MulticultuREALISM and EMI (English as the Medium of Instruction)

Proceedings (Part 2) of the South African Applied Linguistics Association conference ‘Our multilingual society: Supporting the reality,’ Port Elizabeth: University of Port Elizabeth, 1993.

Author – Raphael Gamaroff


Pidgin’s answer to Babel?

Culture and cognitive functioning

The reality-construction view

The mapping view

Problems in translation: Bantu languages and English

Problems in EMI

Reality construction view revisited

The mystique of culture/language versus information exchange.




In black education in South Africa, EMI begins from Std 3. Problems which arise during this transition continue well into secondary and tertiary education, and often result in academic failure. One of the causes of academic failure is attributed to the clash between first language-culture and English language-culture. For this reason multiculturalism has become an important branch of study in education; with the increasing danger of evolving into another hobby-horse. This paper contrasts two conceptions of the relation between language and reality. There is the mapping view, which claims that all language groups share in a common world, where each language represents a different map of this common world. This means that a knowledge of a specific map is all that is required to translate from one language to another. This mapping view is represented in South Africa by those who claim that what is at stake is the national “culture of information exchange”, and not the attachment to different cultures. In contrast to the mapping view, there is the reality-construction view, which claims that there is no direct access to the world out there, and that reality is constructed out of our fallible perceptions. It is the “Western” construction of the world, more accurately, the “culture of the modern world” that is dominant today. It is argued that information exchange is indeed what is at stake in a modern nation, but that this information exchange is not merely the result of a translation between linguistic maps, but also has to do, at a deeper level, with a construction of a particular “Western” view of the world that has imposed itself on the reality-constructions of other cultures, specifically the black cultures of South Africa. And it is this imposition (imposture?) of the “Western” view that plays a significant, but certainly not the only, role in academic failure. It is also argued that the informational function should be seen as only one of many functions of language-culture.The overarching message of the paper is a plea for constructive realism in multicultural education.



Modern anthropologists are aware that any worthwhile investigation of culture should treat with circumspection all descriptions of behaviour that take purely linguistic forms (Bloch, 1990). In the academic world of texts we are mostly concerned with purely linguistic forms. For this reason I would rather not describe the perhaps more interesting non-linguistic messages conveyed to me, a participant, in the discussions I had with a black South African educationist during the first few months of 1993. I shall only report his linguistic meanings and not the interesting non-linguistic ethnographical details. His view is shared by other black South African academics, some of whom work in the same educational institution as I. I mention two opinions of my informant (Informant 1), as I have formalised them:

1. My informant questions the bona fides of anyone who assumes that mother tongue education is a sound principle.

2. Multiculturalism, i.e. conceptual relativism (e.g. Western science versus African culture), is a myth ( the term myth throughout this paper carries the pedestrian meaning of “exaggeration”, “fabrication”).

The question is whether these two opinions reflect a grasp of educational realities or are rather a misguided (but understandable) reaction to the injustices of apartheid ideology. In this paper I try and provide some thoughts that touch on these two problems from a philosophical point of view. I shall argue two points:

1. The mother tongue is indispensable in the education process, from basic interpersonal skills to a high degree of academic literacy. This point relates to the next point.

2. Concepts are culturally mediated. I argue that “culture” does not only distinguish between groups, but also distinguishes between individuals within the same group. My main argument will be that the root of the problems of multiculturalism in EMI lies, firstly, in the confusion that occurs between members of “Western culture” who teach and write (text-)books for members of a “non-Western culture”; and, secondly, in the clash between these two different world views in the learning situation. In fact, the teaching and the learning problem are two sides of the same cultural coin.

Pidgin’s answer to Babel?

Along the South coast of China is found the most extreme example of Babel than possibly anywhere else in the world. A traveller encounters a new language every five or six kilometres, where inhabitants of one village have difficulty understanding the inhabitants of another. Merchants along the coast, who come from all parts of the world, have for centuries been using a pidgin Chinese-English as a lingua franca for these regions (Karlgren, 1962:18, Dillard, 1975:12-14). Here is what one of these merchants is likely to say if he had my thoughts at this moment:

Me one talkee person, me hab grandee time, me lub one talk; me no can talkee-talkee, me no lib good.(I am a very talkative person. I’m going to have a grand time. If you don’t allow me to speak at the conference, I’m going to be unhappy).

