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Contradictions of standard language in Europe: Implications for the study of practices and publics

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  10 July 2006

SUSAN GAL
Affiliation:
Department of Anthropology, University of Chicago, 1126 East 59th Street, Chicago 60637, USAs-gal@uchicago.edu
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Abstract

The dominant language ideology of contemporary Europe assumes standardized languages. In the political economic context of accelerated global migration and increased European unity, this ideology creates contradictions for speakers. The paper describes six types of contradiction that arise for non-elite speakers whose practices diverge from the ideals of standardization but who nevertheless find themselves judged by those ideals. Other contradictions arise for political elites. They come t believe that differences of standard language preclude a unified European public sphere, and fail to notice the intertextual processes and media circulations across standard languages that create politically significant publics.

L'idéologie langagière dominante en Europe contemporaine présuppose un usage des langues standardisé. Dans le contexte politico-économique de migrations globales accélérées et d'une unité européenne plus forte, cette idéologie crée des contradictions pour les orateurs. Cet article décrit six types de contradiction que rencontrent les orateurs qui ne font pas partie de l'élite et dont les pratiques ne correspondent pas à l'idéal de standardisation, mais qui sont cependant jugés selon ces critères. Les élites politiques sont confrontées à d'autres contradictions. Elles en viennent à croire que les différences de standardisation gênent la constitution d'une sphère publique Européenne, et elles négligent les processus intertextuels et la circulation des médias entre plusieurs langues standardisées qui tendent à créer des publiques politiquement significatifs.

Die vorherrschende Sprachideologie im heutigen Europa geht von standardisierten Sprachen aus. Im politisch ökonomischen Kontext von beschleunigter, globaler Migration und der voranschreitenden Vereinheitlichung Europas schafft diese Ideologie Widersprüche für Sprecher. Dieses Papier beschreibt sechs Typen von Widersprüchen, die sich für nicht zur Elite gehörende Sprecher hervortun. Obwohl ihre Praktiken von den Idealen der Standardisierung abweichen, befinden sich diese Sprecher dennoch in der Situation, nach diesen Idealen beurteilt zu werden. Mit anderen Widersprüchen haben politische Eliten zu kämpfen. Sie sind der Überzeugung, dass Unterschiede der Standardsprache einer vereinheitlichten öffentlichen Sphäre Europas im Wege stehen, und sie übersehen die intertextuellen Prozesse und Medienverbreitungen quer durch Standardsprachen, die politisch signifikante Öffentlichkeiten schaffen.

La ideología para una lengua dominante en la Europa contemporánea presupone lenguajes estandarizados. En el contexto político y económico de la migración global acelerada y la unidad europea incrementada, esta ideología crea contradicciones para los representates. En este documento se describen seis tipos de contradicciones que surgen para representantes que no pertenecen a la élite, quienes se encuentran juzgados por estas ideas de estandarización pero cuyas prácticas divergen de los últimos. Otro tipo de contradicciones surgen para las élites políticas. Éstas creen que las diferencias entre las lenguas estándares imposibilitan una esfera pública europea unificada, y fracasan al identificar los procesos intertextuales y circulaciones en los medios masivos a través de lenguajes estándar que crean públicos políticamente fuertes.

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© Cambridge University Press 2006

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Footnotes

My thanks to Andre Gingrich for inviting me to participate in the plenary session on ‘Re-defining Europe’ of the EASA at which an earlier version of this paper was delivered. I also thank the John Simon Guggenheim Foundation for their fellowship support, and two anonymous reviewers for their helpful suggestions. Parts of section three will appear in somewhat different form in C. Mar-Molinero and P. Stevenson (eds.), Languages ideologies, practices and policies (London: Palgrave).

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