Contesting Key Terms and Concepts in the Civil Sphere

A Neo-Gramscian Analysis of Language Awareness

Authored by: Tom Bartlett , Nicolina Montesano Montessori , Harriet Lloyd

The Routledge Handbook of Language Awareness

Print publication date:  October  2017
Online publication date:  November  2017

Print ISBN: 9781138937048
eBook ISBN: 9781315676494
Adobe ISBN:


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The fields of language awareness and language attitudes have been taken up within the political realm under the broad title of Critical Language Awareness, an approach to discourse analysis that focuses on “important social aspects of language, especially aspects of the relationship between language and power which ought to be highlighted in language education” (Fairclough, 1992: 1; see Cots, 2006 for applications in the teaching of English as a Foreign Language). In this chapter, we take up this theme to consider the ways in which language is used to shape public awareness of key social issues such as sustainability and democracy. We demonstrate how the concepts such words represent and the associations between these and other ideas are not given, but are the result of prolonged and occasionally intense processes of negotiation. Such negotiation takes place amongst diverse groups and interests within government and the civic sphere and is played out across various media. While this process is simply the way language and society work together and often takes place through the mundane interactions of everyday life, there are times when the process is thrown into sharp relief as seemingly stable (and even invisible) systems break down and the linguistic and conceptual alignments that served to unify and justify these systems as coherent wholes are opened up for contestation and renegotiation within wider civil society. At such times the struggle over meaning as shared linguistic-conceptual awareness becomes an ideological battle; often, but not always, overtly so.

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