Languaging in and across Communities: New Voices, New Identities

Studies in Honour of Giuseppina Cortese

by Sandra Campagna (Volume editor) Elana Ochse (Volume editor) Virginia Pulcini (Volume editor) Martin Solly (Volume editor)
©2016 Edited Collection 507 Pages
Series: Linguistic Insights, Volume 218


The title of this volume intentionally echoes that of a landmark issue of Textus on «Languaging» in and across Human Groups, edited by Giuseppina Cortese and Dell Hymes in 2001, since the notion of ‘languaging’ seems to capture most effectively the essence and the continuity in the life and work of Giuseppina Cortese, to whom the book is dedicated. It brings together contributions by a number of distinguished scholars that shed new light on current developments in this dynamic area of discourse analysis, especially taking into account recent research and emerging insights on speech communities and communities of practice.
The sections in the volume are designed as main threads of a new investigation into ‘languaging’. The first, entitled Languaging Awareness, deals with recent findings in applied linguistics, exploring key topics in language acquisition, language learning and teaching and the changing role of the media. The second section, Languaging Identity, prioritizes the theme of the construction of identity in text and talk within a linguistic and languaging framework. The third section, Languaging Community, explores the notion of community, of the lifeworld and the textworld emanating from a variety of domains, closely inspecting contemporary events and showing, on a continuum with Cortese’s approach, how memory of the past gives depth of meaning to a discourse analysis that is geared to linguistic and textual awareness.

Table Of Contents

  • Cover
  • Title
  • Copyright
  • About the author
  • About the book
  • This eBook can be cited
  • Contents
  • Foreword
  • Introduction: ‘Languaging’ Revisited
  • Selected Writings by Giuseppina Cortese
  • Section 1: Languaging Awareness
  • Native/Non-native Cooperation in English as a Lingua Franca
  • Media Studies and Media Discourse(s) in English: One Term, Many Identities
  • From the Screen to the Learner-Viewer. Exploring Audiovisual Contexts of Second Language Acquisition
  • The Treatment of Lexical Collocations in English Collocations Dictionaries and Learners’ Dictionaries: A Languaging Perspective
  • Learning through Languaging in ELF Service Encounters
  • English as a Medium of Instruction. A ‘Resentment Study’ of a Micro EMI Context
  • Section 2: Languaging Identity
  • How Do They Get Away With It? Identity Construction, ‘The Imposter’ and the Psychology of Consumer Detriment
  • Identities in Conflict: Making Sense of Voices from inside the War on Terror
  • Vico and Joyce: Landscaping/Langscaping
  • Self and Society: Art and Identity Formation in Billy Elliot
  • Naming ‘the Other’: Terms for Migrants across Varieties of English
  • Women Doing Things with Words to Women without Words
  • Section 3: Languaging Community
  • From Academic Community ‘in Transition’ to Academic Community ‘in Combat’
  • Discovering the Environment. The Indebtedness of Present-day Ecological Culture to Late Modern English Vocabulary
  • Chrononyms in Academic and Popular History
  • Languaging in Corporate Discourse
  • Reconciling Tradition and Innovation: Languaging in Professional Communities of Practice
  • In Transit between Two Wor(l)ds: NATO Military Discourse at a Turning Point
  • Modality Tagging as Evidence of ELF Communities’ Languaging
  • Sign Language: The State of the Art in Italian Universities Fourteen Years On
  • Notes on Contributors
  • Series index

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I have known Professor Emerita Giuseppina (Pina) Cortese for the last seven years, and have felt the opportunity of jointly working with her, across the national frontiers of Europe, as a great privilege. She used to be the Italian representative on the Board of the European Society for the Study of English (ESSE) when I chaired it, and a very active representative she was indeed! But I also wish to evoke two particular occasions when I had the opportunity to work together with her: the first one was the organization of the 10th Conference of ESSE, which was held at her University, in Turin, in August 2010. The second opportunity I had to collaborate with Professor Cortese was the ambitious exercise of evaluation of research in English Studies, which both of us coordinated for the Italian agency ANVUR (Agenzia Nazionale di Valutazione del Sistema Universitario e della Ricerca) in 2012–2013.

