J.L.Lemke On-line Office


UC Berkeley, 17-19 March 2000


Learning Academic Language Identities:
Multiple Timescales in the Social Ecology of Education


Jay L. Lemke
City University of New York

Language is appropriately used in the course of social activities only when it is deployed from some recognizable social stance or identifiable social role. We have not learned to speak academic English or scientific English if we do not know how academics or scientists speak across a range of social situations. To some degree we must be able to play the part and assume the identities, attitudes, values, and dispositions for making appropriate meanings with conventional linguistic forms. Identities can be conceptualized in this context as being constituted by the orientational stances we take, toward others and toward the contents and effects of our own utterances, in enacting roles within specialized subcultures by speaking and writing in the appropriate registers and genres. Language competence in this sense is as much an ensemble of virtual identities as a language itself is an ensemble of its heteroglossic voices (Bakhtin 1935).

 How do we develop appropriate identities for competently using the specialized registers of a language? How do brief encounters in classrooms and laboratories, over time, come to add up to appropriate linguistic participation in a subculture? What are the ways in which individuals in communities integrate activity and meaning-making across timescales from the events of a minute to those of a day, from those of a day to those of a lifetime? What are the corresponding scales of the social ecologies in which such integrations take place, from local conversational settings to global institutions? How does the inevitable embedding of briefer- within longer- timescale ecosocial processes condition and enable the acquisition of language-user identities?

 I would like to try to more carefully define some of these issues and sketch out a theoretical framework within which they can be effectively investigated.


Identities, Trajectories, and Scales

Identity and semiotic practice

Becoming the Village

Language and Identity Development

Heterochrony, Heterogeneity, and Development

Language and Academic Identity