Language and Literacy in Social Practice

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Language and Literacy in Social Practice

Language and Literacy in Social Practice is one of a set of four readers which looks at literacy and language practices as they are moulded and shaped by the cultures of the societies they serve. Edited by Janet Maybin, the book is a collection of key articles by seminal writers in the field who investigate the role of language and literacy as part of social practice. Broken down into four sections, the book begins with articles by Malinowski, Dell Hymes, Halliday and Volosinov and sets the scene for an anthropoligical/historical exploration of the sophisticated interaction and interrelationships between language, culture and social structure. Section two then provides ethnographic accounts of recent research by researchers like Taylor and Heath who document detailed evidence of literacy practices in a wide range of situations. They show in effect how literacy practices are very much the product of economic, religious, cultural and political processes and in particular the profound effect of differing socio-cultural expectations on the educational experiences and successes of learners at the macro level of the family and the local community. Section three moves away from a local focus to review literacy practices from a cross-cultural and historical perspective drawing on the writings of Street, Graff and Gee to look at literacy and language not so much as competencies and skills but rather as a product shaped by sociocultural parameters and some socioeconomic 'myths'. The final section draws on the cultural and historical perspectives presented thus far and adds the further specific dimension of the political aspects of language planning and teaching to investigate how literacy and language teaching is very much a product of the rhetoric of governments and a tool to control and disposses minorities and to maintain a status quo that is elitist and exclusivist. What then is the value of Maybin's book? It certainly...
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