Barriers' Special Guest Speaker: Claire Kramsch

Full text of Special Guest Speaker Claire Kramsch's lecture at the UC Berkeley 2015 German Studies Conference Barriers. A PDF download is available here.

Professor Claire Kramsch at 2015 Barriers conference. Photo by Stephanie Peltner.
Professor Claire Kramsch at 2015 Barriers conference. Photo by Stephanie Peltner.


In Discipline & Punish, Foucault compares the modes of punishment in pre-modern and modern times for the transgression of political/religious rule in the 16th century, the infringement of juridical laws in the 17th and the violation of societal norms in the 18th. Rule, law and norm were so many barriers that both facilitated and impeded the proper functioning of society and the construction of the good citizen. While the punishment in the 16th century was meant to undo the crime and restore the monarchical Law, in the 17th it was meant to punish the offenders for what they had done by recoding the crime and reeducating the person, and from the 18th century on it was meant to punish the delinquents by monitoring their every move and restraining and retraining their bodies. The three forms of punishment, he says, are still with us today but they have given way to a disciplining society that manifests itself in particular through academic practices such as tests and exams, classification and hierarchizing of students, and in general through a homogenization of behaviors, goals and values.

I would like to explore to what extent a Foucauldian analysis can illuminate the practice of learning and teaching foreign languages. Our language classrooms are far from being homogenous, of course. But they do have the mission to make the students speak the linguistically correct and socially appropriate standard language, and for that they do have to measure, correct, test, evaluate, rank and grade students’ performance. If we look at various periods in the teaching and learning of foreign languages, we could ask how norms and their transgressions have been defined and dealt with over the last 70 years. In particular, what would Foucault say about foreign language methodology in the three major periods that are generally used to characterize the developments in the field: From 1945 to 1980 The Age of Grammar; from 1980-1997 The Age of Communication; from 1997-2007 The Age of the Intercultural? And does his analysis still hold for foreign language teaching in our present Digital Age?


1945-1980 Foreign Language Learning in the Age of Grammar.

Up to the eighties, when communicative language teaching made its appearance, foreign language learning was about learning grammar. Grammatical competence was not only the ability to produce sentences which abide by the rules of standard grammar, standard vocabulary and spelling, and standard pronunciation, but the ability to enunciate these rules and explain their combinations. Every morning, one of my more creative teachers would take attendance by calling out our names and we would each have to stand up and respond not “Present” but state a grammar rule. At the end of the school year, we certainly knew “our grammar”. Under the grammar/translation method, grammaticality was an emblem of distinction, a guarantee of social acceptability, a badge of intelligence and intellectual potential. The social capital and symbolic power attained by being able to explain the rules of grammar and construct grammatically correct sentences was unsurpassed. It showed a linguistic awareness that children from working class backgrounds did not have. Having a good grade for grammatical competence showed respect for the linguistic system as a cultural icon, it showed membership in the well-educated middle class.

That well-educated middle class was, of course, a literate middle class. Grammar rules, enshrined in grammars and dictionaries, were a guarantee of literacy, and the emphasis was on the written word. Writing, not speaking, focused on building the intellect, the mind. Transgressions of grammatical rules were called “mistakes” that were punished through a reinstatement of grammaticality.

In Latin: Culpa: (law) negligence or fault, as distinguishable from dolus (deceit, fraud), which implies intent, culpa being imputable to defect of intellect, dolus to defect of heart . mea culpa (as in culpability, guilt, culprit etc. religious/moral overtones).

In French these are “fautes” as in “c’est ma faute”, i.e., sin !

In German Fehler: fehlen/to fail/to be at fault.

Using the wrong article for a word would mean total disgrace. “In your essay,” said my professor, “you wrote der Volk not once but 13 times!” That statement crushed my self-esteem for months. If you failed in school, you might as well go and work for the French equivalent of Walmart.

Grammar was the great equalizer of students before Frau Grammatica. It didn’t require any Sprachgefühl or special language learning aptitude. All you seemed to need was motivation and hard work. The title of my first German textbook when I was 11 was Wer will, der kann. You wouldn’t be required to speak, only to read, write and translate. Armed with the grammar book and the ruler, the teacher would punish our mistakes by hitting our extended fingers with the ruler, or by covering our transgressions with red ink. Grammar was also the ultimate equalizer between native and nonnative instructors: the ability to explain grammar did not require from the teacher a good accent, conversational fluency, nor good knowledge of the culture. In that sense it was democratic. In fact, we despised the native speaker. We couldn’t imagine anything more trite than teaching your own mother tongue to foreigners. “Is that all you can do?” It seemed like prostitution.