No doubt an excellent tool for exchanging basic information, which Chomsky (1966:22) describes as a “characteristic of no real human language, but only of invented parasitic systems”. Pidgin may indeed be a “parasite” – a fallen angel – because it feeds on the living tissue of natural languages, but, on the other hand, it is, relative to natural languages quite productive and systematic. As Dillard (1975:41) points out, pidgin appears very natural and is very useful to many kinds of people (e.g. (slave) traders, exploited populations, immigrants, lonely foreigners). Therefore it is undoubtably true that pidgin is a marvellous post-Babelian invention that transcends the confusion; a potion that neutralises the poison of non-communication. Unfortunately, pidgin is clearly limited when it comes to going beyond basic information exchange, to the need to talk about pidgin and “natural” languages like English, Tswana and Zulu, to academic needs, to academic language proficiency, which is our main concern. I distinguish, as Cummins'(1983, 1984) does, between basic interpersonal and communicative skills (BICS) and cognitive and academic language proficiency (CALP). (Note 1). These needs are the mainsprings of culture in the academic domain.

Culture and cognitive functioning

When I asked my Practical English students at Fort Hare to write a definition of culture, they invariably came up with rote textbook descriptions culled from their other subjects: “Culture refers to the norms and values…”, etc. Now, norms and values are the kind of “objective” things that do indeed belong to specific groups, which an individual has to conform to. But let us for a while suspend this traditional definition of culture and consider it anew.

Here is an extract, mistakes and all, from one of my Practical English students’ essays. The title was “Home is where the hope is”. I have substituted “culture” for “home”:

In a universal perspective home [culture] may be defined as an individual continent or world, where its inner circumstances is perfumed and gorgeoused by the sounding existence of happiness created by freedom of religion, personal custom, uncramped dignity, norms and values. The happiness which permits its development, a compounded feeling which proves itself to be only love which is strong as death, that love which many waters cannot quench, nor the floods drown, beside which the passion usually by called by the name is evanescant as a dream.

I asked (separately) two Practical English lecturers and one philosophy lecturer for their judgements. I quote:

First Practical English lecturer: “What a lot of nonsense. It does not make sense.”

Second Practical English lecturer: “He has imagination. Creative. A good effort.”

Philosopher: “I like it. I would give it a good mark. A bit flowery.”

I then discussed the passage with the first PE lecturer and the philosopher together. Here are a few quotes from the two of them:

First Practical English lecturer: Both of you are philosophers. You are used to extending boundaries. I like to impose them. My training is different to yours. I look for the limits of things. You look beyond the limits of things.

Philosopher: If you think this passage is meaningless you should try Derrida for size.

The First PE lecturer is right. I look beyond the limit of things, or of words rather. For this reason I do not care whether the student breaks the limit (especially in this type of “creative” writing). Indeed I encourage it. According to Popper (1977:268), creative thinking is characterised by the ability to break through the limits of the range – or to vary the range…This ability, which is critical ability, may be described as critical imagination. It is often the result of culture clash, that is a clash between ideas, of frameworks of ideas.

Popper advises that we should not confuse the “creative thinking” of critical imagination with “successful thinking”. What Popper seems to be saying is that there is a distinction between creating new combinations of ideas for one’s self, and creating them for the world, in the sense of a scientific breakthrough (which is often a matter of luck, e.g. the discovery of the light filament by Edison; or a matter of (day-)dreaming, e.g. Kukhule’s discovery of the Benzene molecule). What I am going to argue is that much thinking-and-talking especially in the academic domain, involves a clash of cultures. It is the term culture that now requires definition.

For me culture means what a person thinks (talks) about, and does about what s/he thinks (talks) about. Such a general definition might cause someone like Segal (1984) to remark that my definition signifies so much that it signifies nothing at all. Someone else will ask where is the concretisation of these thinkings and doings in a tradition? Rohner (1984) defines culture in a non-behaviourist way, as a “system of symbolic meanings”. The emphasis for Rohner is not on social “behaviour” (in the materialist, behaviourist sense; see Johnson-Laird, 1988:17), but rather on how people conceive their behaviour. Rohner’s definitions highlight two things: 1. Culture is systematic, i.e. it is concretised in a group; 2. Culture is a way of representing one’s world through thinking, i.e. through cognitive functioning (Note 2).

Cognitive functioning is basic to culture because it plays a central role in the constructing and sharing of symbolic meanings. For Cummins and Swain (1986:7), cognitive functioning refers to “measures involving general intellectual and linguistic skills such as verbal and non-verbal IQ, divergent thinking, academic performance and metalinguistic awareness.” Intelligence, as part of cognitive functioning, tends to be overlooked, nowadays, in definitions of culture, owing to its links with opinions about racism. But if culture is what people think and do, then surely, how well (intelligently) they do it is also important.

