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Language notions in textbooks

Language notions in mother-tongue school textbooks

DAINA URBONAITĖDoctoral student, Department of Sociolinguistics

Education system plays an important role in construing attitudes of a linguistic community towards the language, its value and functions. Namely at school, through the mother-tongue textbooks pupils get instilled language judgement criteria and often also stereotype attitudes (Shohamy 2006: 79–80). The object of this research is language notions and functions that are being presented in the Lithuanian mother-tongue school textbooks. The important question is, how non-standard Lithuanian language varieties and language variation are presented and assessed in the textbooks, how much there is being referred to the newest science knowledge about language.
Various language functions are to be found in linguistic researches: instrumental, communicative, expressive, function of identity etc. One more function of language worth noting is the ethnic function, or the function of national identity (Karaliūnas 2008: 173–182). In this way the language expresses the unifying function of national individuality, and at the same time it allows the possibility of national delimitation from other nations. Therefore, the mother-tongue, the national language becomes the most important part of the national identity for many people.
The aim of the research is to investigate, what notion of the Lithuanian mother-tongue the children are being presented with in school textbooks, i.e. how it is explained in the textbooks, what the language is and what value it has, what functions of language, how and to what extent are being presented. It will be looked at, how the textbooks explain, which functions the language performs in a society, what non-standard varieties it has and how the non-standard varieties and language variation are being introduced to the pupils.
In this respect there are mostly made researches about teachers’ attitudes towards language (Delarue 2013a, Delarue 2013b), classroom discourse (Friedman 2009, Razfar 2005, Leung, Street 2014), also research regarding the relationship between standard language and non-standard varieties in the educational system, at school (Delarue 2015). In Lithuania there are very few researches made regarding language attitudes in the context of educational system, among which there could be mentioned analyses of the Lithuanian language teachers’ and pupils’ attitudes towards language variation (Bertašienė, Kačiuškienė 2009, Ramonienė 2013). School textbooks as such are practically not analyzed either in Lithuania or elsewhere.
The method of this research will be qualitative and quantitative discourse analysis of mother-tongue textbooks. The text about the language itself in the textbooks will be compared to the notions of language value and functionality described in the scientific literature. The basis of the research will consist of the newest Lithuanian language school textbooks that have been published in the last two decades.
Various aspects of the research are planned – first of all, it will be investigated whether age, social maturity of the pupils are taken into consideration when presenting them the notion of the mother-tongue Lithuanian. Another important aspect is to compare the notion of the mother-tongue presented in the Lithuanian textbooks with the notions of and attitudes towards language in textbooks of two neighbouring communities – Scandinavia and Germany. Last but not least it is interesting to compare textbooks of the independent Lithuania since 1990 with the Lithuanian language textbooks from the soviet times and to see, if and how the notion of language has been changing after the radical change of political and cultural circumstances since the soviet times, during the formation of the national school and up to present day. 

Bertašienė, G., Kačiuškienė, G. 2009. Tauragiškių mokytojų požiūris į lietuvių bendrinės kalbos prestižą ir jos vartoseną. Jaunųjų mokslininkų darbai 2 (23): 7–11.

Delarue, S. 2013a. Only Standard Dutch at School? Perceptions of Flemish Teachers.  7th International Conference on Language Variation in Europe, Abstracts, 104–105. Trondheim, Norway.

Delarue, S. 2013b. Teachers’ Dutch in Flanders. Language (De)standardisation in Late Modern Europe: Experimental Studies. T. Kristiansen, S. Grondelaers (eds.). Oslo: Novus. 193–226.

Delarue, S., Caluwe, de J. 2015. Eliminating social inequality by reinforcing standard language ideology? Language policy for Dutch in Flemish schools. Current Issues in Language Planning 16 (1–2): 8–25.

Karaliūnas, S. 2008. Kalbos vartojimas ir socialinis kontekstas. Vilnius: Lietuvių kalbos institutas.

Ramonienė, M. 2013. Tarmės socialinė vertė: Lietuvos miestų jaunimo kalbinės nuostatos. Taikomoji kalbotyra 2.

Shohamy, E. 2006. Language Policy: Hidden Agendas and New Approaches. Oxon: Routledge.
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