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Book: Language, Society and Consciousness

Chapter: 11 The Disempowerment Game: Bourdieu on language

DOI: 10.1558/equinox.25635


The four issues to be discussed in this chapter are as follows:

(i) that Bourdieu’s view of linguistics and his reading of Saussure’s text are, both, ‘monocular’. To the extent that these limited readings are presented as definitive, they are misleading;

(ii) that Bourdieu’s view of language as a semiotic is akin to that of a formal linguist’s, such as, say, Chomsky; it fails to appreciate crucial features of language as a semiotic system;

(iii) that his ‘spontaneous socio/linguistics’ is largely equal to what Saussure called ‘external linguistics’; since external linguistics, like internal linguistics, is only half the story, it fails to present a convincing model of the relations of language and society;

(iv) that if Bourdieu’s view of language is accepted as the point of departure for pedagogic action, its deficiencies will inevitably result in a less than satisfactory programme for literacy education, denying pedagogic action any role as a liberating force.

Chapter Contributors

  • Ruqaiya Hasan ( - book-auth-41) 'Macquarie University (Emeritus)'