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Review of  Language Ideologies and the Globalization of 'Standard' Spanish

Reviewer: Lorena Cordova
Book Title: Language Ideologies and the Globalization of 'Standard' Spanish
Book Author: Darren Paffey
Publisher: Bloomsbury Publishing (formerly The Continuum International Publishing Group)
Linguistic Field(s): Discourse Analysis
Subject Language(s): Spanish
Issue Number: 25.958

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Darren Paffey’s “Language Ideologies and the Globalization of ‘Standard’ Spanish” aims to analyze and interpret language ideologies (LI) -- ideological representations about the language -- about standard Spanish as used in two newspapers (“El País” and “ABC”). The author understands Spanish as a sociocultural and political resource by which, in media discourse, ideological debates appear whose origin is framed by the influence of the “Real Academia de la Lengua Española” (RAE). The RAE is a linguistic authority creating views about how Spanish should be used in publications, public speech and “new media”. Paffey also analyzes language in a political context no longer limited to political and national boundaries, due to the development of Spanish standardization processes (so-called pan-Hispanic linguistic norms). Finally, he aims to establish other interpretations of the standardization process in newspapers, i.e., the press as a vehicle for ideological transmission.

Through five chapters, Darren Paffey does not evaluate whether standardization is right or wrong, but analyzes the standardization as an ideology that emerges in an institution promoting the idea of a proper and prestigious standard variety. From this, he seeks to understand “how the discourse of language authorities in the Spanish press is permeated with ideological framings, presuppositions and expressions of the worldview of discourses producers” (p. 4). In this sense, according to Paffey, it is necessary to analyze political and economic ideologies in Spanish language and thus observe the changes and events about standardization discourses.

In chapter one, “Language Ideologies, Critical Discourse Analysis and Media Discourse”, Paffey draws on theoretical and methodological aspects to provide an approach to the concept of ideology “to understand the ideological relationships between purely ‘linguistic’ factors of language debates and the socio-political and historical factors which provide the context for them” (p. 15). This chapter is the book’s core, presenting the critical apparatus with which the author approaches the analysis of LI.

In the first part of this chapter, influenced by the American School of Linguistic Anthropology and following the work of Kathryn Woolard, Paffey emphasizes: “‘ideologies of language are not about language alone’ (Woolard, 1998:3) and so it is important to understand the factors that language ideologies are about” (p. 17). In this sense, there are different types of relations between language ideology and social, political and historical factors. Paffey is also interested in knowing the discursive practices in which ideologies are constructed, reconstructed, reproduced and disseminated. That is, he proposes to study the locus of production of ideology reproduction from three levels: linguistic practices, metalinguistic discourse and implicit metapragmatics.

Subsequently he acknowledges variation and change in modern languages. From this, the agency of speakers works as an agent of change for language and its decisions shape linguistic ideologies. Social actors who manage institutions are ideological and cultural brokers (cf. Bloommaert, 1999) and are “making possible new ways of speaking and understanding” (Nichols, 2009:6). LI are generated/naturalized and begin to form part of the common sense of the public or social group that receives them.

Paffey treats Critical Discourse Analysis (CDA) as well. He sees CDA as a perspective that goes beyond text connotation and denotation and helps to reveal power relations, ideological positions, and additional tools to make critical analyses of texts. CDA makes it possible to identify the conceptions and implications of ideological content that builds a particular representation. “The focus of CDA is to reveal how language use is structured in order to achieve a position of dominance for particular discourses, and subjugation of others. … In response to the social problems and inequalities manifested by -- and in -- both powerful and ‘powerless’ discourse agents in elite and popular texts/discourses, the principled basis of CDA is evidenced in its emancipatory objectives” (p. 23).

Similarly, the author proposes three approaches to the analysis of the corpus: analyzing content (explicit meaning: topics, description, contents), analyzing hidden agendas of the text (implicit meaning, local meaning or argumentation strategies) and “how unwritten presuppositions influence and determine the indexing and construction of ideological power relations as that takes place within individual texts” (p. 30).

Within the theoretical-methodological proposal, the author analyzes intersections between language ideologies and CDA. First, taking into account hidden agendas, the study of language ideologies and CDA decipher the implicit language ideologies in discourses (cf. Wodak, 2001). Second, ideologies are shaped by attitudes that come from the historical role, utility, value and quality of the language. Third, CDA analyzes how language ideologies are naturalized through phrases or terms which are repeated in discourse. Fourth, research in LI and CDA targets sites where the ideological discourse is situated (linguistic practices, the choice of language variety, textual factors, and so on). Finally, CDA and studies of Hegemony aims to understand where the language is being used in the LI.

Paffey refers to two differences between LI and CDA. The first is the role of language in social processes. The CDA picks up the language again as a medium of production/reproduction/contestation of social division or inequalities, while in the LI are interested in language image building processes through identity and aesthetic categorizations, etc. Second, from the role of social theory, the CDA is a key to the emancipatory target of critical work, while LI studies, not only the link with social theory to intervene in the work of narrative dominance is discussed, but it is also questioned.

