SLICE Media – University of Copenhagen

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SLICE media strand

It is widely accepted that broadcast mass media, meaning television and radio, have historically played important roles in the linguistic and ideological processes we refer to as 'standardisation'.

Standard language ideology (SLI) has often been promoted through broadcast media, for example in the BBC's more or less explicit mission in Britain, at certain times, to promote 'proper' ways of speaking on a 'national' basis. In the BBC's case (which is perhaps unique), promoting 'standards' in speech was even construed as falling within its public service remit.

In many other communities, SLI has been linked to nation-building, where the key assumption has been that 'standard language' is a prerequisite for an integrated and harmonious nation-state. Broadcast media, and particularly their most 'serious' and authorised genres, have generally had the reach and impact needed to promote such values.

Powerful social changes - working at different speeds and with different degrees of impact in different places - seem to have undermined the ideological value of 'standardness' itself, and the broadcast media's need or ability to carry SLI in particular. This is why we need to investigae the possibility of 'destandardisation', or a retreat from the dominance of SLI in broadcast media, where it existed.

While 'standard language' (e.g. Received Pronunciation, RP, in Britain) is still very much in evidence in the mass media, it appears to be positioned differently. RP may be less evenly distributed across broadcast genres (there may simply be proportionally fewer RP speakers in the media), or the traditional genres with which RP has been associated may be less prominent or less uniform (news, for example, in the multi-channel age is broadcast in many different formats and styles, in a greater range of formats).

Mediated RP may be less revered than it apparently was, in the sense that other voices compete in its traditional environments (e.g. 'experts' may no longer have to speak RP, vernacular speakers may not be presented as working class prototypes), or because the ideology of 'properness' may have become less important in the missions of broadcasting institutions.

As broadcast media become more open to transnational and global influences, and as commercialisation and commodification accelerate, mass media may be finding new values in vernacular ways of speaking, and in representations of 'the local' in general. The SLIs orchestrated by elites and by 'the establishment' in some nation-states, particularly through their social class hierarchies, may be generally less credible, less authoritative or less well-formed nowadays.

Coordinator of the media strand is Nikolas Coupland.