-249 Pragmatics 2:3.
235 InternationalPragmatics Association
LANGUAGE IDEOLOGY: ISSUES AND APPROACHES
Kathrvn A. Woolard
1. Introduction This special issue of hagmarl'cs derives from a day-long symposium on "l^anguage Ideology: Practice and Theory" held at the annual meeting of the American Anthropology Association in Chicago,November 1991.1 The organizing premise of the symposiumwas that languageideologyis a mediating link between social structuresand forms of talk, if such static imagery for some very dynamic processescan be forgiven. Rather than casting language ideology as an epiphenomenon, a relatively inconsequentialoverlay of secondaryand tertiary responses(Boas 1911; Bloomfield 1944),, symposiumstarted from the proposition that ideology stands in dialectical the relation with, and thus significantlyinfluences,social,discursive, and linguistic practices. As sucha critical link, languageideology merits more concertedanalytic attention than it has thus far been given. In this first attempt to bring form to an area of inquiry, we have adopted a relatively unconstrainedsenseof "languageideology."Alan Rumsey'sdefinition, based on Silverstein (1979),is a useful startingpoint: linguisticideologiesare "sharedbodies of commonsense notions about the nature of languagein the world "(1990: 346). We mean to include cultural conceptionsnot only of languageand languagevariation, but of the nature and purpose of communication, and of communicativebehavior as an enactment of a collective order (Silverstein 1987: l-2). I use the terms "linguistic" and "language"ideology interchangeably,although in the articles that follow one might detect differencesin their uses,perhaps varying with the degree to which the authors focus on formal linguistic structuresor on representationsof a collective order. In order to build toward a general understandingof the cultural variability of language ideology and its role in social and linguistic life, the symposium brought
1 The symposium was organized the three guesteditorsof this issueand sponsored the by by Program Committee of the American AnthropologicalAssociation.We thank Jill Brody, Michele Dominy, and membersof the ProgramCommitteefor enablingus to bring such a large number of participantstogether.This introductorypaper would have been even sketchierwithout the positive influenceof the symposium's contributorsand discussants, I thank them. Thanks also to Paul and Kroskrity and Bambi Schieffelinfor commentsand encouragement. am grateful to the National I Endowmentfor the Humanitiesfor support of my work on language ideology,although all opinions expressed here are my own.
Kathryn A. Woolard
together a spectrum of researchers. Somework in more traditional societies, others in the post-industrialwest; some have focused more on linguistic structure, others on socialprocess. Linguisticanthropologists havesometimes bemoanedthe marginalization of our subdisciplinefrom the larger field, even as languageand discoursehave become central notions across the social sciencesand humanities.There is also a growing unease among some linguistic anthropologistsabout lack of cohesion within the subdiscipline. different senseof problem hascreatedunintendedintellectualdivides, A whether between traditional and complexsocieties, westernand non-western, linguistic and social foci, "macro" and "micro". The topic of languageideology may be one muchneeded bridge between work on languagestructure and languagepolitics, as well as between linguistic and social theory. But more than just a unifying force, we hope that attention to languageideology can be a key to a fresh and productive reformulation of analytic problems.
