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13 - Literacy and literacies

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  22 July 2009

Sandra Lee McKay
Affiliation:
San Francisco State University
Nancy H. Hornberger
Affiliation:
University of Pennsylvania
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Summary

To those who view literacy as an individual skill, it may be surprising to see a chapter on literacy in a sociolinguistics text. Yet, for those who view literacy as a social practice, literacy is an essential component of the study of sociolinguistics. One purpose of this chapter is to illuminate the debate between those who view literacy as an individual skill and those who see it as a social practice and to point out the dangers of ignoring the social aspect of literacy. This chapter supports the notion that literacy is a complex interplay between both individual skills and social knowledge. However, since the focus of this book is on the interaction between language and society, the chapter will emphasize the ways in which literate behavior is dependent on the social context. The chapter will examine four aspects of literacy as it relates to the social context – (1) as a collaborative practice, (2) as a reflection of community values and traditions about how to approach texts, (3) as a reflection of cultural values and traditions about text and topic development, and (4) as a reflection of social relationships as well as a vehicle for changing the status quo. The chapter will conclude with a discussion of the pedagogical implications of viewing literacy as a social practice for language classrooms in Anglophone countries. Throughout the chapter, the term text will be used to refer to any printed material, ranging from signs and forms to extended academic prose.

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Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 1995

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