Grammar was the ultimate weapon against disruptive behavior in the classroom, the vengeance of the institution against insolence, a powerful way of enforcing docility and discipline. When the teacher said: “Open your books to page x” and called on a student to translate a sentence or to switch a sentence from the active to the passive voice, the class returned to order. Of course, there were always people to make derogatory statements about grammar such as: “I’ve had nine years of French and I can’t order a cup of coffee in a French bistro!”, or Mark Twain ridiculing the German grammar in his “The Awful German Language”, but these were perceived as the face-saving tactics of the incompetent and only reinforced the prestige of Grammar. The testimony of a Romanian Visiting Scholar a few years ago who visited our German classes here at UC Berkeley is instructive. She was amazed that students seemed to be allowed to talk without having their mistakes immediately corrected by the teacher, and she added: “That is probably because these are Americans. If I appear at the German border, with my dark skin and my black hair, the only thing that will save me is my perfect German grammar.” And this other student of mine, of Spanish mother tongue, fell in love with a German in part because of German grammar. In her multilingual journal she wrote: “Yo no se ni como ni cuando, aber dieser Mann hat in meinem Herzen einen Platz gefunden.” This verb at the end of the clause, she said, has a necessity to it that makes me feel it was my destiny. “A year later” she continues, “waren wir so much verliebt, that we were verlobt.” The fact that the German language only has one vowel to separate falling in love from becoming engaged totally conquered her. Who would have thought that German grammar could be so powerful?

What changed the conditions of possibility of this form of discipline over others? The ascent of second-language acquisition in Canadian immersion programs, Threshold Level and communicative language teaching in Europe, and the need to teach immigrants’ the host language.


1980-1997 Foreign Language Learning in the Age of Communication.

The clarion call for moving away from the philological age of grammar to the psycholinguistic age of communicative competence came from the anthropologist and sociolinguist Dell Hymes in his 1972 article “On communicative competence” in which he famously declared that “There are rules of use without which rules of usage would be useless” (278). He expanded upon these rules of use in his paper “Models of the Interaction of Language and social life” (1972) in which he developed his acronym SPEAKING for the eight dimensions of the speech event, where N stands for “norms of interaction and interpretation”. In their 1980 article Michael Breen & Christopher Candlin build on Hymes eight letter acronym in the following manner:

“The communicative curriculum defines language learning as learning how to communicate as a member of a particular socio-cultural group”…Communicating is not merely a matter of following conventions but also of negotiating through and about the conventions themselves” (90). Communicative competence is thus “the interpretation, expression, and negotiation of intended meanings”, where meanings referred here not just to dictionary definitions but to the cultural beliefs, attitudes, and values indexed by a speaker’s words.

Such a competence was considered to be acquired not through the teaching of rules, but through dialogue and socialization in a community of communicative practice.

At the same time as Dell Hymes defined his concept of communicative competence in the U.S., Jürgen Habermas in Germany warned about the illusion of a harmonious negotiation of intended meanings based on mutual respect and symmetrical power relations. In his 1970 article “Towards a theory of communicative competence” he wrote. “We imagine the actual motivation of actors to be identical with the linguistically apprehensible intentions of the speaker” But in fact, he argued, it has more to do with the institutionalization of political and economic power. Habermas’ warning was well-taken, but in the early days of communicative language teaching, it was not his voice that was to be influential in language learning methodology, but the voice of the powerful ELT that took their cues from Anglo-Saxon research. From the 1980’s on, the teaching and learning of foreign languages became committed to a communicative approach that saw communicative competence as composed of four aspects: grammatical, sociolinguistic, discourse and strategic competence (without any mention of institutional political or economic power or any native speaker/non-native speaker asymmetry.

Indeed, power in foreign language learning was transferred from the grammatical system to the individual native speaker. The native speaker represented a model not only of standard grammaticality but of social appropriateness. The rules of grammar were supplemented by norms of sociability and acceptability. As Bourdieu wrote in 1982:

“The all-purpose word in the dictionary has no social existence” (39) “The competence adequate to produce sentences that are likely to be understood may be quite inadequate to produce sentences that are likely to be listened to, likely to be recognized as acceptable in all the situations in which there is occasion to speak. Social acceptability is not reducible to mere grammaticality” (55).