I must say that, although my field of specialization in English Studies is not the same as Pina’s, I have always felt impressed by the high level of commitment and seriousness of her work, as well as by the multiplicity of perspectives and approaches she uses in her research. The editors and colleagues who have contributed to this volume clearly demonstrate the richness of that multiplicity through their interactions with Professor Cortese’s own research. In the pages of this book, and thanks to her colleagues, the reader will be able to appreciate how extensive her interests are, covering a wide range of aspects connected with language, and English particularly, in a variety of contexts and areas. Drawing their inspiration from Pina’s seminal 2001 article on ‘languaging’, the contributions in the volume focus on a number of these themes, such as the role of English in academia or the construction of identity in the community by means of language. The various chapters share experiences and reflections on verbal and visual discourse and communication in academic and professional milieus, as well as ← 9 | 10 → engaging with sociolinguistic and sociocultural concerns, like gender and disability issues, the identity of imposters and victims of online scamming, environmental and social change, the discourses and lexis of conflict and migration.

She has also researched and published in other fields, like translation studies and some areas of literary studies, so that she would be absolutely entitled to claim, like Roman Jakobson did in his famous paraphrase of Terence, that “linguista sum: linguistici nihil a me alienum puto”. But on top of that, I think Pina is also well-known and loved in Italy, and elsewhere in Europe and America, for her professional commitment and personal involvement in the discipline of English Studies, with a special focus on language and linguistics. I am sure this is widely recognized and appreciated by many who have closely worked with her in AIA (Associazione Italiana di Anglistica), in ESSE (European Society for the Study of English), and in many other scientific committees and commissions, thus paying an invaluable service to the spread and consolidation of English Studies in Italy and across Europe.

During those two years, in 2009 and 2010, when we worked together in the preparations for that successful ESSE Conference in Turin, we met several times in different locations in Europe, but we also corresponded by e-mail and talked regularly on the phone every week, and discussed all sorts of details, from the most interesting and profound academic issues to the most minute and apparently irrelevant logistics of the conference, but which turned out to be, in the end, so decisive in attaining success. Pina Cortese was indeed indefatigable. But not only before and during that conference; also after its conclusion, since at least for a year and a half later Pina was still working to support the publication of collections of papers presented at different seminars and round-tables. She was in fact instrumental in getting several volumes funded and published, which says a lot about her efficiency and dedication.

My experience when I collaborated with Professor Cortese in the evaluation exercise for ANVUR in 2012–2013 is something I value enormously and will not easily forget for a long time, if ever. This was indeed a real challenge, as we had to coordinate the evaluation by peers (two different experts for each item or ‘product’, as the jargon used ← 10 | 11 → by ANVUR put it) of more than a thousand articles, books or book chapters in English and American Studies. I imagine that not everybody might have felt happy with the results, as it inevitably happens with peer reviewing, but the process was conducted impeccably by Pina, with a professionalism and impartiality that impressed me. She was, for me, a great support through the whole process, genuinely believing in the importance of proving to the research agency and to the Ministry authorities that serious peer reviewing was much better in the Humanities than metrics; that it was, in fact, the only serious and honest way to evaluate research in our areas. She did a wonderful job, and I wish and fervently hope that her example and her work will remain for the future.

As a crowning achievement of her career, in 2015, about three years since her retirement, Giuseppina Cortese was awarded the prestigious title of Emeritus Professor of English Language and Linguistics at the University of Turin and I am delighted to be able to join in the congratulations! The present volume is a timely and well-deserved recognition of her academic merits and a token of profound appreciation and gratitude from Italian and international academia. Let me finally thank Professor Cortese for her dedicated work to English Studies, and also express my gratitude to the editors of this collection for the opportunity they have given me to write this foreword in homage to Pina.

Professor Fernando Galván

Former ESSE President and Rector of the University of Alcalá
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Introduction: ‘Languaging’ Revisited

Tutor:      What do you do?
Student:           I am a thief
Tutor:     Good. Very good.
     (Fay Prendergast 2001)

1.   Languaging

The keyword in the title of a 2001 landmark issue of Textus, the journal of the Associazione Italiana di Anglistica, ‘languaging’ seems to most effectively capture the essence and the continuity in the life of Giuseppina Cortese as a scholar. The reading and reflection that came together in her workplan for the volume were greatly appreciated by her co-editor Dell Hymes, who insisted that she should write the Introduction and that her name should come first on the cover. This honour was reciprocated in the following year, when Hymes was awarded an honoris causa degree by the University of Turin: Cortese delivered the laudatio.1 Their cooperation (Hymes 2001) sprang from genuine consonance: a shared vocation for a linguistics that embraces the social without overlooking individual uniqueness, and a deeply felt propensity for an ‘inclusive’ linguistics, primarily concerned with marginalization, discrimination, exclusion and the rights of minorities. Cortese had investigated Afro-American literature, gender linguistics and, indeed, Native Americans, whose ← 13 | 14 → predicament was very much in the forefront of Dell and Virginia Hymes’ scholarship and life concerns.

