Vol. 8 (2019)

In times when meanings have become fluid and highly contextual because of cultural ambivalence, access to information and the multimodality of communication, the study of languages and its complexities have become very crucial in understanding the world and the societies we live in.

This issue of Langkit focuses on Language Studies and attempts to capture the nuances and fluidity of meanings by problematizing and interrogating the dynamics of language use and communication and in particular, drawing out the power relations informed by state policies and media outlets. In the process, the articles show that language does indeed reflect and shape social order. Taking different a turn from the traditional approaches of studying language, the articles forward an interdisciplinary approach, particularly ideological discourse where language reflect social dynamics and interaction. In this sense, the articles present a novel of way of looking at language studies.

McLellan’s article entitled Towards Dehegemonizing the English Language”: Perspectives of a ‘Centre’ Researcher Working in the ‘Periphery’ decentralizes the notion of standard English and recognizes writers from the periphery who “writes back” thereby dehegemonizing English as a global language. Another argument forwarded by McLellan is how theories of Applied Linguistics are misapplied in two areas: language policies and language learning and teaching. Nations from Southeast Asia such as Brunei, the Philippines and Malaysia have always struggled to develop appropriate language policies that will answer the needs of their diverse ethnolinguistic groups. Questions on whether to retain the colonial language or switch to national or official language have always been a contentious issue among language scholars and policy makers. Language policies such as the Mother Tongue Based Language education (MTBLE) and bilingual medium of education are attempts to “balance” the use of English and local languages and are always considered in the name of nationalism and national unity. McLellan argues that problems arise when we look to the monolingual and anglocentric ‘West’ for theories of Applied Linguistics and used these to analyze the language situation of the multilingual and multiethnic Southeast Asian nations. Language teaching and learning, on the other hand, centers on “the debate over the use or proscription of the teacher’s and students’ shared first language (L1) in the second-language (L2) classroom, especially where the L2 in question is English.” In this sense, there is a need to problematize code switching and translanguaging in language teaching and learning.

As a conclusion, McLellan’s article proposes a model wherein Applied Linguistics is expanded to include other fields of social sciences thereby making the discipline synchronic and multidimensional. Another area which McLellan opens is the paucity and scarcity of theorizing from Asian context and emphasizes the need for mainstreaming this kind of research and breaking the mode of commercializing knowledge.

Mollejon’s paper entitled Exploring Cross-Cultural Self-Disclosure of Women Facebook Users attempts to explore self-disclosure among women from two actively involved countries on Facebook, India and the Philippines. Using Altman and Taylor’s Social Penetration Theory and Hall’s Iceberg Model of Culture, the
article expounds how social networking sites such as Facebook changes the notion of self-disclosure by analyzing the breadth in terms of topics and subject matter and depth which pertains to degree of intimacy. Through content analysis, the article utilizes as corpus of the study posts from Indian and Filipino women and takes into consideration how the different modes of communication aside from language, such as visuals and other codes reconfigure the meaning of self-disclosure. The strength of the study is the assertion that just like face to face communication, self-disclosure in social network tends to be superficial because sharing of personal intimacy, based on the responses, seems to be unreciprocated. Reciprocity must also be evident for it to go beyond the surface. In this sense, self- disclosure remains to be culture-driven regardless of the medium.

The last two articles deal with how mass media such as newspapers frame issues like the Marawi siege and international tourism as shown in news headlines. Both articles prove how language can be a potent tool in representing and meaning making and in the process validates how powerful media can be in forming and influencing political ideologies.

The article The Language of Online News Headline: Discoursing the Marawi Crisis by Villa, Ybanez and Esteban analyzes the language use of 313 headlines which deal with the Marawi Siege crisis and its aftermath from the online platforms of MindaNews, a local newspaper and of the Philippine Daily Inquirer, a national broadsheet. The main argument forwarded by the paper is that through deliberate choice of lexical items, headlines will be able to “heighten” or “dilute” truths and facts and contribute to the meaning and portrayal of actors in the news. Using Van Dijk’s Sociocognitive Approach as a framework, the paper posits a multidisciplinary approach in contextualizing meanings; the Framing Approach on the other hand is a tool which enables the researchers to “categorize events, pay attention to some aspects rather than others, and decide what an experience or event means or how it came about”. Taken together, the approaches were able to reveal that MindaNews has the tendency to use passive voice, can be informative yet provocative in the way it languages its headlines. The Philippine Daily Inquirer, on the other hand, frequently uses active voice and can be informative yet emotive and also provocative. The paper also reveals that newspapers intentionally implant and invest attitudes into news reports by choosing words of their interests for impacting readers’ perception about the Marawi crisis. It also shows that word choice can be used by news reporters to convey certain attitudes which may capture the interests of the readers.

The last article Representing Asia: The Language of Tourism Slogans by Esteban and Jalova deals with how the various countries in Asia are being represented in tourism industry by analyzing 23 slogans which were taken from tourism online sites. Just like the previous article, it analyzes the lexical items of the slogans and how these foreground national labels by specifically mentioning the countries they promote and putting into the background Asia as a continent. Reinforcing the findings is the survey done to college students where they rank the slogans according to influence and personal preference. Semantic analysis shows the prevalent use of metaphors to heighten the imagery of the countries being promoted.

A significant gap that the study addresses is how tourism industry can be seen as a discourse and the use of English in the slogans suggests an emerging (or perhaps unnoticed) phrasal structure (adverb + noun) pattern in the crafting of slogans. These are Malaysia’s Truly Asia, Nepal’s Naturally Nepal, and Sri Lanka’s Refreshingly Sri Lanka. The study shows the crucial role of language in the branding of countries
which is very essential in tourism industries.

The four articles show different approaches in the study of language and its various forms. Prevalent in the articles are the shifting of paradigms on how we look at English as a dominant language and how multimodality in communication can reconfigure meanings and representations. Lexical (word) choices can be manipulated to serve the interests of media outlets and linguistic structures do matter in influencing readers’ preferences. In understanding the political, social and cultural dynamics of the societies where we live in, language plays a very crucial role in shaping our views and perspectives. Language, therefore, as a social practice, will never be neutral but always value laden.

Nelia G. Balgoa, DHS

Published: 11/01/2019

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