From 1980 on, transgressions of linguistic/interactional native speaker norms and conventions are no longer mistakes to be eradicated, but “errors” that occur during communication and that are to be corrected through redress by native interlocutors.

Error: c.1300, from Old French errer "go astray, lose one's way; make a mistake; transgress," from Latin errare "wander, go astray," figuratively "be in error," "be in motion, wander around" (“to err is human”).

In an influential article, “The significance of learners’ errors” (1967), the linguist S. Pit Corder made the distinction between errors and mistakes. “Both errors and mistakes are deviation from the norms of the native speaker target language but whereas mistakes occur when learners fail to perform their competence, errors take place as a result of lack of knowledge or lack of the right knowledge. They are indicative of the state of the learner’s interlanguage and as such they are necessary to the learning process. Errors are not to be avoided, they are to be observed, noted and reflected upon. They are not to be punished, but they are instead to be recoded, recast, rephrased as part of the training to become communicatively competent. Punishment occurs both through representation of native language use (audiotapes, videotapes, films, authentic materials) and through emulation/reeducation to correct, redress, recast your own deficient non-nativeness into the naturalness of a native speaker. Learning a foreign language is seen as socialization into espousing or at least understanding the worldview of native speakers. The norms are now enshrined in the native speakers, their authentic accent, their idiomaticity, their fluency. Emphasis on the spoken language, the pragmatics. The focus on the body, the habitus of the learner who LEARNS BY DOING.

Communicative language teaching is reflected in the efforts by the American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages (ACTFL) and the Common European Framework of Reference (CEFR) to draw up a list of concrete usable skills against which a learner’s competence can be measured. Those skills reflect the kinds of task that learners will encounter when communicating in the sociocultural environment of the target culture. ACTFL five Cs (communication, cultures, comparisons, connections, communities) are meant to give you access to a community of native speakers and to emulate that community in the fractal community of the classroom. In Europe the CEFR is meant to give you access to the multilingual European community, a ‘Europe of nations’.

The assumption of symmetry between native speakers and non-native speakers maintained the illusion that the real world had none of the institutional constraints of the classroom. That if you went to the country and you interacted with real native speakers, you could become part of their speech community and, provided you observed their politeness formulae, you would be welcomed with open arms. Some scholars like Henry Widdowson wrote a famous article in 1994 “The Ownership of English”, arguing that English did not belong to native speakers but to anyone who cared to learn it. This was a clear attempt to democratize, or globalize, the use of English. However, when I followed suit two years later with my own talk “Wem gehört die deutsche Sprache?” that I was invited to deliver at the Goethe Institutes in Hong Kong, Shanghai and Beijing, and where I argued that the German language did not belong to German native speakers, but to anyone who wanted to speak it, the German educators in the audience violently disagreed: “Also so weit wie die Frau Kramsch wollen wir doch nicht gehen!

Not everyone agreed, however, that communicative competence would give you access to native speakers’ speech communities. In a shattering 1983 case study of a 30 year old Japanese artist living and learning English in Hawaii, Richard Schmidt documents the intriguing lack of linguistic progress of Wes, who after 5 years in Hawaii displays a dazzling ability to get his message across (strategic competence), and to understand what people around him say, but a surprising inability or unwillingness to gain any of the other components of communicative competence. His grammar remains atrocious, his sociolinguistic ability to tailor his utterances appropriately in the appropriate context is abysmal, his discourse ability to speak in coherent paragraphs is virtual non-existent. Wes, a successful artist with a charming, and self-assured personality, remained uninterested in engaging in the expression of nuanced opinions, in the interpretation of others’ meanings and in the negotiation of cultural norms and conventions.

Despite such methodological failures, it seemed in the 80’s and 90s that communicative language teaching could not be superseded as a language learning methodology and that it was here to stay. And yet it started to get heavily criticized at the end of the 1990s.

What changed the conditions of possibility of achieving communicative competence? The answer lies in the increasing cultural diversity of immigrants to industrialized nations and the need for all to not only communicate, but to engage with one another in the same multicultural society.