Cortese’s notion of languaging originates from her work on translation. Asked to review a ground-breaking volume on the theory of translation and interpreting (Danks et al. 1997), she produced a highly informed discussion of individual chapters which, incidentally, ended with a far-sighted claim on the relevance of “translation activities such as dubbing, translation of scripts, or translation/transposition connected with multimedia presentations” (Cortese 1999: 327), which have indeed become quite prominent since. However, the main thrust of her discussion is the translator’s ‘black box’, dealing with socially situated textuality. No surprise, therefore, that she should highlight the contribution by Albrecht Neubert: “It is hard to do justice to the depth, elegance and complexity of this chapter, which distillates more than 30 years of experience […] Translatio does not so much invest languages as situate texts” (1999: 320).

Neubert’s chapter, entitled “Postulates for a theory of Translatio”, starts with a definition of translation and interpreting as “[a] unique languaging context” (Neubert 1997: 2, my emphasis). The following key sentence synthesizes his notion of translation as complex crosstextual, cross-situational mediation requiring an interdisciplinary approach: “Translatio serves, always, to help people to communicate, and is between people and not between languages” (1997: 22, the latter emphasis is mine). Of course this was highly consonant with Cortese’s propensity for the ‘flowing boundaries’ of interdisciplinarity: she quotes Neubert twice (in the 2001 Textus issue and in the Introduction to Cortese/Duszak 2005) on the notion of languaging. It is within this sociocognitive and pragmatic framework that the notion comes to loom large on her horizon.

Indeed, the issue of mediation was already central to her work on translation and the pedagogy of translation. But her 2001 Introduction shows how she elaborated on languaging as multifocal mediation, involving a whole array of theoretical perspectives – the hallmark of her own socio-cognitive and intercultural approach to linguistic research and its civil and moral value, working, in her own words, between ethos and ethnos and, very much in Hymes’ vein, ‘liberating’ textual voices. ← 14 | 15 →

Hymes’ ethnography of speaking is factored into a holistic view of language as a ‘body technique’ (from Bourdieu), which also includes Vygotskian ‘inner speech’ and the accompanying concern with affect and the emotions. This complex nexus she sees as deeply entrenched in as well as imbibed with memory. Language is contexted as much as contexting – an important dimension highlighted by Duranti and Goodwin (1992) – with a risk of miscommunication especially where close-knit social bonds may overemphasize shared meanings and lead to neglect of the uniqueness of individual worldviews. Within small and broader social configurations, the constructionist paradigm, though not in its extreme version, leads to a complex mediation game where the social fabric emerges from texts with their cultural as well as individual cognitive load. Identity and community, then, are fluid entities whose relationship requires awareness in the responsible negotiation of difference. Amongst the numerous examples of languaging, both from the scientific literature and from personal experience, which appear in her Introduction to the Textus volume, for the exergo to this present Introduction I chose the one that bears a special echo for our teaching team in the Turin Faculty of Scienze Politiche: an extract from the chapter by our beloved late colleague Fay Prendergast (2001: 224). It is a telling example of languaging as a responsible ‘doing’ of identity, in the asymmetrical context of our ‘special needs’ English language course for prison inmates, wherein the teacher – doing ‘action research’ according to Cortese’s language teaching framework – responds by genuinely languaging her role as a teacher.

Merrill Swain is another foundation author in our present re-visitations of languaging. Well-known internationally for her contribution to the concept of communicative competence, originating of course from Hymes in 1966,2 which she articulated jointly with Michael Canale in their famous 1980 article (Canale/Swain 1980), Swain has since given Second Language Acquisition (SLA) theory a most significant turn by developing her Comprehensible Output Hypothesis. For the last decade she has worked extensively on languaging and its meaning-making function in both L1 and L2 acquisition and learning. ← 15 | 16 → Involving the sphere of emotions and affect, languaging acts include also metalinguistic activity or languaging about language.

