Book Chapter

'A typical gentleman': Metapragmatic stereotypes as systems of distinction


Blackledge A & Creese A (2015) 'A typical gentleman': Metapragmatic stereotypes as systems of distinction. In: Arnaut K, Blommaert J, Rampton B & Spotti M (eds.) Language and Superdiversity. New York: Taylor & Francis, pp. 155-173.

Superdiversity refers not only to the effects of new migration patterns, but also to the outcomes of generations of migration. Recent changes in the demography of urban centres do not, of course, erase the experience of established populations. In superdiverse contexts, as elsewhere, language in use has a significant role in shaping society. In this chapter, we analyse interactions in a Panjabi-heritage family and peer group, and suggest that social differences are regularly produced in the deployment of metapragmatic stereotypes. The study we report is the United Kingdom section of an international linguistic ethnographic research project, ‘Investigating Discourses of Inheritance and Identity in Four Multilingual European Settings’.1 The project investigated the range of language and literacy practices of multilingual young people in the four European settings, explored the cultural and social significance of these practices, and investigated how their language and literacy practices were used to negotiate inheritance and identities. The focus of the present chapter is linguistic ethnographic research conducted with students and teachers associated with a Panjabi complementary (also known as ‘community language’, or ‘heritage language’) school in Birmingham, UK. The main purpose of the school is to teach Panjabi to young people of ‘Panjabi heritage’. In this chapter, we consider the discursive means by which families and peer groups create systems of distinction between categories of persons. As we examined the abundance of linguistic material collected through observa - tional field notes, interviews, and audio-and video-recordings, we noticed that very often, speakers commented on the way other people spoke, made verbal representations of other people’s speech, and invoked metapragmatic stereotypes to evaluate other people and, at times, themselves. This ‘metacommentary’ (Rymes 2014) served as a resource to reproduce the existing social order. As such, metacommentary and the representation of metapragmatic stereotypes were recruited in the service of social relations with respect to class, ethnicity, and national belonging. In order to discuss the deployment of these resources, we first engage with the notions of ‘register’ and ‘stereotypes’.

Behavioural sciences; education; language & literature;

Language and Superdiversity

Publication date21/12/2015
Publication date online22/12/2015
PublisherTaylor & Francis
Place of publicationNew York