Disciplining Language and the Language of Discipline

Disciplining Language and the Language of Discipline: A Case Study on Linguistic Methods for Classroom Management from an English-Medium School in India

Jessica Chandras



This paper explores the linguistic methods used for classroom management in an Englishmedium school in Maharashtra, India. This study is based on data collected through participant observation conducted in third and fourth grade classrooms in 2014. It documents how interactions between teachers and students serve to maintain the language of instruction (English) in a context where instructional language differs from students’ and teachers’ first languages (Marathi). I demonstrate that teachers use linguistic methods to convey meaning in English while also disciplining and socializing students into academic language norms. These methods include code switching, or alternating between languages, and discourse markers, which are phrases that take on significance based on their context in utterances. Findings indicate that code switching from Marathi to English marks not only linguistic, but also behavioral transgressions. I argue that code switching, among other strategies, concretizes the delineation of English as an academic language and Marathi as a subversive language in the classroom. This analysis contributes a unique ethnographic perspective to debates in linguistic anthropology and the anthropology of education regarding how broader societal expectations in relation to students’ language and behavior are defined through language use in classrooms.

Keywords: India; education; classroom discourse

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