
• These situational factors might all seem to belong
together under the ‘interpersonal’, which concerns
‘social relations’ that are both ‘interactional and
personal’: how ‘social groups are integrated’ and
the ‘individual is identified and reinforced’
(Halliday, 1973, p. 107). But to secure a
‘correlation’ between ‘functional’ and ‘situational’,
Halliday (1985c, p. 39) has suggested that ‘in
general’, ‘the mode’ ‘is reflected’ ‘in the textual
meanings’ ‘of the text’, ‘the field’ ‘in the
experiential’ (a subdivision of the ideational, cf. §
112), and ‘the tenor in the interpersonal’.
Objectives for consolidating a rational programme in
language education to connect theory and practice
according to Beaugrande (1998)
The first and foremost objective should [be] clear
by now: to re-orient all of education around
inclusive, creative, and self-reliant
communication. Any given subject matter would
be approached not as a predetermined set of
‘content’ or list of ‘facts’, but as a discourse
domain for the interactive construction of new
knowledge on the basis of current knowledge
(cf. Beaugrande 1996a, Chapter VII, and
references there) (Beaugrande, 1998: §133).
Linguistics and/as disciplines in (new) contexts
Different evolving disciplinarities
Language as…
- perceived and taught in research and in university studies
scientific, academic disciplinarity (‘nordisk’)
- applied in teacher education applied, didaktic disciplinarity
(‘norsk’ or ’norskdidaktikk’ or ‘norsk + fagdidaktikk)
presented and understood in curricula, textbooks and
- practical disciplinarity (cf. the new Danish expression
‘elevfaglighed’) (‘norsk’)
Language and literary studies relative to language,
text and ‘communication’ in a historical perspective
• Language and literary studies as a philological
• Language and literary studies as separate fields
• Text as a paradigmatic shift in both fields
- in language studies ‘up’ from the lower linguistic
levels (over, not between full stops)
- in literary studies from the general ‘down’ to ‘textspecificity’ (from given to open genres)
Other new sub-disciplines
media studies…
applied linguistics…
Norwegian as a second language…
ICT as part of the discipline…
pragmatic studies…
‘norskdidaktikk’ (as different from ‘norskmetodikk’)…
educational text studies, etc…
…could all be seen as new disciplinarities caused by a
deeper search for la parole rather than as causing the new
paradigm in the first place. (That they have contributed to
the pragmatic and contextual shift is nevertheless beyond
On culture and semiotics
Although culture is important in Norwegian
as a discipline and as a school subject,
(see L97) it is only recently one has seen
a professionalisation of this field close to
‘Norwegian’ (a master study established
from 2005 onwards in Hamar). Semiotics
is still not a separate field of study in
Norway, although some doctoral theses in
the field of education have claimed to be
Discipline/fach/fag/school subject
as a goal and or a means?
The structuring of schooling into subjects represents at once a fragmentation and an
internalization of the struggles over state schooling. Fragmentation because conflicts
take place through a range of compartmentalized subjects; internalization because
now conflicts take place not only within the school but also within subject boundaries
(Goodson and Marsh,1996:152).
Goodson and Marsh (1996) further argues that a hundred year long unbroken
tradition through the 20th century for seeing English as inevitable in the educational
system, has strengthen a certain disciplinary stability. At the same time though the
traditional gap between grammar and comprehensive schooling (respectively
‘Cambridge’ versus ‘London’ based English) has become less, according to P.
Medway (1990).
The encounter of an established tradition, stressing literature, elite, cultural heritage
and transmission on the one hand and a new approach, stressing language, mass,
cultural relevance and participation on the other hand thus represents an
amalgamation of polarities that raises the question of disciplinarity.
Thinking: language plus use
Language is implicitly and mainly seen as
an instrument for doing something. The
dyad semantics/syntax that constitutes
language is a functional tool that can be
used (How to do things with words).
Pragmatics is accepted, but placed
outside language. Children should learn
what language is and then how to use it.
This simple and often implicit adding to a
Saussurean worldview is still influential
Thinking: structure, reference, action, utterance (text) and
genre (context) as simultaneity (communication)
Language does not exist as such, but only as a focused
aspect of a larger cultural, communi-cational whole. A
split between text and context is refuted. Writing and
reading are hence simultaneously structuring, referring
and acting of texts/utterances. These processes are
intimately and systemically related to specific discursive
contexts or genres. No aspects can be defined as
separate. Children should learn to communicate. This
view is only randomly accepted.
