Pretextuality and pretextual gaps: On de/refining linguistic inequality

Katrijn Maryns and Jan Blommaert

Abstract

Drawing on the rich tradition of investigations into linguistic inequality, this paper seeks to define the phenomenon of pretextual gaps, i.e. socially anchored and often invisible differences between what is expected in communication and what people can bring and deploy in communication. Pretextual gaps refer to conditions on sayability, differential distribution of access to these conditions, and social evaluations attached to such differences. We shall investigate pretextual gaps in three sets of data, all of them instances of experiential narration: Asylum seekers’ narratives, hand-written life histories from Shaba, Congo, and narratives of suffering produced during the hearings of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission in South Africa. We will attempt to demonstrate how a fine-grained discourse analysis focused on linguistic resources and models of deployment can refine existing views on linguistic inequality.

Keywords:
Quick links
A browser-friendly version of this article is not yet available. View PDF
Blommaert, Jan
(1996) A Shaba Swahili life history: Text and translation. Afrikanistische Arbeitspapiere (AAP) 47 (= Swahili Forum 3): 31-62.Google Scholar
(1998) English in a popular Swahili novel. In Johan Van der Auwera, Frank Durieux and Ludo Lejeune (eds.), English as a human language. To honour Louis Goossens. Munich: LINCOM Europa, pp. 22-31.Google Scholar
(1999a) Investigating narrative inequality: Home narratives from African asylum seekers in Belgium. Language, Power and Identity Working Paper nr. 1.Google Scholar
(1999b) Reconstructing the sociolinguistic image of Africa: Grassroots writing in Shaba (Congo). Text9/2: 175-200.  BoPGoogle Scholar
(2001) The other side of history: Grassroots literacy and autobiography in Shaba, CongoGeneral Linguistics (in press).Google Scholar
Blommaert, Jan & Chris Bulcaen
(2000) Critical discourse analysis. Annual review of Anthropology 29: 447-466. CrossrefGoogle Scholar
Bourdieu, Pierre
(1991) Language and symbolic power. Cambridge: Polity Press.  BoPGoogle Scholar
de Rooij, Vincent
(1996) Cohesion through contrast: Discourse structure in Shaba Swahili/French conversations. Amsterdam: IFOTT.Google Scholar
Fabian, Johannes
(1974) Genres in an emerging tradition: An anthropological approach to religious communication. In Allan W. Eister (ed.), Changing perspectives in the scientific study of religion. New York: Wiley, pp. 249-272. (reprinted in Johannes Fabian (1991) Time and the work of anthropology: Critical essays 1971-1991. Chur: Harwood).Google Scholar
Fairclough, Norman
(1992) Discourse and social change. Cambridge: Polity Press.  BoPGoogle Scholar
Fishman, Joshua
(1968) Language problems and types of political and sociocultural integration: A conceptual postscript. In J.A. Fishman, C. ferguson & J. Das Gupta (eds.), Language Problems of Developing Nations. New York: Wiley, pp. 491-498.  BoPGoogle Scholar
Gal, Susan
(1989) Language and political economy. Annual review of Anthropology 18: 345-367. CrossrefGoogle Scholar
Gumperz, John
(1982) Discourse strategies. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.  BoP CrossrefGoogle Scholar
Heller, Monica
(1999) Linguistic minorities in late modernity. London: Longman.Google Scholar
Hymes, Dell
(1980) Language in education: Ethnolinguistic essays. Washington DC: Center for Applied Linguistics.Google Scholar
(1996) Ethnography, linguistics, narrative inequality: Toward an understanding of voice. London: Taylor & Francis.  BoPGoogle Scholar
Labov, William
(1972) Language in the Inner-City. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press.Google Scholar
Rampton, Ben
(1995) Crossing: Language and ethnicity among adolescents. London: Longman.  BoPGoogle Scholar
Silverstein, Michael
(1996) Monoglot ‘standard’ in America: Standardisation and metaphors of linguistic hegemony. In Donald Brenneis & Ronald Macaulay (eds.), The matrix of language: Contemporary linguistic anthropology. Boulder: Westview, pp. 284-306.Google Scholar
(1998) Contemporary transformations of local linguistic communities. Annual review of Anthropology 27: 401-426. CrossrefGoogle Scholar
Silverstein, Michael & Greg Urban
(1996) The natural history of discourse. In Michael Silverstein & Greg Urban (eds.), Natural histories of discourse. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, pp. 1-17.  BoPGoogle Scholar
Slembrouck, Stef
(1995) Channel. In Jef Verschueren, Jan-Ola Östman & Jan Blommaert (eds.), Handbook of Pragmatics 1995. Amsterdam: John Benjamins, pp. 1-22. CrossrefGoogle Scholar
Williams, Glyn
(1992) Sociolinguistics: A sociological critique. London: Routledge.  BoPGoogle Scholar
Wodak, Ruth
(1995) Critical linguistics and critical discourse analysis. In Jef Verschueren, Jan-Ola Östman & Jan Blommaert (eds.), Handbook of Pragmatics. Amsterdam: John Benjamins, pp. 204-210. CrossrefGoogle Scholar
Woolard, Kathryn
(1989) Double talk: Bilingualism and the politics of ethnicity in Catalonia. Stanford: Stanford University Press.  BoPGoogle Scholar