2. Why ldeolory? The term ideology has been characterizedin a variety of ways,in a confusingtangle of commonsenseand semi-technicalmeanings (Friedrich 1989: 300). If ideology is a muddled and troublesome concept, why choose it as an umbrella under which to gather? A simple(-minded?) reason is that the term itself has been appearing with increasing frequency in studies of language.A casual review of work since the midseventies,and particularly since the mid-eighties,turns up not only the Silversteinian conceptof linguisticideology(1979,1985), alsoreferences grammaticalideology but to (Kroch and Small 7978),purist ideology (Hill and Hill 1980,1986;Hill 1985),language ideology(".9., Hornberger 1988;Sonntagand Pool 1987;Woolard 1989),ideologiesof standardization(Milroy and Milroy 1985),and ideology/iesof language(e.g.,Haviland 1989; Schultz 1990; Joseph and Taylor 1990). This list ranges across a variety of disciplines which have traditionally asked rather different questions about language, from cultural and linguistic anthropology through linguisticsto education and political science. If we look beyond the term itself we find a wealth of studies that address cultural conceptions of the nature of language, under the guise of metalinguistics, attitudes, loyalty, values, prestige, stigmatization,beliefs, norms, standards,aesthetics, hegemony, etc. From this welter of work, it becomes apparent that there is an intellectual field in need of review and coordination, under whatever name. Your language ideology, like your social situation, is not your country cousin, as Goffman (1972) put it; nor is it the city slicker it may sometimesappear, to be distrustedand kept at arm's length. Ideology needs to be analyzed systematicallyin the study of language,not invoked opportunistically or dismissedsummarily. In a critical essayon social scientific notions of ideology generally, Geertz Q96\ long ago called for systematicattention to the social and what I would prefer to call semiotic processes through which ideologies come to signify. The same must be said (and has been said by Silversteinand others, particularly those influencedby C.S.Peirce) about ideological
A. Knthryn l4/oolard
In a third perspectiveon ideology, the most central notion is that of distortion, falsity, mystification, or rationalization. Friedrich captures this as "the other fellow's ideas" (1989: 301). This negative aspect can be found in uses from Napoleon's references the early French id6ologues to (Gouldner 1976:7) through fundamentalist Manrist positionscarried on by, e.g.,Luk6cs (1971),to empiricistAmerican sociology (e.g.,Bell 1960). The fourth feature often attributed to ideology is an intimate connection to social power and its legitimation. For J.B. Thompson, for example, ideology is signification that is "essentially linked to the process of sustaining asymmetrical relations of power - to maintaining domination.... by disguising, legitimating, or distorting those relations" (1984: 4). In the strongestformulations of this principle, ideology is alwaysthe tool or property of dominant social groups; cultural conceptions belongingto oppositionalor subordinategroups are by definition non-ideological. Playing under and around these four prototypical features,there are two other, related dimensionsof variation in understandings ideology.One is the degree to of which it is held to be a coherent system,and the other is the degree to which ideology is conscious and explicit.For American political theoristssuch as Shils,ideologiesare complete and closed systems(Shils 1971 cited in Eagleton 1991: 4). But even when seen as a dimension of consciousness, ideology can be viewed as piecemeal and internally contradictory.aVoloshinov, for example,does not reserye the term ideology only for organized systems of signification, but writes of the "lowest stratum of behavioral ideology"as one that lacks logic or unity (1973:92). public discourse, For Gouldner (1976:23), ideologyis a conscious "that part of which can be said" (Thompson 1984:85). But in many other uses,the consciousness claim is not necessarilyone of conscious,deliberate, or systematicallyorganized thought. For example, we have seen above that Friedrich introduces the implications of conceptualsystems also ideological. as Friedrich characterizes Whorfian notion his of "linguacultural ideology" (valuesimplicit in a languageand cultural system)as more unconscious than other forms that have been called ideological,while nonetheless conceptual(1989: 306-307). The influential French structuralistschool cast ideology not as an aspect of consciousness representationsat all, but rather of lived relations, to use the or Althusserian(1971)formulation.Eagletoncharacterizes ideologyin this senseas "prereflective," "a particular organizationof signiffing practiceswhich goes to constitute human beingsas socialsubjects, and which producesthe lived relationsby which such subjectsare connectedto the dominant relationsof production in society"(1991: 18). Here, of course,are notable similarities Bourdieu'sconceptof "doxa"as opposedto to heterodoxyand orthodoxy(1977).And in spite of important differences, there are also similaritiesto the post-Gramscian as notion of hegemony it hasbeen interpretedby the literary theorist Raymond Williams (1977) as the "saturationof consciousness" and "structuresof feeling."
a Whether the contradictionlies in the conceptual model of the world, or in the world which is accurately modeled,is one point of somedebate.
