THE SOCIAL PSYCHOLOGY OF
LANGUAGE TEACHING -- Part 1

Dr. Leon James
Professor of Psychology
University of Hawaii
(c)1978

Table of Contents
Introduction
To the bottom
Part 2
Part 3
Part 4

1. Introduction: Coming of Age

The Social Psychology of Language Teaching is the neologistic title we propose for the remarks contained in this contribution in honor of Professor Yoshio Ogawa. This compound nominal reflects the dual academic background of the two authors. At the University of Hawaii, we teach an undergraduate sequence, the first of which is called "Social Psychology" ("Psych 222"), and the second, "Applied Psycholinguistics in Social Psychology" ("Psych 324"). Our intent in these courses is to train students in objectifying experience through detailed descriptive cataloguing of their ordinary activities on the daily round. Neither "Social Psychology" grafted on to Psychology, nor "Language Teaching" grafted on to Linguistics, has yielded a field of engineering that exploits the medium of human discourse. The teaching of language remains an art despite the technologies of applied linguistics and educational psychology. Social Psychology today despite its great academic success, is only a token and theoretical force in the management of institutions and the governance of community existence. We shall argue that only in their combined efforts can Social Psychology and Language Teaching form a real social engineering field. A Social Psychology of Language Teaching comes of age with a shift in focus from the inferential experimentalism that characterizes Social Psychology by itself (as in Gardner and Lambert, 1972, or Brown, 1965), i.e., without Language Teaching, to a descriptive cataloguing; this latter methodology is ethno-methodological rather than nomothetic and experimental. (Refer to Table 1; underlined words in text appear in the table.)

This shift in focus in Social Psychology has not widely occurred and may not even be visible to many of our colleagues, though in Sociology, the ethnomethodological perspective has had a more profound impact (Sudnow, 1972). Nomothetic, experimental, and statistical (inferential) research represents the standard publishable format of investigation in virtually all social science literature in the United States today. Understanding the behavior of man in a social environment becomes a most elusive goal in such a context; this is because inferential reasoning based on generalized and abstracted "data" form the primary facts of life, rather than careful observation of the social scene. In effect, inferential experimentalism subjectifies the actuality of an individual's daily existence; the principles of such a psychology protect a mythical drama of subjective life in terms of conditioning, genetic predispositions, and a personality based on learning and motivation. Such a theoretical view of what each of us know ourselves to be may be either sympathetic to an individual or the contrary, but it is hardly adequate as a scientific basis for conducting ourselves in the course of daily existence in society. Instead, inferential reasoning about man and experimentalism about man's conditions, ought to be counterbalanced by the "strict" description or cataloguing of the practices of community life. The wish to experiment is a creative subjectifying involvement that must be counterbalanced by a devotion to objectifying experience through strict descriptive reporting.

To the dramatizing conceptions and psychodynamic dialectics of "personality", "group conflict", and ''reference group", we need to add the de-dramatizing titles and corresponding ethnodynamic dialectics of "ethnicity" and "standardized imaginings" on the "daily round" of socialized existence. This shift in focus acquires an ethno-methotological orientation: its primary goal is to describe the frame of behavior, rather than to make its sequence coherent to a conventionalized and historicalized "rational" account. Instead of explaining behavior out of context, it focuses on describing behavior in its ordinary and natural setting. Goffman (1971) used the term "Daily Round" to refer to the physical places a person can visit in the community. We find this image quite appealing and useful in the daily round: from bed-to-bed every day of one's life. However, we've extended the reference to a person's routine places of visitations to include the physical, mental, and relationship planes. To catalogue an individual's actual life in the course of a day, one must report in detail along all three planes: one's physical displacements, one ' s talk (to others and self), and one's transactional exchanges.

Understanding behavior in social settings cannot be accomplished by investigating behavior under controlled conditions or by describing social settings as places where behavior occurs. Instead of the abstracted reference group or of underlying rules, one needs the simple concrete and literal objectivity of the daily round; instead of the inferential cognitive processes of learning and motivation, one needs the descriptive cataloguing of objectified reports of one's experiences on the daily round: thoughts, emotions, feelings, transactions.1 There is no need to explain how one thinks, talks, and transacts. To the individual on the daily round, legendary preoccupations in the dramatized registers of psychology are involving and exciting dimensions of socialized existence; however, there is a price to pay in terms of group stigma and personal dysfunction in areas where the individual feels himself the victimized object of inadequacy, anxiety, avoidance, and boredom. In contradistinction to these reified myths, the individual has available an ethnodynamic dialectics of liberation within community: that is what we refer to as objectifying vs. subjectifying community life.

