Language, Education and Discourse

Editor(s) Joseph A. Foley
Publisher Continuum
Published 2004
Price 75
ISBN 0826461875
Reviewed by Suzanne Burley
London Metropolitan University
Review published 10 March 2005

The book is divided into two parts: part 1 focussing on discourse during the early stages of language development and part 2 examining discourse during the secondary phase of education. The choice of Halliday to author the opening chapter sets both an appropriate intellectual content and tone to the book as many of the contributing authors refer to Halliday`s body of work. In this opening chapter Halliday calls for further investigation into his work on protolanguage arguing that it will be through research which links the biological, physical and social sciences in the study of the brain that new contributions to the development of linguistic theory will be made.

Hasan`s contribution also calls for radical developments. Through her work, which draws on the theories of Bernstein in the study of teacher led discourse in the classroom, she argues that changes in the current education system must take into account the dominant discourse in the classroom. A dialogue between the different classroom discourses needs to be encouraged in order to highlight the impact of each discourse on pupils.

The remaining three contributors in this first part explore specific experiences of language work in the classroom context: the transmission of culture through nursery rhymes, the development of children’s writing and the linguistic demands of history texts. Goom`s conclusion that teachers need to adopt a pedagogical approach which challenges the culturally led assumptions could be applied in different ways to the work of these three contributors.

Part 2 opens with an interesting chapter outlining a history of language education and recommending explicit teaching about language to pupils. Christie argues that this will be achieved most effectively through teaching the teachers about language and this proposition links with the work of Burley and Pomphrey (2004) It is this teaching the teachers which underpins many of the contributions in this section. The contributors who for example examine discourses in mathematics classrooms, the ideological dimensions of literacy of critical writing and discourses in relation to second language learning, are arguing for greater teacher awareness and understanding of the ideological nature of language based discourse in education. The final chapter in the book examines the use of corpus data in a study which describes the co-occurrence between processes and their circumstances. It states how this might prove to be an invaluable resource for language teaching,

Overall this book is a thought provoking collection which will appeal to a range of audiences interested in language, linguistics, discourse theory and education, including teacher education.