I make a distinction within cognitive functioning between two broad spectra of energies: thought and intelligence (Bohm, 1980:50). Thought is defined here as the “intellectual, emotional, sensuous, muscular and physical responses to memory” (Bohm, 1980:50). Thought is basically mechanical (conditioned) in its operations, but may at times perform in novel ways. However these novelties are likely to be nothing more than the kind of fortuitous (irrelevant) interplay displayed in a kaleidoscope, for example. Intelligence, on the other hand, perceives new order and new structure. It is able to combine things together in fresh ways, creating new abstract patterns and relationships such as “identity and difference, separation and connection, necessity and contingency, cause and effect, etc.” (Bohm, 1980:50) (Note 3). These new patterns do not have to be new to the world, but new to the person’s mind. What we need to consider now is how these abstract patterns and relationships are made, and how they are concretised into a system; in other words, how somebody does what s/he thinks.

Before I continue, I need to make it clear that the term “cognitive” can be used in the comprehensive sense as defined by Cummins and Swain above, or in the more restrictive sense of the “mapping” of the spatio-temporal world into the mind. I shall explain “cognitive mapping” and “spatio-temporal when I deal with the mapping view of reality, a few paragraphs later on.

The reality-construction view

Words, by long and familiar use…come to excite in men certain ideas so constantly and readily, that they are apt to suppose a natural connection between them. But that they signify only men’s peculiar ideas, and that by a perfect arbitrary imposition [original italics], is evident, in that they often fail to excite in others (even that use the same language) the same ideas we take them to be signs of [underlining added].John Locke (1947 [1690]:206) (Essay of Human Understanding)

It is possible for members of the same group to share the same vocabulary and grammar, and still not understand one other. The reason is that they have constructed their realities using different linguistic/conceptual repertoires. Consider the following paragraph (Edge, 1993):

“Let us then define the fundamental function of language as: the textualizationof human awareness. Thus the energy of awareness is channelled into thought or speech and becomes linguistic matter – the textualization of human awareness in linguistic substance.”

Five lecturers – philosophy, literature, music and linguistics (two, which included me) could not agree on how “awareness” differed from thought (conscious or unconscious). I found one arrangement of the puzzle in Bohm’s (1980) book with the irresistible title of “Wholeness and the implicate order”. On page 11 he says:

The new form [contrasted with the static reductionist form] of insight can perhaps best be called Undivided Wholeness in Flowing Movement. This view implies that flow is, in some sense, prior to that of the `things’ than can be seen to form and dissolve in this flow. One can perhaps illustrate what is meant here by considering the `stream of consciousness’. This flux of awareness is not precisely definable, and yet it is evidently prior to the definable forms of thoughts and ideas which can be seen to form and dissolve in the flux, like ripples, waves and vortices in a flowing stream.[Underlining and brackets added].

The flux, according to Bohm, is the ground (non-solid, of course) of all things. Which must be the ground of culture as well. The question is:”How much of Bohm’s flux is outside his mind, and how much of it is his own constructed reality, which are constructed out of the language-concepts he uses?

Benjamin Lee Whorf’s views on the linguistic construction of reality are well known. Rather than trudge over the well-worn Whorfian ground, I prefer to look at a modern variation of the Whorfian hypothesis, as expounded by Grace (1987). Where Whorf mostly failed, perhaps Grace can succeed in providing an answer to the central epistemological question of how language, thought and reality fit together: The question:- “What are the distinctive contributions of mind/language (the inner world) and of the objective world (outer world) to knowledge?

Grace (1987:3-6) makes the following observations:

1. The effective environment of human beings is based more on the cultural than the natural.

2. The three major uses of language is to construct, preserve and transmit this effective reality. For this reason we can refer to the linguistic construction of reality (the creation of our view of things). In this discussion we are mainly concerned with the construction of our effective reality.

3. Since our reality construction is carried out by language, our best prospect for understanding the workings of reality construction is most likely to be through studying how language works.

4. It is important to keep in mind that our customary way of viewing language is itself the product of our reality construction.

In a given language-cultural community, established frameworks (whether scientific or social) which may remain fixed for a long time, are eventually restructured in terms of new ideas, which in turn leads to the restructuring of meanings, which may then either lead to changes in the meanings of established words, or to the creation of new words (Arbib and Hesse, 1986:144). The group and the individual are both involved in the symbiotic renovation of culture. In my own experience, I encounter new concepts (new opportunities for talking about things), which challenge my own assumptions – not beliefs (Note 4). Through confronting these challenges in a positive way I hopefully increase my knowledge and understanding. What I find interesting/useful, I renovate into my own cognitive structure, moving a rickety support here, getting rid of a crumbling wall there; moving between the three levels of awareness, thought and intelligence (as defined above). Through these “assimilations” and “accomodations” (piagetian terms), I construct new ways of thinking/ talking about things.

