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Review of  Languaging Diversity: Identities, Genres, Discourses


Reviewer: Maria Assunta Ciardullo
Book Title: Languaging Diversity: Identities, Genres, Discourses
Book Author: Giuseppe Balirano Maria Cristina Nisco
Publisher: Cambridge Scholars Publishing
Linguistic Field(s): Discourse Analysis
Sociolinguistics
Issue Number: 27.5048

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Review:
Reviews Editor: Robert A. Cote

“Languaging diversity: identity, genres, discourses” is a volume edited by Giuseppe Balirano and Maria Cristina Nisco and published in 2015. The volume groups twenty essays related to papers presented at the Languaging Diversity International Conference that was held at the University of Naples “L’Orientale” in 2013 whose aim was to examine the linguistic, stylistic, and rhetorical modes through which diversity has been presented and developed in discourse.

The paratextual apparatus of the work is made up of a table of contents, a foreword written by the editors, six scientific sections containing twenty essays altogether, and a final paper composed by the editor Balirano. The foreword, written by Balirano and Nisco, cleverly introduces the structure of each macro section and the related contents to the reader.

All of the essays collected in this volume deal with the wide topic of language diversity, each one developed from a specific linguistic perspective. As the scholar Jocelyne Vincent states in the prologue, the title of the work is prone to acquire many semantic nuances depending on the conceptual focus chosen. The first notion that Vincent investigates is ‘diversity’ and its three related meanings. The first one is tied to the Quality notion and expresses the non-isomorphism of category features; in other words, this semantic acception is used when two or more elements are not identical to each other. The second one deals instead with Quantity notion and the intended plurality is usually expressed with some morphological prefixes such as ‘multi-’, ‘poly-’ and ‘hetero-’. The last meaning is strictly linked to the Quantitative plurality of types and can be expressed through some adjectives such as ‘several’, ‘various’, etc. The second concept that Vincent analyses is ‘languaging’, a term has been abundantly applied in Humanities and clearly refers to the making of social and cultural meanings through the use of language. In the following paragraphs of the prologue, the scholar aims at answering some WH- questions concerning languaging and its powers of representation. In the last subsection of her work (i.e. the fifth paragraph), Vincent writes some brilliant remarks about the sociolinguistic issues of variety, variation, multiplicity, and hybridity and finally highlights their importance in order to understand socio-cultural phenomena constructed and deconstructed through language.

As said, the volume is divided into six sections, and each one of them collects a variable number of essays according to their specific analytic scope even though different methodologies and theoretical frameworks have been used and referred to.

The first section, entitled “In the News”, contains two essays dealing with a sociolinguistic analysis of newspapers: the first one, written by Cesare Zanca, deals with the interpretation of the concepts of “diversity” and “alterity”. He carries out a corpus-assisted discourse study (CADS) investigation of British newspapers collected in different years to analyse both quantitatively and qualitatively the ways in which the press processes linguistic diversity.

The second essay, “Languaging the Riots: a Corpus-based Investigation of the Rioters’ Identity as Reported by the British Press”, was written by Maria Cristina Nisco and Marco Venuti and examines the linguistic representations of the 2011 UK riots and some of the people involved reported in some British newspapers (The Guardian, The Times, The Telegraph, Daily Mail, Daily Mirror and The Sun). Nisco and Venuti conduct a comparison between the 2011 articles and the ones linked to some 1980s and 1990s riots using a CADS analysis (Baker 2006, Baker et al. 2008, Morley and Bailey 2009). The scholars finally show that the way newspapers’ articles convey diversity through language carries also social details about race, class and age.
The second section, “In Politics”, collects three essays altogether. The section is opened by Claudia Ortu’s essay, “At the Intersection of Class and Race: Languaging and Picturing Diversity in Post-Apartheid South Africa”. The geographic focus of the essay is the South African Republic, one of the most socio-ethnically variegate realities of the globe, that was chosen on purpose because of its cultural status. The investigation starts from a political text, “Numsa Explains the National Development Plan” written for the COSATU (Congress of South African Trade Union), in which neoliberal policies (Harvey 2005) were compared in order to defend the interests of the workers, both employed and unemployed, affected by such policies. Ortu’s essay definitely provides an interesting entry point on the issues of race and class diversity in South Africa.

