This edited collection, entitled Ideologies, Linguistic Communication and Education, is a collaborative project with my colleagues at the University of Thessaly, Eleni Motsiou, Evgenia Vassilaki and Eleni Gkana. The project traces its origins in a conference with the same name that took place in Volos on 6th November 2019, and aimed to examine the interfaces between language, education and ideology.
The volume, and the conference that preceded it, was prompted by our collective belief that language is more than an abstract collection of words and grammatical patterns.
It is, among other things, a reflection of our ideological beliefs about the way the social world is organised; it is also a way of defining our ethnic, social and political identities; and, lastly, in education it is a vehicle for the covert transmission of ideological content.
What we, and the authors who contributed chapters to the collection, aimed to do was to highlight some of these interconnections and show the ways in which they relate to social structures; bring them together in a dedicated volume that describes and challenges them, both theoretically and empirically; and – hopefully- inspire readers to rethink their ideological beliefs, linguistic behaviour and pedagogical practices.
In addition to the introduction, the volume consists of eight substantive chapters. These chapters can be grouped in four broad thematic areas, as follows:
- Reflections of Ideology in Language;
- Language Ideology in Public Discourse;
- Challenging the Standard Language Ideology;
- Linguistic Ideology in Education.
Reflections of Ideology in Language
The two chapters in this thematic strand showcase how ideological propositions about gender and nationhood are transmitted through language.
Eleni Motsiou (University of Volos) and Chryssoula-Xeni Dai (University of Macedonia) begin this discussion by showing how gendered stereotypes are represented in the language used in Disney ‘Princess’ movies. They note that there are three broadly-defined phases in the filmography, which appear to index a progression towards more subtle and complex gender representations, but their analysis suggests that these are not necessarily less stereotypical ones. They propose a typology of representational models, which can be used to describe such stereotypes.
The next chapter, by Argyris Archakis (University of Patras), argues for a shift away from the dominant national homogenization discourse, which he describes as a naturalised domination that produces inequalities. He suggests that this hegemonic ‘national’ discourse can be challenged through activities promoting reflection and empathy, which might pave the way towards an alternative, ‘post-national’ discourse that “will not preclude potential, yet unpredictable meetings and mixings of languages and cultures”.
Language Ideology in Public Discourse
The two chapters that make up this thematic strand examine linguistic ideology, i.e. deeply rooted beliefs about language, as these are reflected in public discourse.
In their chapter, Katerina Panagiotou (Hellenic Open University) and Asimakis Fliatouras (Democritus University of Thrace) look at the formal or high register of Modern Greek (λόγιο), and critically examine how it is represented in online public discourse. They identify five ‘language myths’ associated with this register, all of which appear to connect to widespread and deeply entrenched beliefs about Ancient Greek and its perceived influence on Modern Greek. They also point out that online discourses are often unhelpfully intense and possibly polemical, and argue for communicating with the public through linguistically-informed discourse.
Dimitris Michelioudakis (Aristotle University of Thessaloniki) picks up on the theme of online discourses in the next chapter. In his contribution to the volume, he examines how public discourses about language, which are often oriented towards stigmatising variation and resisting change, can shed light on the interface between linguistic ideology and linguistic variation. He goes on to argue for a linguistically-informed activism, which can provide direction to processes of linguistic and attitudinal change, and outlines the axes of such an activistic agenda.
Problematising the Standard Language Ideology
The following two chapters take a more focused look on ideological beliefs about the Standard Language, and the way in which these are encoded in language learning textbooks and reference works.
In my own contribution to the volume, I look into the role of the standard language ideology in language education. In the chapter, I re-imagine Kachru’s Three-Circle Model (1985), using the Standard Language as the ‘norm-providing’ variety, and tracing what I call ‘ideological standardisation mechanisms’ as the vehicles through which the standard displaces local varieties. I then use data from ELT textbooks to empirically ground the model, and go on to suggest more equitable pedagogical alternatives.
Similarly, Thanasis Michalis (University of Athens) discusses the role of language usage guides in perpetuating the standard language ideology. Michalis critically examines the prefaces of thirteen language usage guides, which he notes to be prescriptive rather than descriptive. Using Critical Discourse Analysis to analyse the texts, he also identifies the ideological underpinnings of these books, namely the promotion of a standard that is derived from the classical form of Greek, and an ideology of vigorous ‘language-defense’.
Linguistic Ideologies in Education
Finally, the two chapters that make up this thematic strand look into the interconnections between language ideology and education.
In their chapter, Evgenia Vassilaki (University of Thessaly), Eleni Gana (University of Thessaly) and Stathis Selimis (University of the Peloponnese) look into reflective texts produced by pre-service teachers, which reflect their views on language and language education. They note that the discourses are often contradictory, as they appear to be grounded on traditional views on language education which are often mixed with communicative and learner-centred views. Based on this observation, they suggest that the challenges the pre-service teachers face in conceptualising language education can be used as prompts for reflective engagement with the content of their teacher education courses.
The final chapter of the collection, by Stavroula Tsiplakou (Open University of Cyprus) and Dina Tsagari (Oslo Metropolitan University) look into the ideological grounding of the Panhellenic (school-leaving) examinations and the ways in which this ideological content is sustained through the washback effect of the examinations. They approach this task through a sample document analysis of national curricula and examination papers from 2000 to date and an analysis of 161 practice test papers. On the basis of this evidence, they conclude that the minimal progress that learners appear to have made must be attributed to the covert washback effect of the examinations, which fosters a narrow range of traditionally defined linguistic skills.
The edited volume is available in bookstores in Greece and through the publisher’s website.
Μότσιου, Ε., Βασιλάκη, Ε., Γκανά, Ε. και Κωστούλας, Α. (επιμ.) (2021). Ιδεολογίες, γλωσσική επικοινωνία και εκπαίδευση. Αθήνα: Gutenberg.
Motsiou, E., Vassilaki, E., Gana, E. & Kostoulas, A. (eds) (2021). Ιδεολογίες, γλωσσική επικοινωνία και εκπαίδευση [Ideologies, linguistic communication, and education]. Athens: Gutenberg.