1997-2007 Foreign Language Learning in the Age of the Intercultural

The decisive turn in foreign language methodology was to be an intercultural one. In a pathbreaking article published in 1997 in the Modern Language Journal, Alan Firth and Johannes Wagner forcefully argued that calling the non-native speaker a deficient communicator was distorting reality. The non-native speaker is not, they said, a defective image of the native speaker. The non-native speaker is a bilingual and bicultural individual, with a rich repertoire of various grammatical, sociolinguistic and discursive resources, who is trying to mediate between various cultures. He/she should not be compared to the monolingual, monocultural native speaker depicted in the communicative textbooks, nor should he/she strive to become such a speaker. That view was echoed by Michael Byram who published that same year an influential little book on how to teach and assess what he called “Intercultural communicative competence. “

Intercultural communicative competence has five aspects:

Knowledge (savoirs) of social groups and their products and practices in one’s own and one’s interlocutor’s country, and the general processes of societal and individual interaction

Skills of interpreting and relating (savoir comprendre). Ability to interpret a document from another culture, to explain it and relate it to documents from one’s own.

Skills of discovery and interaction (savoir apprendre/faire). Ability to acquire new knowledge of a culture and cultural practices and the ability to operate knowledge, attitudes and skills under the constraints of real-time communication and interaction.

Critical cultural awareness/political education (savoir s’engager). Ability to evaluate critically and on the basis of explicit criteria perspectives, practices and products in one’s own and other cultures and countries.

Attitudes (savoir etre), Curiosity and openness, readiness to suspend disbelief about other cultures and belief about one’s own.

As for assessing such a competence, Byram distinguished between assessment for accountability that requires assessing discrete skills for comparative purposes between students and between teachers vs. educational assessment for formative, holistic purposes. The latter form of assessment was, in his mind, better suited to the development of intercultural competence.

We have then, in the ten years before 2007, a new concern that communicative competence might no longer be sufficient to solve communication problems. Ignorance of or willful disregard for speakers’ cultural norms and conventions can lead to serious misunderstandings or even hostile actions. The idea that it is sufficient to learn linguistic and cultural facts (savoirs), as well as strategies to learn those facts (savoir apprendre) and communicative strategies to put that knowledge to use (savoir faire) is a fallacy. In a world that is becoming increasingly fragmented socially, culturally and historically, and increasingly complex and unpredictable, what is now needed is enhanced reflexivity on self and other (savoir etre), skills of interpreting and relating (savoir comprendre) and, most of all, the historical and political consciousness that Byram calls “savoir s’engager” and that the MLA Report calls “translingual and transcultural competence” (2007). This new way of defining the challenge of foreign language learning – no longer focus on rules, nor on native speaker conventions, but on the ability to “operate between languages” - redistributes power from an exclusive focus on the institution (the school, the classroom) to a shared focus on community service, work and study abroad, and the increasingly available online resources of the Internet. The challenges to be met are no longer fixed linguistic structures nor static social norms, but the very mediation between the cultural, social and historical contexts in which the L1 and the L2 are used. And the reflection on that mediation itself.

The academy has had a hard time to know how to assess students’ success or failure to mediate between cultures or to reflect on that mediation. Formative testing of intercultural communicative competence has yielded positive results and intercultural learning is certainly a popular foreign language philosophy in Australia (Liddicoat/Scarino 2013), Germany (Hu/Byram), the UK (Byram), Denmark (Risager) and in certain parts of the U.S. (University of Arizona). Portfolios and other creative ways of training students to become intercultural learners have flourished.

But the real punishment for failing to understand your own and other speakers’ worldviews and for failing to attempt to share in their understanding of reality is exercised in a much more subtle manner and in ways that the institutions cannot control, because they often dramatize social class differences that institutions are not supposed to talk about. Vinall (2015) reports on college learners of Spanish sent to do community service in the barrio in Los Angeles to practice their Spanish language skills, only to find it impossible to bridge the social class gap between them and their Mexican informants. Kinginger (2004) reports on an American student of French, from low social class background, who has saved all her money to one day go to Paris and partake in the sophisticated life she imagines the French as having – only to be rejected and humiliated when she arrives in Paris. Gao and Park (2015) report on low middle class working Chinese professionals in China, who decide to leave their job to go and learn English full time at an “English total immersion village” in China in the hope of becoming the cosmopolitan global citizens that the ad promises. The ad promises not only formal instruction but also conversational contact with Western foreigners. The learners are eager to develop their intercultural competence with these Westerners but they find themselves avoided and snubbed by the Western tourists who don’t want to be used as free conversational partners with whom they can “practice their English”. So the learners decide to pay for an expensive program that will prepare them to take the Test of English for International Communication (TOEIC), only to find themselves later on rejected by companies who prefer to employ instead people who have spent 1 or 2 years abroad and have had the money to do so.