Both disciplines are complementary despite their differences. However, to the author their divergence is in the epistemological origin of each. The CDA emerges from a modernist or Marxist position “uncovering the truth” (p. 36) and, meanwhile, the LI has a post-structuralist approach “that does not recognize one single truth to be uncovered” (p. 37). According to Paffey, the CDA and the LI are transdisciplinary and in both perspectives the researcher’s ideology frames or determines the analysis or research. “While my own ideologies may not necessarily rise to discursive consciousness, it is important to engage in some self-reflexivity regarding the position from which I write, and the reasons I embarked upon the writing of this book” (p. 37).

In the last part of the chapter, the author refers to media discourse as a position of power. Media are an ideological performative way of transmission in which journalists make decisions that will directly consumed and decoded (cf. Hall, 2001) by readers. In this process it is playing the role of a model reader, so that media discourse is one of the more powerful forms (print or online) for disseminating linguistic and rhetorical strategies.

The second chapter, “Language Authorities and Standardization of Spanish”, aims to analyze the role of an ideological agent who acts as linguistic authority in the process of Standardization of Spanish Language (SSL), the language academy, particularly the RAE. The author gives an approach to the Standard Language Ideology (SLI). This LI promotes the legal and planning of a language. “SLI discursively constructs a belief that there is (and ought to be) a common linguistic ideal to which language users within a determined community (whether local, regional, national or supranational) should aspire” (p. 50). The SLI comes from graphicentrism with a linguistic ideal of universal access to a range that facilitates communication. Also, with this ideal, the goal is to obtain uniformity, authority, and respect to a prestigious language variety. For Paffey, the linguistic authority of a prestigious linguistic norm is institutionalized and disseminated by language academies, normative publications (dictionaries, grammars, orthographies), government, educational institutions, and media (television, film, radio, internet, style guides, popular books, etc.), as well as represented by an elite class. The normalization by authorities targets the written language, and they often consider the spoken language a problem for normalization.

In the third chapter, “Spanish Linguistic Unity and The Global Community of Speakers”, the author critically reviews how linguistic authorities (RAE) define, discuss, and strengthen particular visions of Spanish. The linguistic authority has other agents and allied institutions which, metaphorically, are the guardians of the language. These guardians pursue a unified Spanish and a common variety with which to build “language community” (p.84), whose homogeneity allows the construction of a nationalist discourse where the “Spanish is designated the common heritage (patrimonio común)” (p. 85). From this perspective, the characteristics of the “non-standard Spanish” are represented by the local or regional varieties, the spoken language, and the working class and uneducated people speaking.

In this chapter, Paffey also refers to the ideology around Spanish as a factor of unity. This ideology should be understood from two perspectives, on the one hand the structural unity into the Spanish itself and on the other hand as an identity factor that unifies people through a communication system. “Spanish is designated a language of a friendship, understanding, harmony, concord, sharing and unity; a language which breaks down barriers, draws together common purposes and creates a flow of shared values and aspirations, and which -- due to its democratic credentials -- thereby carriers moral authority” (p. 87).

From there, the author problematizes around the ideal of “Spanish as a Free”, since in the Latin American context “to speak Spanish as, in fact, many were, the Spanish imperial conquests actually wiped out entire populations, cultures and languages” (p.87). The linguistic authorities reformulate colonial arguments, and while recognizing the imperial meaning of language, they also reinterpret these arguments. Authorities “reformulate the grammatical arguments of “Antonio de Nebrija” (1441-1522). Spanish] language was a tool of empire, but directly negate it and draws on topoi or history, religion and bilingualism to present a competing, positive interpretation of Spain’s historical colonial project” (pp. 87-88). In this sense, myths about bilingualism begin to emerge (cf. Aracil, 1986) and the linguistic conflict disappears but social reality does not (cf. Ninyoles, 1995).

Finally, in this chapter, Darren Paffey refers to ideological discourses that emerge from a liberal economy where there are an “inevitable market forces” and “a metaphorical representation as a valuable industry of Spain” (p. 103). The increase in Spanish speakers as well as the neoliberal economic context is enabling greater linguistic exchange. The “discourse about linguistic competence” (cf. Martin-Jones, 2003) turns into a discourse of “the legitimate competence on the legitimate linguistic market” (cf. Bourdieu, 1977:654).

Chapter four, “The Role and Authority of the Real Academia Española and Other Guardians of Spanish”, shows how language guardians (journalists and other commentators) perform activities that are announced and publicized in the press and legitimizing the linguistic authority. The RAE is the “natural guardian of the Spanish language” (p. 116). Similarly, there are other guardians of the language, such as King Juan Carlos I of Borbon, the architect of unity among all speakers of Spanish who has some responsibility of the ideal pan-Hispanic world. Also, the king is the honorary chair of the Instituto Cervantes. This institute promotes “español común, represented by a particular ‘pure’ variety, free from ‘distorting noise’” (p. 127).

