Encyclopedia of language and education

Encyclopedia of language and education. Ed. by Patricia A. Duff and Nancy H. Hornberger. Volume 8: Language socialization. Dordrecht: Springer, 2010. Pp. xxiv, 380. ISBN 9789048194667. $79.95.

Reviewed by Kanavillil Rajagopalan, State University at Campinas

The general introduction, written by one of the editors, Nancy Hornberger, is followed by an introduction to the volume by Patricia Duff. The book consists of twenty-four chapters, presented in five sections: ‘Language socialization: Theoretical and methodological approaches’, ‘Language socialization at home and in the community’, ‘Language socialization and schooling’, ‘Language socialization among adolescents and adults’, and ‘Language socialization in particular communities of practice’.

In Ch. 1,  Elinor Ochs and Bambi Schieffelin recall that socialization research began as part of developmental psycholinguistic research and mostly constituted a response to Noam Chomsky’s over-emphasis on the linguistic competence of the individual speaker, considered in isolation. Its early beginnings related to work done by Dan Slobin and John Gumperz at the University of California, Berkeley, in the late 1960s. By the 1980s, the field had consolidated itself and addressed ‘socialization through language and socialization into language’ (5). The remaining chapters in the first section examine language socialization from different perspectives, such as language ecology, linguistic anthropology of education, systemic functional paradigm, and pragmatics.

As their section headings make clear, the eighteen remaining chapters are all concerned with language socialization at work in the different settings in which the child finds itself at different stages in its development from toddler to adult. As Shoshana Blum-Kulka makes clear at the outset of her chapter, ‘[t]he basic tenet of language socialization theory is that children learn language and culture through active engagement in meaningful social interactions with adults and peers’ ( 87). Language learning and enculturation are not separate processes; they are in fact one and the same.

One important setting where socialization takes place early on in the life of a child, especially in Western societies, is the school. As Patricia Baquedano-López and Shlomy Kattan observe, schooling and institutionalized education are seen as ‘the normative activity through which knowledge and mores are passed down to the younger generation’ (161).

No less important in the socialization of a child is the role of ‘learning communities’, which are especially formative for adolescents. In her contribution, Shirley Brice Heath traces the history of learning communities to as far back as the Crusades and argues that children are tutored in important aspects of age-grading and gender differences.

Socialization practices are equally at work in non-Western communities. In their contribution, Diane Pesco and Martha Crago take an in-depth look at how children are socialized in Canadian aboriginal communities, particularly in Inuit families. Haruko Minegishi Cook shows how ‘[s]ocialization starts long before children produce their first word’ (314) and that Japanese mothers talk to their infants significantly less often than their North American counterparts She emphasizes such socially important practices as issuing indirect commands and obeying intricate rules for manifesting empathy and conformity.

Overall, this volume makes an invaluable contribution to the field.