Following Vygotsky’s sociocultural view of language as a psychological tool that mediates the mind (Vygotsky 1978), Swain (2006) describes how, when searching for a word that “puts the focus in second language learning on the importance of producing language but which does not carry with it the conduit metaphor of ‘output’”, she embraced the concept of languaging as encapsulating the notion of language “not just being a conveyor of meaning” but also “as being an agent in the making of meaning” (2006: 95–96, original emphasis). For her languaging constitutes part of the process of formulating an idea and mediates the formulation of the idea: “Indeed, it is when language is used to mediate conceptualization and problem-solving, whether that conceptualization or problem-solving is about language-related issues or science issues or mathematical ones, that languaging takes place” (Swain/Lapkin 2013: 107).

2.   The volume: threading the pattern

The sections in the present volume are designed as main threads of a new investigation into languaging.

Section 1, entitled Languaging Awareness, deals with recent findings in applied linguistics, exploring relevant topics in language acquisition, language learning and teaching and the changing role of the media. Section 2, Languaging Identity, prioritizes the theme of the construction of identity in text and talk within a linguistic and languaging framework. Section 3, Languaging Community, explores the notion of community, of the lifeworld and the textworld emanating from a variety of domains, closely inspecting contemporary events and showing, on a continuum with Cortese’s approach, how memory of the past gives depth of meaning to a discourse analysis that is geared to linguistic and textual awareness. ← 16 | 17 →

MAURIZIO GOTTI examines communicative interactions in a typical ELF (English as a Lingua Franca) context, that is to say domain-specific courses in higher education offered entirely in English. Using mainly a qualitative methodology, he investigates a corpus from workshop sessions in a course held at the University of Bergamo, compiled according to the criteria in the ELFA corpus, with a focus on the main cooperative strategies employed both by native and non-native students.

In the thriving scenario of globalized information, Media Language has come to include a wide gamut of curricular labels and scholarly investigations. ROBERTA FACCHINETTI argues that this vast and multiform domain needs precise terminology and systematization. Working from ‘Media Language’ as a course label and a research discipline in the present Italian and European academic context, she highlights pros and cons, similarities and differences, in order to identify ways of systematically clarifying this important domain.

Given the pervasive and unprecedented availability of L2 audiovisual products outside the classroom context, MARIA PAVESI investigates the audiovisual scenario in SLA. Starting from the major acquisitional pros and cons of audiovisual contexts, her study explores the linguistic characterization of screen dialogue with particular attention to monodirectionality constraints and to learner-viewers’ access being limited to positive evidence, arguing that, beyond ‘naturalness’, further specific dimensions of audiovisual language may be crucial in promoting L1 or L2 acquisition.

Because mastering collocations is a prerequisite to advanced English learning aims such as expressing oneself ‘naturally and convincingly’, thus formulated by prominent learners’ dictionaries, STEFANIA NUCCORINI compares the treatment of selected verb+object collocations in the latest editions of several such dictionaries. With the aim of assessing their respective role in helping learners avoid collocational errors, she applies Swain’s languaging perspective also towards metalinguistic awareness.

HUGO BOWLES presents data on brief workplace transactions in which English is used as a lingua franca. Analysis of tourist/operator talk confirms ELF speakers’ heightened accommodation skills to solve misunderstanding in the workplace. Further, it shows that ELF speakers’ ← 17 | 18 → interactional competence involves languaging techniques with self- ascription of ‘learner’ and ‘teacher’ roles, a distinctive feature and thus a main finding on ELF workplace interaction.

Contributing to the current discussion on EMI (English-mediated instruction) in European higher education, SANDRA CAMPAGNA has conducted a survey in the School of Management and Economics of Turin University, assessing lecturers’ perceptions of this much-debated innovation. Results motivate the keyword ‘resentment’ (echoing Ammon 2001) in her title, leading to the suggestion to expand on Yashima’s 2009 notion of ‘international posture’.

In 2002 PHILIP RILEY co-edited, with Cortese, a seminal volume on domain-specific discourse and contributed a chapter (Riley 2002), which can be seen as a precursor to the current interest in the construction and dissemination of knowledge. Here he deals with identity by investigating the category of ‘the Imposter’. He examines the principal discursive strategies by imposters as well as ‘victim profiling’ by statisticians and social psychologists for effective countering strategies. Fraudulent ethos is explored within the theoretical framework of virtue epistemology.

