Heteroglossia in English complementary schools

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In this chapter we propose that Bakhtin’s understanding of voicing as heteroglossia offers rich potential in our analysis of contemporary linguistic practice. In and around Mandarin and Cantonese community language classrooms in an English city we show how participants’ voices are infused with the historical flow of social relationships, struggles, and meanings. Adopting a linguistic ethnographic approach we engaged in ethnographically informed observations in classrooms; closer observation and audio-recording of selected students in each school/class; collection and analysis of texts used in the classrooms; interviews with students, teachers, parents, and school administrators. Analysis of interactional data revealed that teachers and students constructed their identities not in terms of apparent or visible categories, but rather as emic positions which were shifting rather than stable, and subject to contingencies of time and space. That is, identities were neither fixed nor unitary, but bound up with overlapping histories, as teachers and students alike negotiated identity positions.


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