In the fifth chapter, “The Spanish Language in the World”, the author refers to the discussions emerged from the expansion of Spanish. Paffey analyzes the economic advantages of speaking Spanish and how the RAE is proposing a new standardization intended to generate a large-scale agenda. The proposal is to build new linguistic authorities, which will be guided by the RAE. The construction of these new hegemonic forms are a response to the tendency of Spanish expansion has to diversify its use, but also a way to start thinking in Spanish as a global language that can be an alternative to global English.

Finally, in the “Conclusions”, the author reaffirms that “standardization of language in many societies has taken as its model the written form of spoken language educated and powerful social elites, and this is the case in both Spain and Latin American Spanish-speaking countries” (p. 173). The ideal, focusing on linguistic authorities in Spain, is to use the unified written Spanish, which ensures continuity and cohesion of the language. Also, there are contradictions in institutional ideologies, “el ‘español común’ has no identifiable national ‘owners’ (only influential professional groups from science, literature and the media)” (p. 176). So when making reference to the LI back to standardization, the author concludes the book by stating that “ideologies of language standardization in the Spanish-speaking world (and beyond) are very clearly embedded in -- and influential upon -- issues of political, social, national economic and other forms of power” (p. 181).

This book makes a valuable contribution to the study of the LI surrounding Spanish. One of the book’s great contributions is to address similarities, differences and complementarities between the CDA and LI. Also, the analysis of the attitudes of the linguistic authorities surrounding social phenomena embedded in the expansion of a language, the blurring of political boundaries of the Nation state, and linguistic requirements of neoliberal global economy is vital. But I would like to point out three aspects that, in my opinion, could enrich the contribution.

In the study of LI, it is important to identify from which perspective certain concepts are being taken because their interpretation depends on this. However, Paffey did not deal with fundamental aspects to the study of the LI. As a matter of fact, one cannot find an epistemological approach to key concepts such as LI or ideology.

First, Paffey takes concepts and proposals from other authors, ascribed to the American School of Linguistic Anthropology, but he does not explain why he draws on this school of thought. For example, he says that he does not want to evaluate ideologies of linguistic standardization as correct or incorrect, so his perspective is far from Marxist ideologies -- which consider ideologies as a false consciousness. However, the author does not explain whether his conception of ‘ideology’ is related to other perspectives or not. For example, whether ‘ideology’ considers all beliefs and knowledge (true or false) as socially conditioned, as stated in the sociology of knowledge (cf. Mannheim, 1936), or as other perspectives in which ‘ideology’ is related to the notion of identity-thinking (cf. Adorno, 2008), or even Lacanian perspectives such as those in which the ideological mystification is analyzed in discourses (cf. Žižek, 2012).

Second, Paffey does not specify whether his approach to LI will be from a perspective concerned with language structure and pragmatic features (cf. Silverstein, 1979, Makihara, 2004, Kroskity, 2010) or he is more interested in LI in a way more concerned with socio-political and identity processes which determine a specific use and, at the same time, this creates specific beliefs systems (cf. Heath, 1980; Irvine, 1989; Irvine and Gal, 2009). Although throughout the book there is a clear trend toward the second perspective, the author is not explicit about choosing this trend. Therefore, when he takes up issues such as LI and its relationship with nationalism, hegemony, power, and so forth, he does it in a superficial or obvious way, and does not generate a fine analysis from the CDA, surrounding what is not said, i.e. the hidden discourse, he does not analyze concealment or tricky characteristics presented in a discourse and ideology itself (cf. Žižek, 2012).

Finally, Paffey recognizes variation as a normal feature of languages. Throughout, he tries to note how linguistic authorities conceive of standard Spanish against non-standard Spanish. However, the author does not compare how the linguistic practices is used in the main newspapers. That is, Paffey focuses on analyzing the discourse of those agents representing to linguistic authorities, but he does not show how this analysis of standard Spanish is used by journalists in newspapers. This would lead the reader to a greater and closer outlook on how the LI of linguistic authorities are being used or not in the everyday writing. Therefore, one could obtain clearer evidence about media as a means of ideological transmission.

Notwithstanding the above, Paffey’s book, invites further research on how belief systems are built around language. It also shows how language can be a tool of political, social and economic power, and, according to different contexts, the advocacy and dissemination of a linguistic variety above all others, is and will be a means of social inclusion and/or exclusion.

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Lorena Cordova is a PhD Student in Anthropology at the Centro de Investigaciones y Estudios Superiores en Antropología Social, Mexico City, and professor at the School of Fine Arts at Universidad Autónoma 'Benito Juárez' of Oaxaca (Oaxaca, Mexico). Her research interests include language ideologies, language endangerment, social semiotics, political ecology, and multilingualism in borderline contexts,etc. Cordova is co-author of Guía de revitalización lingüística: para una gestión formada e informada (Language Revitalization Guide: for a Formed and an Informed Management) (2012). She is currently working on her doctoral thesis on how to create strategies and educational materials from an ecology of language approach in order to promote the Language Revitalization of the Chuj Maya language in Mexico.

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