NICOLETTA VASTA returns to conflict talk, one of her favourite themes as a political discourse analyst, with a focus on languaging activities in identity work. Within a theoretical framework where power asymmetries and ideological conflict are rooted in and ‘legitimized’ to a degree by processes typical of war discourse, she investigates cultural and ideological constructs in recent armed conflicts. Systemic functional grammar and critical discourse analysis are applied to three prominent Presidential speeches (by George W. Bush and Barack Obama respectively).

CARLA VAGLIO MARENGO aims to show that Joyce’s interest in Vico was not only linked to his presentation of storia ideal eterna in its fascinating scaffolding, but precisely to his considering language and language phenomena as the laboratory of history, as the powerful machine capable of adhering to and meeting people’s sentimental and intellectual, expressive and practical needs in each age, in any kind of human activity, in the ‘progress’ of human civilization. The law Vico formulates, believes in and strictly adheres to is “Linguis ingenia, non ← 18 | 19 → ingeniis linguas formari”. In the intimate ‘verbivocovisual’ fusion, coexistence and interchangeability of writing, reading, speaking and listening, man and his geographies end up being read and shaped by language, transforming themselves from ‘landscapes’ into ‘langscapes’.

JOHN DOUTHWAITE deals with Otherness in Billy Eliot, a film which is concurrently a ‘Bildungsroman’ and a work of social critique. It portrays a young boy whose sensibilities and values, different from those of his reference group, lead him to rebel against such conditioning and to opt for a different direction in life which will enable him to fulfil his human potential through becoming a ballet dancer. Billy’s realization of his Otherness and his ‘limited’ communicative competence (classifiable as restricted code) stimulate him into rejecting the values of the group he was born into since they seriously restrict his self-expression. The film depicts the variety of social forces attempting to make him conform to their social norms and how he manages to reject them and consequently realize his dream.

VIRGINIA PULCINI addresses the process of “Othering” with regard to migrants and asylum seekers, one of the most aggravating world problems today. She focuses on the terms ‘migrant’, ‘immigrant’, ‘expatriate’, ‘alien’, ‘refugee’ and ‘asylum seeker’ and on their semantic and discourse prosodies in World Englishes, applying corpus-assisted discourse analysis and using the Corpus of Global Web-based English. Immigrants and other non-nationals are usually considered as intruders by local citizens and the term ‘immigrant’ usually collocates with a range of offensive and demeaning words, conveying a negative semantic prosody. The ensuing institutional and legal debate is explored and more neutral near-synonyms discussed, showing that they reveal underlying ideologies and attitudes in each host country.

EDITH ESCH revisits the transcription of a statutory health visit to a young mother within Goffman’s perspective of performance in real life, to understand what was going on and what was being done. The home visit is first analyzed in terms of conventional ‘simplified registers’, revealing the health visitor’s skilful use of variation and switching in and out of Baby Talk and Foreigner Talk. Next, the author leaves the stance of the linguist-observer and analyzes the transcript from the point of view of her position, i.e. not in a witness or an audience role ← 19 | 20 → but in a participant role, enabling the reader to appreciate the communicative complexity of the encounter. The chapter then considers the ethics of the situation – whether it is acceptable to record such ‘socially loaded’ encounters for research.

ANNA DUSZAK previously co-edited with Cortese the papers of a successful Conference at the University of Turin, with a contribution (Duszak 2005) whose title echoed a well-known previous volume (Duszak 1997) and its concern with academic communities, their communicative styles and the values permeating them. Here, in addressing the Polish academic community, she sees in recent practices in the humanities an escalation from ‘transition’ to ‘combat’. Identifying the rise of oppositional discourses in defense of the humanities, running counter to current academic policies, she argues for changes in models of academic communities and communication.

Attending to patterns in lexical development from OED sources as well as usage in UK, USA and Canadian periodicals, MARINA DOSSENA investigates current vocabulary encapsulating present-day culture, with particular attention to the environment, showing its debt to the unprecedented lexical explosion in Late Modern times due to 19th century discoveries and their extraordinary impact on science, education and society. Her focus is on imported loanwords, the continuing influence of French and Latin on word formation and to changes in usage due to new semantic value.

MARINA BONDI investigates chrononyms – terms that specify a period or segment of time – examining their role and structure in their privileged milieu, historical discourse. Chrononyms are considered both from a phraseological and a textual point of view, in two corpora of respectively academic and popular articles on history. Constituting more than temporal designators, they operate as complex markers establishing specific chronotopes, evoking different cultural contexts and characterizing the different types of discourse examined.

