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Journal of Cross-Cultural and Interlanguage Communication

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General theorizing on language, society, and education: Basil Bernstein, Goldilocks, and/or the Energizer bunny

Frederick Erickson1

1Professor of Anthropology of Education and Professor of Applied Linguistics at the University of California, Los Angeles.

Address for correspondence: UCLA Graduate School of Education & Information Studies, 2320C Moore Hall, Box 951521, Los Angeles, CA 90095–1521.

Citation Information: Multilingua - Journal of Cross-Cultural and Interlanguage Communication. Volume 28, Issue 2-3, Pages 133–142, ISSN (Online) 1613-3684, ISSN (Print) 0167-8507, DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/mult.2009.007, August 2009

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After briefly outlining Bernstein's personal and educational history, the paper goes on to review the scope of his work over the past 30 years, his theoretical contribution and his position among colleagues in the post-WWII era of British sociology. There follows a more detailed examination of the main tenets of his theory, pointing out that Bernstein's strategy was to present his ideas in the form of dichotomies, such as that between modes of socialization as personal or positional, and of linguistic codes as elaborated or restricted. The paper suggests that while critical issues in educational thinking and in sociology varied through the course of Bernstein's career, such as the study of socialization and its consequences for social reproduction, his dichotomizing remained a constant strategy throughout his writings. I end by briefly referring to my own work that offers some possible alternatives to Bernstein's dichotomies, concluding, however, that the enduring quality of Bernstein owes not a little to the appeal of his overly sharp theoretical distinctions.

Keywords:: restricted codes; elaborated codes; social reproduction; social control; framing of knowledge

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