The second essay of this section, “Building Ethnic Inclusiveness in a Plural Society: Kamla Persad-Bissessar’s 2010 Election Campaign in Trinidad and Tobago”, was written by Eleonora Esposito and deals with Trinidad and Tobago, as the title suggests. These islands belong to the Caribbean archipelago, ontologically described as an unicum: “Perhaps nowhere else in the world do so many different people, value systems and logics cohabit in such a limited space” (Henke 1997: 43). Esposito’s experimental corpus is made up of the political speeches given by the Indo-Trinidad leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar that enabled him to go beyond ethnical and social differences inscribed within national borders. The scholar highlighted how the linguistic and rhetorical strategies used by Persad-Bissessar have given significant emphasis on the multi-ethnicity and diversity present in the Caribbean islands of Trinidad and Tobago.
The third essay of this second section deals with the 2008 American presidential elections. In fact, the scholar Paola Attolino focuses on the linguistic and musical strategies used in the US Democratic electoral campaign that lead to the election of Barack Obama as the 44th President – and the 1st African-American one - of the United States. In particular, this essay focuses on a corpus of lyrics produced by the so-called “Obama Rap”, a hip hop subgenre created ad hoc to endorse Obama’s candidacy. Attolino shows the qualitative importance of lexical and pragmatic choices in order to convey a new and upcoming idea of Black American identity.

The third section, “Constructing Identities”, is made up of four essays all dealing with socio-ethnical issues. The first paper was written by Vanda Polese and Germana D’Acquisto, who investigate the linguistic ways through which immigration and integration are expressed within a corpus made up of EU Directives. The methodologies used for this study are both qualitative and quantitative, and the scholars’ purpose is to present the emergence of new concepts related to the semantic field of integration, such as assimilation, inclusion, etc.

Anna Franca Plastina is the author of the second essay, “The Counter-Hegemonic Discourse of Biodiversity: CDA of Vandana Shiva’s Honorary Doctorate Acceptance Speech”. Plastina demonstrates that the term ‘diversity’ comes to represent the locus where biodiversity develops against the hegemonic vision (Chouliaraki & Fairclough 1999: 76) proposed by the dominant capitalistic globalisation.
““How are you feeling?”, “What’s happening?”: Identity Construction via FB Status Messages” was written by Nicola Borrelli and examines the semiotic modes through which Facebook users present themselves in their online profiles: what emerges from the British English-Italian corpus used by the author is that Facebook status updates come to represent a digital extension of users’ real-life discursive practices. Furthermore, Borrelli differentiates the nature of Facebook content updates on the basis of the nationality studied: British users have a more factual and practical approach to Facebook status update messages whereas the typical Italian ‘online persona’ (Rasulo 2008) tend to share thoughts, emotions and anecdotes more frequently.

The last essay of the third section was written by Urszula Zaliwska-Okrutna. “Identity, Discourse and Translation” analyses the Polish translation of J.K. Rowling’s “The casual Vacancy” and the focus of the investigation strictly regards the inter-linguistic representation of the glottic identity of the translator, i.e. the interaction and integration of a number of ‘human abilities and activities’ (Harris 1987) owned by the translator, i.e. linguistic and non-linguistic aspects of his own identity.

The fourth section, “Across Genders and Generations”, is opened by Alison Duguid’s essay, “Old and young: changing evaluations of intergenerational diversity”. She investigates the linguistic strategies used by the press to convey age information: in fact, age comes to represent a social signifier through which individual and collective identities are constructed. Duguid conducts her CADS analysis on a diachronic corpus of broadsheet newspapers (from 1993 to 2010) and demonstrates that language usage does have different ways – depending on extralinguistic (social, political, historical, cultural, etc.) changes - of conveying age diversity.

Age is again a key issue in the second essay, “The Construction of Age Identity in An Online Discourse Community: The Case of Boomer Women Speak”, written by Laura Tommaso. The scholar examines some Boomer Women Speak forum discussions – considering so Boomer Women Speak forum as a discourse community (Swales 1990) - and the ways in which its participants present and negotiate their age identities. She observes that online communities used by elder individuals represent a rich semiotic space in which they can express freely their own identities; furthermore, her study shows that female boomers feel very confident to talk about themselves and their new life phase in this online arena.

“Discursive Shifts and ‘Mis-Premising’ in the Representation of Male Homosexality in AVT”, written by Bronwen Hughes, is the third essay of the fourth section. The author highlights the power that audio-visual translation (Fawcett 2003: 69) has in representing the ‘other’ from a source culture to a target one by focusing on the dubbing of Series 1 and 2 of the English TV fiction “Queer as Folk” into Italian. Hughes aims at finding the most adequate type of translation to convey English socio-cultural values into Italian.