Community life integrates the individual into the commercial and transactional goings-on of the daily round. This integration of the individual into the functioning of the already on-going organized life, i.e., "the community", is called "acculturation", viz. the transformation of the individual into the community member. Acculturation has various components, e.g., enculturation, socialization, and assimilation. These are socio-functional features of community life which include self-maintenance and progressivist characteristics such as the specialized treatment of graded population groups (e.g., children, the aged, women, blue-collar workers, etc.).

Education and training are social engineering routines for socialization and assimilation. Teachers occupy a well known position in the building of society; they are agents of acculturation. In the history of civilization, oral ant written literacy have been treated as the vehicle of cultural transmission (tradition, customs, mores, etc.). The format, medium, or coinage of conventionalized exchanges on the daily round of community life is "ritual". Ritualizing refers to the coordinated, routine operations that participants execute in the course of their behavior. Thus, the primary function of education and training is the processing of the individual: in the course of this processing, the person acquires well established routines for operating in the positions provided by the community, i.e., the individual's "station" in society. This integration of the individual into community life is accomplished through the mere fact of processing: in this process, the individual gets assimilated.

The primary manifestation of assimilation lies in the human imagination (Coleridge). In ethnosemantics, it is called standardized would happen if...?; or, Imagine that...; or, I'd better. .. or else...; and so on. Standardized imaginings guide suppositions, presuppositions, and implications. Intelligence scores, academic achievement scores, as well as entertainment, depend on the individual's access to pre-established routines of processing information: known facts, noted events, famous arguments, standard topics, historical frames, conventionalized forms and categories, expected functions, established procedures---in short, the particular community practices that regulars recognize reciprocally, i.e., ethnicity.1

The morphotopological2 definition of ethnicity is given by the triadic compound derived from standardized imaginings, community and socio-functional. In predicational terms we render this as follows:

"STANDARDIZED IMAGININGS is the MEDIUM that ESTABLISHES COMMUNITY as a SOCIOFUNCTIONAL MANIFOLD."3

In more usual and elaborated phraseology, we can say that

(1) the notion of "community" (as in "community life") implies a system of organization maintained and transmitted through acculturation efforts;

(2) these efforts of educating and training individuals in society are general, persistent and ambient, i.e., they form a socio-cultural environment for the individual;

(3) socio-cultural environments can be described by observing systematicities or regularities in the "events" that organize the public life and order of the community; these social scientific investigations yield explanatory principles; these explanations are "socio-functional" in the sense that community events get recorded, i.e., treated as information which governs social occasions and personal conduct;

(4) the functions of information are regulated by community practices; information units become socio-functional in the sense that their structure and accessibility are governed by strict categorical practices governing the community transactions (e.g., lexical items and titles);

(5) enculturation, socialization, and assimilation are primary social engineering efforts of education and training in establishing particular units of information viewed as a sociofunctional commodity;

(6) the ethnodynamic "field of action" or "medium" within which socio-functional units of information are visible, graspable, and interchangeable, is imagination; in more objectified terms, we can say the "medium of imaginings" since to imagine (or to suppose, to visualize, to formulate, etc.) is an activity; however, note that this activity, as are all others on the daily round, is carried out by each and every individual according to pre-established routines; therefore, we can say "the medium of standardized imaginings" or, simply, standardized imaginings;

(7) thus, standardized imaginings is an individually executed routine whose characteristics are given by visible community practices; that is, categorical, strict, and descriptive cataloguing procedures are routinized and established in the community, i.e., on the daily round: these constitute the records of community life: what's been noticed, talked about, given a title, labeled, named, or identified through a framing ritual (e.g., presentations, publications, and exhibits);

(8) the records of community life are visible in framed presentations or exhibits: e.g., reports, stories, conversations, books, documents, pamphlets, etc.; the organized efforts of the community to record itself is visible in the various

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