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Title: The linguistic debate in Chile: ideologies and representations of languages and multilingual practices in the national online news
Authors: Sliashynskaya, Hanna
Issue Date: 2019
Publisher: Newcastle University
Abstract: Linguistic ideologies, or beliefs about languages and their use, are key to dynamics and changes in language choice, language minorisation and death. Linguistic ideologies, especially those of monolingualism, have long been part of nation-states’ policies (Shohamy, 2006; Fairclough, 2015) despite the prevalence of multilingualism in social domains (Meyerhoff, 2008). Chile, the context of this research project, is a multilingual country with a surprisingly limited amount of language legislation (Leclerc, 2015) most of which focuses on governmental plans to make Chile bilingual by 2030 (Minsegpres, Mineduc and Minec, 2014) and the foreign language education in schools, namely, the teaching of English, the only foreign language taught in public schools since 2010. At the same time, the use of indigenous languages is not regulated, and Spanish is the de facto official language. In view of such laissez-faire regulations of Chile’s linguistic setting, it is crucial to explore public domains beyond language policy to explain the ongoing minoritisation of indigenous languages and the growth of the dominant languages. Thus, this thesis examines how dominant and minoritised languages are represented in popular national online newspapers. The collected data includes 8877 news articles published in ten most widely-read Chilean online newspapers between 2010 and 2016 and containing references to Chile’s local (Mapudungún, Rapa Nui, Aimara, Quechua, Yámana, Huilliche, Qawasqar, Kunza and Spanish) and foreign languages (English), as well as variously labelled multilingual practices, such as bilingualism and multilingualism. The time period for data collection was established due to the rising importance of language in indigenous issues (Rojas, 2016) and an increase of government’s attention to foreign language education (Minsegpres et al. 2014) in these recent years. A corpus of 3 717 129 words was compiled to reveal how media represent languages and linguistic practices and what discursive strategies are used to conduct the metalinguistic debate. Corpus-linguistic and critical discourse analytical tools were used to analyse the data. Quantitative tools were employed to establish frequencies, the statistical significance of the findings and their salience. Qualitative tools were employed for a close analysis of concordance lines, extracts and full texts. Quantitative steps of analysis were crucial to identifying the ideologies that underlie specific representations of languages and linguistic practices. The findings spread across the communicative value of languages, their roles as group identity markers and market commodities. In terms of the communicative value of language, only English and Spanish were represented as tools of both written and spoken communication in the corpus. However, the communicative value of English is more salient than that of Spanish which indicates that the media are invested in the reproduction of discourses of the importance of communicative competence in English in line with the governmental educational policies. At the same time, indigenous languages of Chile are mainly represented as lacking communicative value as spoken varieties and completely detached from the written tradition. In fact, the only discussion of communication in indigenous languages had to do with discourses of endangerment and loss of speakers. Findings also suggested a pattern in representations of languages as market commodities and identity markers: the more pride value a language has, the less ‘profit’ is attached to it. Indeed, while Mapudungun was represented as tied to a specific territory and group, English had almost no representation of ‘pride’ value whilst its market profitability was often highlighted in the corpus. Consequently, indigenous languages were represented as having no market value. Regarding discourses about linguistic practices, bilingualism dominates the media coverage and is represented positively. Bilingualism is predominantly construed as an individual characteristic, whilst multilingualism is rather represented as a societal phenomenon. Interestingly, neither qualitative nor quantitative tools showed a link between bilingualism and Chile. The representation of linguistic diversity in the corpus was dominated by aspirations for recognition of linguistic and cultural diversity in Chile. In terms of the discursive construction of these representations, the media tend to avoid explicit value judgements about languages and construct meaning in subtle ways through presuppositions which is indicative of their ideological underpinnings. Overall, this thesis highlights the problematic from the linguistics point of view common-sense ideas in how languages are represented in Chilean online news, namely from the nationalist and monolingual ideological stances. To some extent, these media representations serve as a reflection of national language policies, where indigenous languages are made invisible and left to their own devices. On the other hand, English and Spanish are the focus of Chile’s media attention which follows the government’s pursuit of the elite bilingualism dream.
Description: Ph. D. Thesis.
Appears in Collections:School of Education, Communication and Language Sciences

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