The underlying theory
The construct of elaborated and restricted language codes was introduced by Basil Bernstein in 1971, as a way of accounting for the relatively poor performance of working-class pupils on language-based subjects, when they were achieving as well as their middle-class counterparts on mathematical topics. Interestingly, it was stimulated directly by his experience of teaching in further education. It is frequently misunderstood, largely because of Bernstein's unfortunate choice of labels. The "restricted" code does not refer to restricted vocabulary, and the "elaborated" code does not entail flowery use of language. There is an issue of "linguistic impoverishment" in the educational problems of some pupils, but Bernstein is not on the whole concerned with such extreme cases. One of Bernstein's research studies involved showing a group of children a strip cartoon and recording their account of what it depicted. Some said things like: -------------------------------------------------
"They're playing football
and he kicks it and it goes through there
it breaks the window and they're looking at it
and he comes out
and shouts at them
because they've broken it
so they run away
and then she looks out
and she tells them off"
while others said:
"Three boys are playing football and one boy kicks the ball
and it goes through the window
the ball breaks the window
and the boys are looking at it
and a man comes out and shouts at them
because they've broken the window
so they run away
and then that lady looks out of her window
and she tells the boys off."
(from Bernstein, 1971 p 203 [re-arranged])
As Bernstein points out, the first account makes good sense if you have the strip cartoon in front of you, but means much less without it. This is an example of restricted code. The second can "stand on its own", and is an example of elaborated code. See Bernstein's own work for detailed accounts of the research behind the...