Language ideologt: issuesand approaches
Both the neutral understandingof ideology as cultural conceptions,and the versionof ideologyasinescapable Frenchstructuralist lived relations,make problematic the critical edge of ideological analysisassociated with the long-standingpejorative use of the term.s If ideology is an aspect of all lived human experience,there is no privilegedposition for its critique. But other theorists(e.g.,J.B. Thompson, Eagleton, and Maurice Bloch, among those who have written on language) are less willing to blunt that critical tool. Bloch (1985) advocatesdistinguishingeveryday cognition, derived from experience in interaction with a culturally constructed environment (Bourdieu'shabitus) from ideolory, a Marxian notion of systems representation that of mask social processes, legitimating social order. Similarly, John and Jean Comaroff (1991) recently have proposed a schemathat distinguishes culture on the one hand from more power-chargedcultural forms of ideology and hegemonyon the other, in a taxonomythat is perhaps most clearly applicable to colonial and other culture contact situations. No doubt in attemptingcross-cultural comparisons languageideology,we will of have to contendwith theoreticaldifferences along thesedimensions. don't think it is I of interest in this early stage of forming a field of empirical investigation to constrain the notion of ideologynarrowly, although as is evident,I do most value an emphasis on the socialoriginsof systems signification. of Surelyall the phenomenaI've reviewed, from seemingly neutral "cultural conceptions" strategies maintaining social power, to for are of concernin a pre-theoreticalmoment. But we need to be alert to our different usesand attempt to track their relationsto each other and to empirical situations.
4. Approachesto languageideolory One receivedview in the anthropologicalstudy of languagecastsideology, understood as secondaryand false, as a somewhat unfortunate - though perhaps socio-culturally interesting- distractor from primary and thus "real" linguistic data. Boas (1911) proposedthat languageis a cultural systemwhose primary structure is little influenced by secondary rationalizations, and so is an exemplarytarget of analysis. Bloomfield's (1944)are among the most acerbicstatements the disdain for linguistic ideologies of that sometimesfollowed from this position among structural linguists. On other hand,thoseworking on more socialand lessformal linguisticconcerns particularlyin the west,often have taken the influence in ethnicallycomplexsocieties, of languageideology as given. A Herderian view of language as the expression or definitionof identity has been acknowledged central in coming to terms with ethnic as relations and nationalism(see,e.9.,Fishman 1972). But the concernsof this camp were often rather distantfrom those interestedin linguisticforms. The concept of linguistic prestige(Weinreich I974) and related issuesof attitudes and stigmatization (e.g.,
5 Geertr (1964)has arguedthat it is only right for a socialscientificconceptto be neutral in thissense.
Kathryn Woolard A.
Finegan 1980;Hill and Hill 1980;Mertz 1989;Woolard 1985,1989a)linked formal and socialquestions, but most often languageideologywas treated as relevantto language structure only in the extreme senseof the maintenance loss of distinctivelanguage or varieties. However, just as socialcontextmaintaineda foothold and is clearlyestablished among many researchersas a necessaryaspect of linguistic analysis,so ideology was never abolished and is becoming more central to accountsof languageproduced from various perspectives.6 fact, context and ideology often came in together. As both In Errington (1985) and Irvine (1989) point out, in even the most correlational sort of sociolinguistics, from the early important work of [-abov, the motive force of linguistic These surelyfit under the broad changelay in conceptionsand evaluationsof language. banner of "ideological," used here, although l-abov himself, holding to a view of ideology as overt political discourse,explicitly discountsthe power of ideology to affect speech forms (1979: 329).7 though often primarily The ethnography of speakinghas long given systematic, descriptive, attention to language ideology, usually in the neutral sense of cultural conceptions. Work of this kind appeared, for example, in Bauman and Sherzer's collection (1974). Bauman's (1983) larger study of language and communication in Quaker ideology is an interesting development of the theme, since it addressesnot a and politically strategicform. neutral variety of ideology but a more formal, conscious, Pursuing the social conditioning of ideology,ethnographersof speakingfrequently have related languagebeliefs to other cultural and social forms in a society.For example, Ochs and Schieffelin (1984) and Schieffelin (1990) have cast aspects of language ideology as an explanatory link in investigationsof child language acquisition, and Heath (1983) has further tied ideology and languagesocializationto formal education. Such authoritative social institutions as schooling (e.g., Bourdieu and Passeron 1977;Scollon and Scollon 1981;Collins 1986),law (e.g.,Mertz and Weissbourd1985; Haviland 1989; Conley and O'Barr 1990),and state regulation of capitalist commerce (Parmentier 1986; Silverstein 1990) have provided the terrain for some of the most pointed studies of the dimension of power in languageideology. An emphasis on the ideological aspect has given rise to new analyses of processes of linguistic e.g.,Milroy & Milroy 1985;Joseph 1987;Jaffe 1991).And a number standardization( of recent studies of languagepolitics (Silverstein 1987;Sonntag & Pool 1987;Handler 1988; Urla 1988; Grillo 1989; Woolard 1989b) specifically examine the content and signiffing structure of language ideologies,taking them not just as the background to the investigation of ethnicity and language,but as a central topic. Attention to languageideologyhas also come in efforts to critique - and improve - scholarlyenterprises, (Reddy'smuch-cited1979piece on the includingsocialanalysis Conduit Metaphor), linguistictheory (Rosaldo 1982on Ilongot languageideologyand
6 In the discussion of that follows,examples research givenjust to suggest kindsof work are the that havebeen done.This is by no meansan exhaustive of significantstudiesin the area. list 7 I thank Paul Kroskrity for remindingme of labov's position.