The last essay of this section was written by Francesca Vigo and has the title “And What About Same Sex Marriages? A Corpus-Based Analysis of Lexical Choices and Social Attitudes”. This essay deals with the linguistic representation of same-sex marriage in a diachronic corpus made up of Italian and British newspapers (respectively, La Stampa, Il Corriere della Sera, The Guardian and The Times). The author examines the lexical choices used by Italian and British newspapers when referring to the sociological issue of homosexual marriage over time.

The fifth section is called “Ethnicities” and is composed of three essays. Nailya Bashirova and Marina Solnyshkina are the authors of the first essay of this section, “Representation of Ethnic Identity of Tatars through the Ethnonym “Tatar””. This research presents a discourse and corpus analysis dealing with the linguistic modalities of self-representation of Kazan Tatar young generation in online social communities, i.e. the semantic evolution of the ethnonym “Tatar” in Russian and Tatar languages, which are spoken in the Republic of Tatarstan. The authors conduct two different analyses: the first within the Written Tatar and Russian National Corpus in order to show the fixed meanings of the ethnonym and the second analyses its semantic uses in young Tatar’s Internet social communities. According to Bashirova and Solnyshkina, young Tatars are highly aware of their ethnic identity, and they convey it both in Tatar and Russian where the ethnonym bears positive connotations.

The second study included in the fifth micro-area is “A Course of Life or a Curse for Life? Discussing the Name of An Ethnic Minority in Romania” and was written by Raluca Levonian. It deals again with ethnonyms and analyses the particular case of a campaign held in Romania by a national daily newspaper, Jurnalul Naţional, created ad hoc to replace the term ‘rom/rrom’ (the Romanian noun that describes the Roma minority) with the ethnonym ‘ţigan’, meaning ‘gipsy’. Conducting a Critical Analysis Discourse (CDA) of ten articles, Levonian observes an extreme onomastic polarization between Romanians, considered as the proper national ethnicity, and the Roma group, linguistically depicted as a dangerous minority.

The last essay, “Using Difference As a Weapon: Phenomena of Verbal Impoliteness in Maghrebi Arabic Dialects”, was written by Luca D’Anna and explores how the pragmatic issue of verbal impoliteness has been linguistically tackled within the Arab-Islamic culture and contemporary Arabic dialects. The author focuses on the race-based linguistic strategies used by Arabic speakers who attempt to destroy their interlocutor’s positive face (Masliyah 2001: 282-308). D’Anna clearly states that Arabic verbal impoliteness is conveyed through different strategies that always try to avoid expressions involving ethnic origin or religious affiliation.

The last section’s title is “Popularising ideas” and contains four essays. The first two of them both deal with TED talks, which are talks dealing with Technology, Entertainment and Design subjects (Garber 2012 and Levy 2012). Margaret Rasulo is the author of the first paper, “TED Culture and Ideas Worth Spreading”, and her purpose is to analyse whether TED talks stimulate knowledge sharing among organisations and individuals. Rasulo believes that TED has helped to bring elitarian concepts to a wider audience of non-experts but concludes her research by stating that these ideas need to be tested before convincing people that they might be worth sharing.

The second essay, “Speaker Identity vs. Speaker Diversity: The Case of TED Talks Corpus”, was written by Stefania D’Avanzo and focuses on the rhetorical choices used by experts belonging to eight fixed professional categories to construct their own identity. The scholar then focuses on 1,131 TED talks and discusses some lexical and allocutive choices that differentiate experts and laymen’ language use.

The penultimate essay of the sixth section, whose author is Silvia Masi, is “Metadiscourse Diversification in English and Italian Scientific Magazines”. Her paper presents a comparative study of some meta-discursive resources in a small corpus composed by some English and Italian popular scientific magazines, respectively “Scientific American” and “Le Scienze”. The author’s attention is focused on both interactional and interactive devices of metadiscourse (Calsamiglia 2003; Myers 2003) which strictly concern textual organisation for the readers and their commitment in scientific argumentation.
“Diversifying Language According to the Context: Popularizing Legal Language in TV Series” closes the last section and the entire volume. Its author, Adriano Laudisio, compares two corpora both dealing with legal language but tackled from different perspectives: the first one collects the scripts of all the episodes of the first four series of the American legal drama “The Good Wife” whereas the second corpus is made up of the transcriptions of the Supreme Court (Supreme Court Dialogue Corpus). The genre of legal drama is here analysed both linguistically and cinematographically and the scholar finally presents some contrastive peculiarities between the legal language used in the Court and the one employed by The Good Wife’s actors.