Thus we see around 2007 a distinct shift in the way foreign language education is conceived. Intercultural communicative competence relied on five savoirs, only three of which can really be taught in the classroom, the other two (savoir etre, savoir s’engager) need exposure to the real world outside the classroom. But how should we define the real world? Despite all the efforts to make language learning culturally more meaningful, the notion of “culture” has remained ill-defined and the notion of “national culture” has become more controversial than ever. And a recent survey by Sally Magnan and her colleagues of some 2000 American college students with two years of a foreign language in college, was instructive in this regard. The survey tried to find out what the students thought about ACTFL’s five goals for foreign language education at the college level: culture, comparison, connection, communication and communities. The majority of them had no use for first three C’s – culture, comparison, connection. They were NOT interested in getting to know other cultures, comparing cultures or making connections between their culture and that of others. The only thing that interested them was: communication and communities. Intercultural competence did not seem to be on their radar.

What in the last 8-10 years has changed the conditions of possibility of teaching and learning foreign languages? Online communication, the internet and social media.


4) 2007- present. Foreign language learning in the Digital Age

Considering the criticisms that the 2007 MLA Report received immediately after its release and the difficulties that foreign language educators have had in implementing it (see Byram & Kramsch 2008), we must see it as a last ditch attempt in the Age of the Intercultural to prepare language learners for the complex, cosmopolitan global world that awaits them when they leave our classrooms. But since 2007, the increased use of social media and electronic modes of communication have redefined the nature of the barrier that the foreign language used to represent. It has radically changed what we mean by communication, language, and the relation of self and other.

4.1 Breakdown of communication barriers.

The first thing to note is a general de-institutionalization of foreign language learning and teaching. Not only do we see a dramatic drop in the demand for foreign languages in institutional settings, but institutional learning is now seen as only one of many venues in which one can learn and practice a foreign language, or learn through practice. Much of the learning happens outside the classroom, on line, in chatrooms and blogs. The computer as become both 1) a task master 2) a communication network and has in many ways replaced the teacher in some of his/her fundamental functions.

The explosion of “communication” technologies has also changed what we mean by learning a language. Grammaticality? Yes, but for the sake of acquiring a high score, not for enhancing students’ understanding of the meaning of grammar in discourse. Negotiation of meaning? Yes, but for solving a common task, not for negotiating its meaning or meaningfulness. Intercultural communication? Yes, but not for finding out other’s cultural values, but for the sake of communication. In his latest book, Communication Power, Castells (2009) defines culture as “the set of values and beliefs that inform, guide, and motivate people’s behavior” (p. 36). Distinguishing between global culture and local cultures, he writes:

“What characterizes the global network society is the contraposition between the logic of the global net and the affirmation of a multiplicity of local selves (. . .) The common culture of the global network society is a culture of protocols of communication enabling communication between different cultures on the basis not of shared values but of the sharing of the value of communication. (pp. 37–38, emphasis added)”


It seems that nowadays we need to teach two sorts of culture. The traditional local culture, based on a sharing of different historical, social and cultural values. The other global culture, based on the sharing of the common value of communication itself. Guess which one is the more popular.


4.2 Breakdown of linguistic barriers        

The very notion of linguistic or cultural barrier has become invisible. - Grammatical rules are relegated to the pink pages at the back of the textbook – a regrettable albeit necessary evil. The native speaker instructor is not always the ultimate arbiter of grammatical nor even phonological rules. -Sociolinguistic norms have become a variety of multiple, fluctuating, and conflicting symbolic idiosyncracies. When to use which language variety, register, genre with whom in what circumstances? The native speaker instructor has ceased to be the arbiter of pragmatic appropriateness.
-National cultural conventions are less and less shared. Focus: the symbolic self in an ever changing context.
- Much research is currently devoted at describing the hybrid uses of language encountered in the large urban centers around the world, that prompt some educators to advocate teaching translanguaging, code-meshing in the classroom, adopting multilingual practices even in the monolingual classroom, and disinventing the boundaries between linguistic systems. It suggests studying such authors as Kafka, Emine Özdamar, Feridan Zaimoglu or Yoko Tawada not as German language authors, but as multilingual authors, based on a theory of multilingualism and literary translingualism (see Lvovich & Kellman Special issue of L2Journal 2015).