Languageideologt: issues and approaches 241
Searle'sspeech act theory; Verschueren's 1985 effort to use folk language theory to givefirmer grounding to speechact theory) and sociologicaland sociolinguisticmethods (Briggs 1986). These studies cover the range from "unconscious" ideology seen as implicit in speechpractices,through the most conscious explanationsto outsidersof appropriatelanguagebehavior. Recently, there has been a booming reconsideration of specific western ideologiesof language,fueled in large part by Foucaultian and post-Gramscianinterest in discourse in the humanities and social sciences. Historians, literary theorists, sociologists, anthropologistsand educationists among those who have examined the are ideologyof languageassociated with the "will to truth," the rise of scientific discourse, Protestant religious discourse, mass literacy, and universalistic school curricula. Dominant French, English, and Anglo-American ideologies of language have been particularly subject to a wave of rediscovery and revision (see, e.g., Bourdieu 1982; Balibar 1985, 1991; Crowley 1989; Finegan 1980; various contributions to Joseph & Taylor 1990; Milroy and Milroy 1985). Historians such as Smith (1984) and Cmiel (1990)offer a wealth of material from 17th-19thcentury languagedebateswhich would perspective. repay close analysisfrom a more linguistically-centered One other development has drawn a number of professional students of languageto grapple with languageideologynot as a theoretical issue,but out of a sense of personal and professional responsibility. Here I am thinking of the English-only movement in the U.S., and similar policy conflicts in other countries (see, e.g.,Adams and Brink 1990).This pragmatic involvement with a phenomenon still viewed as too peripheral to merit systematicanalysisin the disciplineshas led to some paradoxesfor those involved and, as Silverstein (1987) points out, at times some seemingly naive pronouncements.
5. Some recent proposals and hypotheses Among the most influential formulations of the significanceof linguistic ideology is (1979,1985). While Silverstein's revision of Whorf, and his notion of "metapragmatics" judgments of truth or falsity,Silversteincastsideology not simply as cultural eschewing conceptions,but as distorting rationalizations of an existing practice. Its secondary charactermay be the most important defining feature of ideologyas used by Silverstein; ideologicaltenets are derived from some aspect of experience and then generalized beyond that core and secondarily imposed on a broader category of phenomena. Silverstein's focus is on linguistic structure, his goal to show not only that linguistic structureis subject to rationalization in the senseof noticing and explanation, but that rationalization actually affects this structure, or "rationalizes" it by making it more regular. I.e., in a neat move that perfectly joins the conceptual to the active side of ideology,to "understand"one's own linguistic usage is potentially to change it (1979: 233).As Rumsey(1990: 357) has nicely restatedthis view:
"I-anguage structureand linguisticideologyare not entirelyindependent eachother, nor is of
Kathryn lhoolard A. eitherdetermined entirely the other.Instead structure provides by the formalcategories a of kind that are particularly to mnducive 'misrecognition." partly as a resultof that And misrecognition, not thelinguistic might system gradually change asto approximate for so that whichit wasmisrecognized?"