EVALUATION

“Languaging Diversity: Identities, genres and discourses” is a very well-constructed and reasoned collection of essays dealing with the interesting and relatively new topic of languaging diversity, as the title clearly states from the very beginning. Its logical structure orders all the papers and their development in a consequential way so that every macro section tackles the key topic from an univocal point of view.

The initial foreword and the prologue are essential in order to understand the contents and the thematic declinations developed throughout the text. The last essay, “Language, Identity and Diversity”, written by one of the two editors, Giuseppe Balirano, works as a functional conclusion for the twenty essays presented in this volume; after a brief recap of the macro-sections examined, Balirano stresses the goal – evidently achieved – of this book, i.e. challenging the ideas of the present-day underpinnings of diversity studies.

From an analytical point of view, we can observe a quasi-total homogeneity of the methodologies used with an evident CADS (Corpus-Assisted Discourse Study) dominance among all.
One of the most remarkable features of “Languaging Diversity: Identities, genres and discourses” is the interest for both synchronic and diachronic elements: in fact, the sociolinguistic studies collected in this volume present a good amount of diachronic corpora and examine contemporary contents (such as TV series, same-sex marriages, Boomer Women Speak forum discussions, multiethnicity, etc.) as well.

Another valuable point is the multi-linguistic perspective pursued throughout the volume: in fact, even if most of the authors were Italian, they do not propose monolingual researches but do explore items belonging to different linguistic varieties.

Other positive aspects of the volume concern the clear investigative structure of all the essays proposed, the critical discussions of the data collected and the proactive final remarks promoted by the authors.

Even though the reader may find a unique imprecision within the foreword - in fact, Silvia Masi’s essay isn’t the first essay of the fourth section but the third one - many creditable and worthy features render “Languaging Diversity: Identities, genres and discourses” an essential reading for both researchers and students interested in language or languaging diversity.

REFERENCES

Baker, Paul. Using Corpora in Discourse Analysis. London and New York: Continuum, 2006.

Baker, Paul et al. “A Useful Synergy? Combining Critical Discourse Analysis and Corpus Linguistics to Examine Discourses of Refugees and Asylum Seekers in the UK Press.” Discourse and Society 19(3) (2008): 273-306.

Calsamiglia, Helena. “Popularization Discourse.” Discourse Studies 5(2), 2003: 139-146.

Chouliaraki, Lilie and Norman Fairclough. Rethinking Critical Discourse Analysis. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 1999.

Fawcett, Peter. “The Manipulation of Language and Culture in Film Translation.” In Apropos of Ideology: Translation Studies on Ideology – Ideologies in Translation Studies, edited by M. Calzada Pérez, 145-163. Manchester: St. Jerome Publishing, 2003.

Garber, Megan. “How TED Makes Ideas Smaller.” Accessed May 2012 by the author Rasulo http://www.theatlantic.com.

Harris, Roy. “Language as Social Interaction: Integrationalism versus Segregationalism”. Language Sciences, vol. 9(2) (1987): 131-143.

Harvey, David. A Brief History of Neoliberalism. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2005.

Henke, Holger. “Towards an Ontology of Caribbean Existence”. The Caribbean(s) Redefined, Latin American Issues 13 (1997): 37-68.

Levy, Steven. “TED and Meta TED: On-Scene Musing from the Wonderdome.” Accessed May 2012 by the author Rasulo. http://www.wired.com.

Masliyah, Sadok. “Curses and insults in Iraqi Arabic.” Journal of Semitic Studies 46 (2001): 267-308.
Morley, John and Jo Bailey (eds.), Corpus-assisted Discourse Studies on the Iraq Conflict. London: Routledge, 2009.

Myers, Greg. “Discourse studies of scientific popularization: questioning the boundaries.” Discourse Studies 5(2) (2003): 265-279.

Rasulo, Margaret. The Role of Participant Discourse in Online Community Formation. Roma: Aracne, 2008.

Swales John. M. Genre Analysis: English in Academic and Research Settings. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1990.
 
ABOUT THE REVIEWER:
Maria Assunta Ciardullo is a second year PhD student in Forensic Linguistics at the University of Calabria (Italy) and has been a Visiting PhD student at the University of York (UK). She's a member of the University of Calabria Phonetics Laboratory where she pursues her recent research interests: Forensic Linguistics, Sociolinguistics, Endangered Languages and Phonetics.

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