Introduction: Heteroglossia and language ideologies in children’s peer play interactions

Amy Kyratzis, Jennifer F. Reynolds and Ann-Carita Evaldsson


The five articles in this issue examine how children, in naturally occurring school and neighborhood peer and sibling-kin groups across a variety of cultures and societies, socialize one another to do heteroglossia, drawing upon a diverse repertoire of linguistic and discursive forms in their everyday cultural practices. Through the use of ethnographic techniques for recording natural conversations, they demonstrate how children, in their peer play interactions, make use of and juxtapose multiple linguistic and cultural resources at their disposal in linguistically diverse and stratified settings. The analyses provide detailed insights into children’s heteroglossic verbal practices (Bakhtin 1981, 1986), that is, their use and differentiation of multiple codes and registers in the creation and negotiation of social distinctions. Bakhtin’s concept of heteroglossia addresses the dialogic relationship between multiple and sometimes conflicting codes or registers and the larger socio-political and socio-historical meanings that are negotiated through those linguistic forms. In particular, the concept refers to tensions between the multiplicities of language varieties within a national language, which are drawing it towards a standard central version, and those that are moving away from national standards through hybrid linguistic forms of official and unofficial languages. Research on heteroglossia entails an examination of how speakers indexically hail socio-historical tensions and contradictions in situated instances of language use that result in the regimentation of codes and associated notions of collective membership and personhood (Blommaert & Verschueren 1998; Hill & Hill 1986; Kroskrity 2000; Pujolar 2001; Schieffelin 1994; Silverstein 2003; Woolard 1998, 1999). Bailey (2007) recently remarked that much of the sociolinguistic and discourse analytic work on code-switching and other so-called syncretistic discourse practices are productively reinterpreted through the prism of heteroglossia, which attends equally to monolingual and multilingual forms. The perspective of heteroglossia allows the analyst to focus on alternations of officially authorized codes and languages, without neglecting “the diversity of socially indexical linguistic features within codes” (Bailey 2007: 268). As will be demonstrated in the articles, the concept of heteroglossia provides a conceptual framework that draws from diverse traditions that address different social and temporal scales while simultaneously attending to the indexical and meta-pragmatic properties of language.

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