Norwegian (1940): The goal is to teach the
1. to speak their mother tongue naturally, straightforward
and clearly - without major phonetic or grammatical
2. to read both bokmål and nynorsk [the two Norwegian
written languages or language forms], with distinct
pronunciation and fairly correct accent, to understand
and retell what they read, and to be able to obtain
knowledge by reading,
3. to write straightforward, naturally and fairly correct (and
with fairly correct punctuation marks) about topic
adequate for the field of experience and knowledge for
this year level (KU,1940:48, SO’s translation and added
Goals for the 1974 curriculum for Norwegian
Teaching in Norwegian shall aim at
- developing students' ability to use their mother tongue
in speech and in script
- developing students' knowledge of Norwegian
language, bokmål and nynorsk, and teach students to
love their mother tongue
- conserving and strengthening students' love of reading
and developing their ability to apprehend and
experience the aesthetic and ethical values conveyed
in poetry, so that they even later on will love literature
- training students in understanding spoken and written
Danish and Swedish
Goals for 'Norwegian' in the 1987 curriculum
The teaching of Norwegian shall aim at
- developing students’ ability to listen, talk, read and write, so that they are
able to understand others and self be able to express themselves
confidently and varied
- giving students possibility to active and creative verbal cooperation, to
communicate in different contexts and for different purposes
- giving students good knowledge of and skills in the main language,
knowledge of the side language [‘sidemål’] and dialects, and developing
tolerant attitude to language and language use
- helping students to master rules and norms for language and to master
lingui-stically practical and factual matters in work life, social life and
cultural life
- creating engagement, making joy of reading and aesthetic experiences
and to stimulate students’ love of reading through reading and work with
literary texts
- developing students' ability to perceive, experience and judge content and
language in literature, other texts and media
- letting students work with literature in ways that strengthen the feeling of
identity and open their minds for historical, social and cultural
- giving students a part in the Nordic culture and language community
KUF (1988:129-130)[SO’s translation]
Norwegian in the 1997 curriculum, L97
General aims for the subject are
to increase pupils' abilities in their mother tongue and teach them to avail
themselves of the opportunities for interaction, which their first language
provides both in speech and writing, so that they can acquire the knowledge
and skills that will serve as a platform for further learning in and outside
school, and also make them active participants in society
to strengthen pupils' sense of cultural belonging by mediating experience in
and knowledge of Norwegian language and literature, insight into other
cultures, and understanding the significance of other cultures on the
development of our own
to strengthen pupils' sense of personal identity, their openness to
experience, their creativity, and their belief in their own creative abilities
to make pupils conscious participants in their own learning processes,
provide them with insight into their own linguistic development, and enable
them to use language as an instrument for increasing their insight and
knowledge (
M87’s description of ’language’
Language is a means to orient oneself in
the world, to get contact with others and for
personal development (KUF1988:129).
The language + use = communication model
The three lifeworld aspects
M87 on Norwegian as school subject
Norwegian is a communicational subject,
an aesthetic subject and a central subject
for maintaning culture and tradition. It is
further a basic tool subject in school [and]
(…) an attitudinal subject (KUF, 1988:129)
Characterization of Norwegian as a school subject in
• The subject Norwegian, then, is about identity.
[Norsk er eit identitetsfag.]
• The subject Norwegian, then, is about experience.
[Norsk er eit opplevingsfag]
• The subject Norwegian, then, is about becoming
educated.[Norsk er eit danningsfag.]
• The subject Norwegian, then, is about culture.
[Norsk er eit kulturfag.]
• The subject Norwegian, then, is about skills.
[Norsk er eit dugleiksfag.]
• The subject Norwegian, then, is about communication
[Norsk er eit kommunikasjonsfag.]
RMERCA (1999:121-123)
Norwegian as a school subject in R06
Norwegian is a central subject for cultural
understanding, communication, Bildung
and development of identity
(UFD, 2005:37).
(R06) Norwegian…
…is a central subject…
…establishes itself between…
…relates to a broad specter of texts…
…shall help students to orient…
…shall cater for…
… etc
In other words: Norwegian in this curricular context
is seen not as much as a defined content (nouns),
but rather as an action (verbs) which is consistant with the
title for the chapter, Goals for the subject [formål med faget]
(UFD, 2005:37)
Summing up comparatively
- focus on language and its form (nationalistic?)
- curricular goals are few and specific
- language and literature important (literary?)
- curricular goals are few and specific
- communication a competitor (functionalistic?)
- curricular goals are manifold and ambitious
- focal shift from language to student
- new that Norw. is described/defines as school subject
- language now secondary to the developing students
and their discursive abilities (constructivistic?)
- language as learning instrument (meta-cognitive?)
- description of the ’nature’ of the school subject in six parts
- no overall goals given; shift to ’competence goals’
expected to be reached after year 2, 4 7 and 10
- text the dominant part of the school subject (textual?)
- the school subject is given purposes, not described as such
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