Bernstein and Poetics Revisited by Jan Bloomaert

By Jan Bloomaert

Within the box of language experiences, a frequently disregarded zone is that of people’s perceptions of language: what counts as language for audio system, and what doesn’t. This lecture engages in a couple of reflections on how awareness to that box of perceptions adjustments our view of language studying and language features.

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More specifically, what is not carried over is the truly empowering potential of these resources, the way in which they should help people to make sense and be heard by means of them. It is this potential – lacking, unfortunately, for many in the periphery – that truly ‘mainstreams’ pupils. Mainstreaming the immigrant Let us now turn to the opposite direction, from the periphery to the centre. People with the kinds of ‘placed’ resources such as the ones discussed above travel, and like the Congolese woman whose text we examined earlier, find themselves in the large urban and literacy-saturated environments of the West.

Consequently, tremendous efforts are spent in acquiring highly specific formal writing skills such as 29 bernstein-01-c 18/10/07 16:39 Page 30 Jan Blommaert the graphic shape of the ‘s’ symbol below (the underlined form is the teacher’s instruction): I want to focus on one particular piece of writing, produced by a 12-year-old boy from Bulgaria whom we shall call Sali (a pseudonym). The example below is a page from his copybook, in which he exercised his writing of dictated words. 30 bernstein-01-c 18/10/07 16:39 Page 31 Bernstein and poetics revisited Sali’s writing shows signs of unfamiliarity with the writing conventions of Dutch.

Bernstein-01-c 18/10/07 16:39 Page 25 Bernstein and poetics revisited Example 4 Let us now look at the functions we can see in these four pieces of writing, and then attempt an interpretation of the way in which particular resources such as English and literacy enable voice for this pupils. What is it that we hear in these texts? In order to establish that, we again need to examine the details of these texts, starting with a transcript that brings out some of their formal features. 1. I want to be a teacher I want to hit the children who are rude in my class I will never be a bad teacher to the children in my class.

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