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“If those in charge of our society - politicians, corporate executives, and owners of press and television - can dominate our ideas, they will be secure.

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Presentation on theme: "“If those in charge of our society - politicians, corporate executives, and owners of press and television - can dominate our ideas, they will be secure."— Presentation transcript:

1 “If those in charge of our society - politicians, corporate executives, and owners of press and television - can dominate our ideas, they will be secure in their power. They will not need soldiers patrolling the streets. We will control ourselves” (Howard Zinn, historian and writer) 1

2 2 The NEOGRAMMARIANS (Karl BRUGMANN, Hermann OSTHOFF, August LESKIEN): an influential school of ‘young grammarians’ teaching at the University of Leipzig in the late nineteenth century Graziadio Isaia ASCOLI (1829-1907): socialist, professor of linguistics (Milano), founder of the substratum theory Matteo BARTOLI (1873-1946): professor of linguistics (Torino), a student of Ascoli, Gramsci’s teacher, founder of Neolinguistics (also called ‘spatial/areal linguistics’) Benedetto CROCE (1866-1952): philosopher and critic, founder of Idealist Linguistics Ferdinand DE SAUSSURE (1857-1913): Swiss linguist, founder of Structural Linguistics.

3  Born: Sardinia (1891)  Died: Rome (1937)  1911-15: Studied linguistics at the university of Torino (with Prof. Matteo Bartoli) 1924-26: represents the Com- munist Party as an MP 1926-36: confinement to prison ( Quaderni del carcere - prison notebooks ) 3

4  The Neogrammarians (inspired by ‘comparative philology’ and the natural sciences):  sound change is regular and exceptionless ( laws of sound change)  language-internal (‘mechanistic’) view  actual speakers cannot resist language change (emphasizes passive role of speakers)  ‘language contact’ disregarded  Language is a-political; language changes are ‘natural’ 4

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6  Standard English (or Standard French, German…) has a ‘natural’ history/evolution that historical linguists can trace/describe.  To be a ‘historical’ linguist means to ignore the historical-political-ideological dimension of languages/varieties and their histories  Alternative histories of English (Watts & Trudgill 2002)  However, if the non-standard varieties of English are treated by the linguist as having ‘natural’ histories as well, this does not help the Marxist cause embraced by Gramsci. 6

7  M. Bartoli’s Neolinguistics (inspired by ‘dialectology’ and the historical sciences)  language-external approach  language conflict as the reason for linguistic change  Speakers as agents : they ‘choose’ a certain pronunciation or a language ( prestige and identity as driving forces)  This is a model of linguistic change that can provide politically relevant explanations, e.g. of how Standard varieties of a language arise and spread/diffuse to other (more remote) areas. 7

8  B. Croce: Idealist linguistics  language only exists as part of individuals’ expressions  language only exists in the here-and-now  F. de Saussure: Structural linguistics  language as a self-contained system ( langue )  the ‘speech community’ as the point of reference  A. Gramsci opposes both Saussure’s and the Neogrammarians’ abstract objectivism as well as Croce’s individualistic subjectivism :  Gramsci’s insistence that social thinkers need to step outside the self-contained abstract language system (Saussure’s synchronic linguistics happens outside of linear time; ahistorical)  Gramsci’s belief in parole as deeply ‘social’ (rather than individual), as opposed to Saussure 8

9  a concept that has been used to describe the existence of dominance of one social group over another, such that the ruling group acquires some degree of consent from the subordinate (‘subaltern’) groups, as opposed to dominance purely by force.  the capacity of dominant classes to persuade subordinate ones to accept, adopt and internalize their values and norms 9

10  The performative (or ‘symbolic’, ‘didactic’) function of language (the view perpetuated by social thinkers)  meaning is produced in language; values are inherent in language  language creates the world  The descriptive (or ‘communicative’) function of language (the view diffused by the governing classes via education, law, Church, etc.)  language and the real world are separable (language describes what is already given )  Language is a means of conveying information 10

11  ‘What is grammar? In all the countries of the world, millions upon millions on textbooks on the subject are devoured by specimens of the human race, without those unfortunates having a precise awareness of the object they’re devouring.’ (Gramsci, 1927) 11

12  the alliance between Northern capitalists and the local elites in the South  the failure on the part of the subaltern groups to unite and develop a ‘consciousness of themselves’ (by setting up their own subaltern normative grammar)  the creation of a Standard Italian language (which was a ‘foreign’ dialect to most Italians) 12

13 the exclusive (rather than unifying) nature of Standard varieties, which possess conscious normative grammars, in which it is costumary for speakers to clarify/question intentions and meanings of what they/others say, and in which one’s grammar and pronunciation are constantly monitored by parents, educators, etc. Non-standard varieties, in turn, have not developed beyond the stage of unconscious immanent (or spontaneous) grammars, which lack the institutionalisation of a linguistic meta-level. Gramsci’s (hegemonic) ideal: A truly ‘democratic’ Standard national language (in which all dialects are represented), reflecting the ‘national-popular collective will’, which is equally foreign/genuine to all its speakers. 13


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