Meaning-Making as Dialogic Process: Official and Carnival Lives in the Language Classroom

Adrian Blackledge, Angela Creese

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


    This article adopts a Bakhtinian analysis to understand the complexities of discourse in language-learning classrooms. Drawing on empirical data from two of four linked case studies in a larger, ESRC-funded project, we argue that students learning in complementary (also known as community language, supplementary, or heritage language) schools create "second lives" in the classroom. They do this through the use of carnivalesque language, introducing new voices into classroom discourse, using mockery and parody to subvert tradition and authority, and engaging in the language of "grotesque realism." Students use varieties of parodic language to mock their teacher, to mock each other, to mock notional students as second-language learners, and to mock their school's attempts to transmit reified versions of "cultural heritage." These creative discourse strategies enable the students to create carnival lives in the classroom that provide alternatives to the official worlds of their teachers. In doing so the students are able to move in and out of official and carnival worlds, making meaning in discourse that is dialogic, as they represent themselves and others in voices that cut across boundaries in complex, creative, sophisticated ways.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)236-253
    Number of pages18
    JournalJournal of Language, Identity and Education
    Issue number4
    Publication statusPublished - 1 Sept 2009


    • parody
    • carnival
    • dialogism
    • language
    • creativity
    • multilingualism


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