Raising (the) standard(s):
a corpus linguistics-critical discourse analysis investigation of language ideologies and their potential impact on English teachers’ knowledge about language

  • Babette Verhoeven

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


Inspired by conflicting messages about language teaching in current GCSE and A level English Language guidance, this investigation hypothesises that the long-standing issue of English teachers lacking knowledge about language (KAL) could be the result of contradictory language ideologies (LIs) affecting English teachers’ cognition. LIs are the shared beliefs, attitudes and values about language and its usage, and are mostly implicitly expressed in discourses ostensibly concerned with other topics such as migration and indeed, education. As such, this research’s hypothesis provokes two subsidiary research questions: 1. What LIs are English teachers exposed to both as members of the secondary English teaching Community of Practice (CoP) and as members of contemporary British society? And, 2. How can one locate such LIs?

To identify potential LIs that English teachers encounter, a corpus linguistics approach is taken in combination with critical discourse analysis (CL-CDA). This investigation proposes selecting nodes drawn from frequency lists, as well as commonly used nodes such as language names to locate a wide range of potential LIs. To identify LIs that teachers in England are exposed to, three corpora are investigated: two large news corpora and one consisting of secondary English teaching materials, as these corpora represent the LI discourses that teachers are likely to encounter.

Using insights from lexical priming and combined discourse analysis with cognitive linguistics, this investigation argues that LIs conveyed through evaluative language shapes English teachers’ cognition, primarily because of conflicting messages in hegemonic LI discourses, which teachers have to assimilate and act upon without guidance or support. The research concludes that since hegemonic, non-linguistic LIs are overwhelmingly present in both popular and in educational discourses (where these conflict with explicit linguistically informed LI), they are a likely contributory factor to English teachers’ lack of metalinguistic awareness.
Date of Award19 May 2023
Original languageEnglish
SupervisorJessica Malay (Main Supervisor)

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