The examplesfrom western European languages, and especiallyEnglish, that Silverstein and Rumseyconsider(Tff pronoun shift,the feministattack on genericuses of "he," and direct quotation as exactrepresentation), reveal a "drive for reference,"or an ideology that the divisionsand structuresof languageshould - and in the best circumstances - transparentlyfit the divisionsand structuresof the "real world." do Kroch and Small (1978)put forward a similar claim about American English speakers' "grammaticalideology."While Silverstein seemsto suggest that the drive for reference is a widely occurringphenomenon, Rumseyproposes that it is lesspresentin Australian aboriginal "linguaculture"than among English speakers. Also concerned primarily with accountingfor (changesin) linguistic forms, Errington has developedthe notion of pragmaticsalience: "native speakers'awareness of the socialsignificance different leveledlinguisticalternants"(1985:294-95).More of salient classesof morphemes are recognizedby speakersas more crucial linguistic mediators of social relations, and this is reflected in differencesin their rate and manner of structural change. Irvine makesseveralprovocativeobservations about languageideolory that focus on the dialectic between languageideologyand socialstructure as much as linguistic structure. Attending to the semiotics of ideology, she notes in SenegaleseWolof "cultural ideology"an iconic link between"the kind of linguisticdifferentiationand the kind of socialrelationshipit marks"(1989:254).Tracingdifferences Wolof attitudes in she toward the French and Arabic languages, finds that "indexicalcorrelationsbetween realms of linguisticdifferentiation and social differentiationare not wholly arbitrary" (ibid.: 253),althoughshe cautionsagainstseeing linguisticvariationas simply a diagram of some aspect of social differentiation. Irvine notes that in spite of the obvious importanceof evaluativemediationin the modelsof linguisticchangeLabov proposed, correlationalstudiesoften have seemedin effect to suggest such a direct relation. But the correlation is in fact mediated by an ideologicalinterpretation of the rneaningof languageuse. Similar developments have come in the branch of sociolinguisticsthat where the traditional topics of investigates multilingual situationsin westernsocieties, inquiry have been languagechange,maintenance and shift, languageand nationalism, join Irvine in focusing etc. Hill (1985),Mertz (1989)and Gal (1987,1989), example, for our attention on the fact that it is only through the "interpretivefilter" of beliefs about languageand cognition- as well as about socialrelations- that political and economic use eventshave an effect on language (Mertz 1989:109).Nor is there anythingobvious about the mediatinginterpretation.Analyzingideologyin terms of interestsrather than simply ideas, Hill has made an important and provocativesuggestion that minority language"purist ideologies"may function paradoxicallyto enhance the authority of those who are most marginal to minority languagecommunities.
Language ideologt:issues approaches 243 and 6. Agenda There are several things I hope might develop out of this attempt to define a field of inquiry.The first is to enablea more systematic groundedapproachto comparison, and which in turn should allow sounder characterizations languageideology in particular of societies.Comparison can help reveal the ideological (i.e., distorted or partial) dimension of whatever language process we're looking at, and it can also make problematic any too-easy claims about "the languageideology of the x." Verschueren (1985) has noted that English speakers and other Westerners can be seen to hold ideologies rather similar to Rosaldo'sllongots,dependingon the kind of data we look at. In explicitly comparative work, Rumsey (1990) also encountered difficulty in generalizing about English-languageideolory, finding contradictions between highcultural and folk forms. In advancingcharacterizations the languageconceptions or of ideologyof the people we study, we need to addressthe relation of the different kinds of ideologyI reviewed earlier, from the overt, organizedsystem,through the covert, gut level of the habitus,to the "lived" ideologicalimplicationsof linguisticpractice itself. Given the fate of various earlier claimsthat languageis the exemplarysubject or model for social or cultural analysis, will not make that assertion.Nonetheless, I if not the exemplar,languageideologycan certainlybe a very productive empirical area for the renewedpursuit of an adequateunderstanding the relation of ideology and of practicein sociallife. This vexed problem is deservedly subjectof renewedinterest the in a number of fields, particularlysocialand intellectualhistory. It is important to note that an interestin languageideolory in no way entails a surrender macrosocial to interests and an abandonment linguisticstructureas a topic of of inquiry. Silverstein argues that a grasp of language ideology is essential to understanding the evolution of linguistic structure. Participants in the symposium underlinethat proposition,as well as arguingfurther that a graspof languageideology is equally essentialto understandingthe ways in which many social institutions are sustained. What are some of the specific issuesthat need to be explored? Both the linguistically-oriented those whose principal concernslie more with and social practice might pursue the question of the propensity of language for misrecognition. politicizedcontests In over the "true" nationallanguage,standards, etc., which linguisticfeaturesare seizedon, and through what semioticprocesses are they interpretedas representingthe collectivity?Is there a hierarchy of linguisticfeatures open to such ideologization? Are all aspectsof communicativeand linguisticpractice equallyripe for distortion,and why or why not? Are they the same areasfor different languages and societies?Rumsey suggests not, and Errington's idea of pragmatic points one direction in which the analysis salience might proceed. As Rumseyhas asserted, "An adequatediscussion these matters would have of to consider,for each social formation, whose interests are served by the linguistic ideology's taking the form that it does,thus relatingSilverstein's of ideology'to its use
Kathryn Woolard A.