Focusing on the functions of evaluation and persuasion and their instantiations in corporate communication, namely the websites of the ‘Big Six’ British electricity suppliers, RITA SALVI examines the linguistic traits of company-customer interaction, from vocabulary to pragmatic usage. Companies comply with EU regulations demanding negotiation ← 20 | 21 → of changed socio-economic/cultural circumstances by appealing to customer awareness and cognitive response to company self-profiling in narrative and even technical terms. Her analysis shows that languaging contributes to configuring new corporate identities as well as to shared appreciation of social values, e.g. fair competition, service quality, consumer and environment protection.

MARTIN SOLLY addresses the dilemma of how professional communities of practice reconcile the need to follow the traditional canons of their specialized discourse communities with that of keeping pace with innovation, at a time of major technological and social change. Instances are provided of languaging strategies and language choice from the professional communities of healthcare and the law. Using communicative competence as an indicator of professional credibility and community membership, he also examines the pedagogical implications of languaging practices in these professional communities, highlighting domain-specific discourse features of use for future professionals to ‘language’ successfully in their communities of practice.

MICHELANGELO CONOSCENTI investigates a corpus of military documents (NATO, US and UK Armed Forces, 1993–2013) working from the assumption that, having lost their ideological primacy in the post-’89 world, the Military need to win public support through a narrative superseding prior us vs them polarizations. His analysis thus queries the reframing of doctrinal military discourse on Information Operations in the West and how the ‘new’ vocabulary has been appropriated by ‘the Rest’, documenting the evolution of language engineering techniques.

MARIA GRAZIA GUIDO, starting from her contribution to the 2001 Textus issue edited by Cortese/Hymes, and using a sample of student participants from the same linguacultural background as in that case study, and again applying think-aloud techniques to obtain ‘languaging protocols’, explores divergent interpretations of English modals across different ELF communities, with a view to corroborating the hypothesis that community identities are dynamically and consciously constructed through socio-cultural, even ideological, processes of languaging.

CYNTHIA KELLETT BIDOLI, who published her first article on Sign Language in the same 2001 Textus issue and has gone a long way with ← 21 | 22 → her research on a (then) complete ‘newcomer’ to Italian Universities, looks back on the intervening fourteen years and provides a detailed narrative of the progress made since that time, the meaningful steps in national and international cooperation that have given this specialized domain growing prominence and brought Italian research onto the international scene.

3.   A bit of a (gendered) narrative: Giuseppina Cortese

A gentle tap at the door, and the student was in her office with the unforgettable question: “I am in charge of tutoring a deaf person, English will be a tough exam for sure, how can I help, where do I start?” A challenge, it was. In two weeks, Cortese contacted all deaf associations, met their regional coordinators and the former students of deaf schools which no longer existed, spent nights reading through piles of journals, documents, regulations, and with her zest for textuality, started picking out differences in syntax, punctuation and tense usage in the writing of ‘oralists’ and ‘signers’. Then, through her habit of sharing ideas with us, I found myself not only in the picture but very much in the foreground. It led to my first experiment in teaching English to deaf students from all the Faculties at the University of Turin; a Special Project approved under the Rector’s auspices. I explored the scientific literature and started networking with colleagues at the University of Trieste, where Giuseppina Cortese had taught for three years as a newly appointed full professor. d/Deaf communities, deaf education and deaf (neuro)linguistics: I started reflecting on my own teaching experience and publishing… and have never stopped since (see, for example, Ochse 2001, 2005, 2011). In the meantime, when writing up the workplan of our Unit in a national and international research project, she would manage to fit in a persuasive section on Sign Languages and we found ourselves, with our Trieste colleagues, involved in international programmes and events, the major and most recent one being, in my own case, the two-year ← 22 | 23 → EU SignMedia Lifelong Learning Project 2010–2012 <http://www.signmedia/tv/>.3

‘Growing’ together has been exciting, all these years. Looking back, Pina Cortese’s profound belief in the constructive essence of freedoms has been the key: freedoms from as well as freedoms to. Above all, freedom to try oneself out and to cultivate one’s own talent in teaching and doing research: an ideal which she has always pursued and fostered in the coordination of her research group.

