Word rich or word poor? Deficit discourses, raciolinguistic ideologies and the resurgence of the ‘word gap’ in England’s education policy

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (journal)peer-review

Abstract

Educational linguists across England and the USA have long critiqued deficit-based language ideologies in schools, yet since the early 2010s, these have enjoyed a marked resurgence in England’s education policy in discourses, funding, and pedagogical materials related to the so-called ‘word gap’. This article conceptualises the word gap as a realisation of raciolinguistic ideologies in which the language practices of racialised, low-income and disabled speakers are characterised as deficient, limited, and indeed, full of ‘gaps’ because they fail to meet benchmarks designed by powerful white listeners. With a genealogical approach, I trace how word gap ideologies and interventions are tethered to colonial logics and have (re)intensified in England’s education policy in recent years. I draw on a cluster of data, including education policy documents, Hansard records, political discourse, textbooks for teachers, research reports, media coverage and the work of Ofsted, the schools inspectorate. I discuss the durability of the word gap ideology in England, newly marketed under seemingly benign guises of scientific objectivity, social justice and empowerment – despite decades of criticism exposing how it perpetuates racial and class hierarchies whilst blaming marginalised speakers and their families for their apparent failure to use the right kind of words.
Original languageEnglish
JournalCritical Inquiry in Language Studies
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 22 May 2022

Keywords

  • word gap
  • Raciolinguistics
  • language ideology
  • schools
  • England

Fingerprint

Dive into the research topics of 'Word rich or word poor? Deficit discourses, raciolinguistic ideologies and the resurgence of the ‘word gap’ in England’s education policy'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this