more usual Marxian or Mannheimian senses" (1990:356).8 rather tall order, but it A is the attempt to link these two notions of ideolory, and to tie social and linguistic forms together through ideology, that is both most provocative and most challenging. Beyond these topics of interest are two more practical applications of a focus on languageideology.Irvine, with other observers, has noted that "many writers...in linguistics and the socialsciences...have assumed that referentialcommunicationis the onty function of language" (1989: 250). We can see this view anew in very recent anthropology, such as the review of culture and cognitive science by Maurice Bloch (1991). A fuller and more powerful critique of such perspectives may be a side benefit of the more systematicanalysisof languageideology generally. Finally, in our own societies there is a wealth of public problems that hinge on languageideology.I am thinking here not only of official languagemovements,but also, to cite examplesin the U.S., the questionof free speechand racial harassment (see R. Harris in Joseph& Taylor 1990);the meaningof "multiculturalism" schools in and texts; a recent Supreme Court ruling that allows the exclusionof jurors who might rely on their own native speaker understanding of non-English testimony ; and even the questionof journalists'responsibilities of and the truthful representation direct speech as debatedin the much-discussed JanetMalcolm case. Coming to gripswith suchpublic issuesmeans coming to grips with the nature and working of languageideology.
7. Organization of the issue The articles in this issue,while by no means simply transcriptionsof the meeting proceedings, are not offered as polishedfinal products.Rather, they should be taken as reports from work in progress along a rather new line of inquiry. The appearance of our work here, while possiblyprematurefrom some points of view, respondsto the encouraging demand of a significantpart of the symposiumaudience. The order of the articles follows the subsessions the symposium, although of unfortunatelyit hasnot been possibleto publishall of the original presentations this at time. Discussants' commentaries are includedhere after the group of paperson which they are based.The editors have chosento retain some of the discussants' references to conferencepapers that do not appear here, becausewe believe the points to be cogent, significant,and accessible. Our apologies if this causesdifficulties for any readers. The first group of papers focus primarily on the "scope and force" (Geertz 1968) of languageideologies, which we mean the propensityof particular cultural by models to affect linguistic and social behavior, and the range (scope) of social phenomena over which they exert influence.Ideologiesthat develop out of one kind or domain of speechactivity can become elaboratedas key ideas and hold sway over other domains of activity,shapinga variety of institutionsand formal structures.The
8 But note that Silverstein himselfhasexplored this relationin his work on genderideologl and monoglotstandardideologr.
Language ideologt: issuesand approaches
exportationof such models from one area of human activity and communication to another,as well as from one socialgroup to another, is a topic of concern. The secondset of papers narrows this focus on the force of languagebeliefs, looking more closelyat how languageideology plays out a central role in particular institutionsof power in society.The last group of papers reconsider some of the While in looking that in assumptions may underpin our emphasis the first two sections. at the "scopeand torce" of ideologicaltenetswe tend to focus on dominant ideologies, most of the papers in the final section emphasizemultiplicity, contradiction, and within particular societies. contentionamong ideologies
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