Tamás Péter Szabó

Linguistic Diversity in Schoolscapes in Hungary


Friday 8 Novemeber, 13.30-14.00, E0104

The linguistic environment of formal education (ie. Schoolscape) reflects upon the linguistic and cultural diversity of a training institution. Inscriptions and cultural symbols placed on the façade and the walls of the school building are tools for orienting the choice between various cultural and linguistic values and ideologies (cf. Johnson 1980; Dagenais et al. 2009; Brown 2012; Laihonen 2012).  In school buildings, a dynamic and object-mediated negotiation of norms, controled by the communities learning and teaching in the building, is detectable. Objects placed by the directorate of the institution (e. g. the coat of arms and the flag of Hungary, the text of the national anthem, etc.) and other elements such as notice boards and tableaux – bought, or made by teachers or students themselves – exhibit and offer a wide range of cultural and linguistic norms, while transgressive signs as graffities can be interpreted as a manifestation of contestation. Tableaux for pedagogical purposes such as visual summaries of grammar or natural science topics play a central role in the above mentioned norm negotiation, because they can be used for the regulation of classroom discourses, displaying and visualizing the most important scientific, political and religious ideologies disseminated by the given institution. For example, in classrooms, tableaux summarizing spelling rules promote standardist language ideologies. As another example, illustrated and annotated maps displaying the most important scenes of cultivated Hungarian poets like János Arany, Sándor Petőfi or Miklós Radnóti highlight the linguistic norms followed by these eminent language users, whose formal prestige is extremely high in contemporary cultural discourses. Meanwhile, other language users as pop singers or rappers – highly cultivated by the students – do not have such a pubicity on the school walls: their lyrics is written on the wall or on the school bench as a graffiti, and their texts are very rarely analysed or presented during the school lessons. A third interesting manifestation of linguistic diversity is the visibility of languages other than Hungarian: as dominantly monoglot institutions, Hungarian elementary and secondary schools prefer the use of Hungarian, while foreign languages like English, German or French are present only in rooms for foreign language classes. Other policies are extremely rare and can be found mainly in immersion schools.  The present paper demonstrates the first results of my study started in 2013 in schools in Hungary, collecting data with a so-called tourist guide technique. That is, during the photography of signs, I interviewed a teacher guiding me through the building. My teacher guide made explanations on the choice of language, quotes, and other symbols. That is, the fieldworker and the interviewee co-construct ideologies on the environment.  The simultaneous analysis of photos and interview materials can be used for the investigation of the diversity and the interference of local, national and global identites, values, linguistic norms and ideologies of the given institution. The analyis follows the methods and theoretical implications of Discursive Social Psychology, Language Ideology and Conversation Analysis studies. 


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