While consolidating a diversified research unit,4 Pina Cortese was herself defining and increasingly refining her own approach to discourse analysis – integrating, in her teaching and in her research, macro- and microtextual analysis into an interdisciplinary framework, sociolinguistic, cross-cultural and intensely cognitive, tying together mind, culture, place and social variables. Over the years, a double leitmotif can be identified throughout her personal development as a scholar and author. Firstly, a desire to pursue ‘speechways’ – language choices, styles and more generally, ‘ways with words’ – for their social significance. Borrowing from the title of a famous reflection on gender, ← 23 | 24 → one could say that central to her treatment of language is the persuasion that parler n’est jamais neutre:5 parler can be extended, in her case, to include all languaging skills, including translation and language pedagogy. And the non-neutrality of language choices extends well beyond the scenario of gender issues. Equally prominent, and starting from her book on Afro-American writing, is an unflinching attention to the Other: those identified by Frantz Fanon – one of her favourite authors – as the ‘damned of the earth’. Pina Cortese’s focus on discourse can clearly be identified as the underscoring of the strength and resilience of the marginalized and the oppressed, paying attention to their survival strategies as much as to the old and new strategies of the social and political elites to keep them in their place. The genres she has investigated range from academic writing to international conventions to corpora of recorded speech and web-posted documents. Whatever the nature of the document, her analyses explore the fine grain of the text and are supported by carefully selected scientific sources in and outside linguistics. In this her propensity for the social arena found in the Turin University Faculty of Scienze Politiche the best possible ground: early readings in nonviolence and in alternative pedagogies, which deeply influenced also her approach to language policies and didactics, were further stimulated by contacts with anthropologists, sociologists and scholars in political science. The colloquium organized by Pina Cortese on children’s rights, with jurists, sociologists and discourse analysts working together, and the ensuing volume (Cortese 2011b), is an obvious example of her appreciation of interdisciplinarity.

Her analytical treatment of textual data, whether spoken or written, whether coming from tangible or virtual, web-posted sources, is always constitutive of a larger investigation. Throughout her essays, there runs a humanistic concern: texts are technically important in that they provide ‘text-based evidence’ for debating the predicament of specific human groups. The attention, increasing over the years, to the language of the body and the language of the emotions reinforces this constantly emerging concern for justice and dignity in relation to issues of power, e.g. the role of the daily press and its language in constructing and representing social change in the domain of gender. Quantitative ← 24 | 25 → corpus data serve a qualitative framework, questioning e.g. the writing process, the significance and the actual political effectiveness of international treaties concerning children’s rights.

Her investigation into language and gender, starting in the late 1990s with her authentic ad hoc corpus for the key lecture on ‘Language and gender in conversational narratives’ (Cortese 1996), and subsequently her work on the role of alcohol in ‘doing’ adolescence (Cortese 2008a, 2010, 2011a), were soon followed by important analyses of international documents on children’s rights, which largely anticipate current tragedies which are making the headlines today. This is no mere intuition or tender-hearted ‘sensitivity’, nor can one claim that it it wears the colours of ideology. The Introduction to the 2001 issue of Textus, where the personal and the public dimensions of writing often reinforce each other, makes it clear that these concerns originate from her post-war childhood in rural Southern Italy and from iconic memories which have permanently affected her view of the world, e.g. the public warning showing, as depicted in her essay, a child disabled by a landmine in the Terra di Lavoro, the war-ridden countryside where she was born. Then, in the late 1960s, came the discovery of her other ancestral roots in the Northern city of Turin, which she saw as an urban mixture of ethnic and class conflict. In between and afterwards, her long study and research periods in the United States, with higher education in English and Comparative Literature. Thus, Pina Cortese is an Anglicist whose identity has remained firmly Italian, though her social concerns have taken on an international turn facilitated by a fine-tuning of English. She would welcome a direct echo of Hymes, where he defined himself ‘an accidental linguist’ – to underscore her modesty and, more notably, her persuasion that linguistics belongs with the human and social sciences, centred on the totality of the human being and faced with the complexity of social change.


ISBN (Softcover)
Publication date
2016 (April)
Discourse analysis Speech communities English as a Lingua Franca Learner's dictionary Late Modern English Vocabulary
Bern, Berlin, Bruxelles, Frankfurt am Main, New York, Oxford, Wien, 2016. 507 pp.

Biographical notes

Sandra Campagna (Volume editor) Elana Ochse (Volume editor) Virginia Pulcini (Volume editor) Martin Solly (Volume editor)

Sandra Campagna, Elana Ochse, Virginia Pulcini and Martin Solly work at the University of Torino where they teach and carry out research in the field of English Language, Linguistics and Translation.


Title: Languaging in and across Communities: New Voices, New Identities
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526 pages