4.3 Breakdown of symbolic barriers between self and other.

By becoming invisible, linguistic, social and national barriers have given way to communicative encounters that certainly have increased the opportunities to practice the language. But at the same time, communication has acquired another meaning. As Bernard Harcourt explained on Thursday in a talk he titled “The expository society: Spectacle, surveillance, and exhibition in the digital age”, Foucault’s disciplinary society has given way to a society in which everyone desires to be seen. The expository society is driven by the desire to be visible, popular, talked about. Students want to talk about themselves, expose themselves to others, obliterate the distance/difference between self and other. They are interested in the confessional mode, the autobiographical narrative, the reflexive self, encouraged by social media. Chatrooms, encounters, Facebook. Increased importance is consequently given by teachers in the classroom to: participation, collaboration, teamwork, performance, commitment, enthusiasm, motivation.

In a sense, the breakdown of barriers has almost eliminated any kind of penalty. Learning a foreign language has become an individual performance sport, a personal challenge, a tool to pursue a variety of individual interests, some of which include grammaticality, social and cultural appropriateness, others not; all of which include communication and the building of communities of practice.

4.4. No more barriers in the digital age?

The disciplining barriers Foucault talks about in Discipline and Punish seem to have been broken down in the case of foreign language education. Individual obligation of the student is now to: make contact, communicate for the sake of communication, engage in communities of practice. Emphasis on problem-solving, task-based activities of individuals, intercultural stereotypes, dialogue. Focus on community building (team spirit and activism, but also ruthless competitiveness, visibility).

This lesser focus on barriers however, can raise anxiety.

Hence, students demand more control and predictability from the institution, return to sure pedagogic values: translation (!), learning vocabulary (online), ever more specific assignments, grade anxiety. Demands for specific punishment for specific grammatical offenses? Demands for right/wrong answers, not in order to gain access to the educated middle-class (as in period 1), but in order to gain a Berkeley degree that will open doors for them in other fields.

A sign of the times: In a new volume edited by Chantelle Warner, David Gramling and Renate Riedner to my book series in Trends in Applied Linguistics titled “The End(s) of competence”, young scholars from Europe, Canada and the U.S. propose exploring the potential of other concepts such as: incompetence and doubt, economies of competencing/de-competencing, periodization and paradigms, sloganization and symbolic exchanges.


What would Foucault say? On the one hand he would find his analysis confirmed. Globalization is instrumentalizing foreign languages as it is instrumentalizing all academic subjects. The panoptic discipline it subjects all students to is a utilitarian oriented discipline that punishes delinquents with a low GPA and ultimately lesser prospects of material success in life. On the other hand, the discipline foreign language teachers have to enforce is no longer the homogenous power of a universally recognized rule-governed linguistic system, nor the social norms imposed by the native speaker, nor even the obligation of mediating between different national cultures. In their search for institutional legitimation, i.e., to keep their students happy and the enrollments up, language teachers today are reaching for simulation games, verbal play and autobiographical narrative in an effort to make the foreign language contribute to building the students’ self through the power of the imagination. While this methodology encourages students’ creativity and resourcefulness, it has some downsides. It risks reinforcing the public perception that language learning is a luxury, only good for tourism and mental exercise. It can also reinforce the academic perception that language learning is an intellectually inferior activity that only gets serious when the student can at last reach the serious scholarly study of literature or linguistics.

I suggest a Foucauldian solution. In the third chapter of The Order of Things, Foucault shows how at the end of the Renaissance, the relation of words to world was split in two. On the one hand, there were words and their metaphoric resemblance to things, and the spontaneous movement of the mythical imagination that is to be found to this day in religious discourse, literature and poetry. On the other hand, there were words as tools of analysis, through which things could be reduced to grammatical and lexical order, marks of identity and difference that have been the traditional staple of language teaching. “Between the two, he says, new forms of knowledge [emerge] that occupy the area opened up by this new split” (p.58). Foucault would, I think, welcome the current situation where language, unmoored from its institutional function as grammatical, communicative, and intercultural barrier, seems to have become once again a free floating signifier. This makes it available to be reintegrated into a larger discourse in which the social sciences and the humanities can at last be reunited in a poetics of language study.


Discipline and Punish in the language classroom. Does Foucault’s analysis still hold?

Claire Kramsch, UC Berkeley



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