Grace (1987:6) then contrasts the reality-construction view with the mapping view of reality. These are two different epistemological assumptions, which lead to two different ontological interpretations. In other words, the way we (assume we) know the world is the way we accept it to be.

The mapping view

A large part of verbal language consists of spatial metaphors; “mapping” is one of these. Three key terms in spatial behaviour are “image”, “environment” and “cognitive mapping” (Downs and Stea, 1973). In spatial behaviour, the mind “draws” maps of its spatial environment using the “raw” data of perception. The drawing of these maps is called “cognitive mapping” (the term is attributed to Tollman, 1932). Spatial metaphors are also used to describe time, e.g. a long day, in the space of a morning. The external (I use this term metaphorically) world, to simplify it to its basic constituents, is our spatio-temporal reality. Nothing about the brain/mind can be explained without reference to this spatio-temporal reality (Arbib and Hesse, 1986:XI). So in a sense all of language is metaphor, i.e. a transferring from the world of perception to the “inner” world of the mind/brain. The theory of knowledge (epistemological) problem is trying to understand how the brain/mind can be in space and time, and how space and time can be in our brain/mind, both at the same time. The cultural problem is how this paradox is accommodated in, what Grace (a few paragraphs earlier) refers our “effective environment”.

In the mapping view, different cultures-languages share a pre-established common world, and languages are analogous to maps of this common world. Each language cuts up (classifies or maps) this common world in different ways. To use an analogy, the map of Eastern Europe is completely different to what it was 4 years ago, and even some of the place names have changed, e.g. Stalingrad has reverted back to St Petersburg. The terrain is the same, but the maps (boundaries) are different. When it comes to languages, the mapping view of language claims that different languages are different “maps” of a common world. The more cognate (similar) the languages, the more similar the map will be. Mascher (1991:3) defines cognate languages as belonging “to the same family of languages and so have a similar grammar and vocabulary because they share a common origin [ a common history/culture]”. Let us consider the grammatical component for the moment, i.e. morphology and syntax. In terms of the mapping view, the Sotho sentence Mosimane o mokgolo o ile o ithuta puo e and the English sentence The big boy had learnt this language may be claimed to be merely two different maps of the same reality. This means that maps as maps have no reality in themselves, but are merely two ways of looking at the same terrain.

Even if we accept that these two sentences are mapping the same thing (out there), there is still the fact that relatively few will be able to translate the information represented in the original map into the target map, especially if the technique for doing so is learnt in an artificial tutored fashion (school). This is true not only for black learners of English, but (perhaps chronically so) for white learners of Black languages. Before we return to these two sentences, let us consider some of the main morphological characteristics of the Bantu family of languages (Doke, 1967:47).

(The term “Bantu” is used here purely in the accepted linguistic sense).

1. Highly inflexional – prefixes and suffixes [or/and agglutinative, depending on how one sees it]

2. Concordial agreement – for example, all pronouns relating to a noun agree with that noun.

3. A high development in the conjugations of the verb, with a great variety of moods and tenses; including a separate positive and negative conjugations.

Some negative characteristics:

1. No prepositions [This is a point of debate]

2. No articles

Problems in translation: Bantu languages and English

Before I continue, I need to clarify the term “structure” as it is used in language learning. Sometimes structure refers to both grammar and lexis, and sometimes it refers to grammar (syntax and morphology) alone.

I use structure in the following examples to refer to grammar. Let us first consider some of the grammatical problems.

Consider the Sotho sentence (given above) again, with the literal English translation:

Sotho : Mosimane o mo-kgolo o ile o ithuta puo e

(Boy he big he went he learn language this)

In this sentence, the difficulties are more grammatical than lexical in nature. Much of lexis, rather than grammar, is regarded as culturally based, and for this reason lexis is regarded as the main stumbling block in learning a non-cognate language. I would tend to regard not only lexis as culturally based, but grammar as well, because in terms of my definition of culture, grammar as part of structure (grammar and lexis) is also something you think (about) and do. What is more it is, I think, an intimate part of what you think and do, a way of being-in-and-for-the-world – perfect bilinguals perhaps being the exceptions. (See Christopherson [1973] who maintains that mother tongue fealty is a myth).

Consider another few examples that show more complicated structural differences between non-cognate languages. I asked my Practical English students at Fort Hare to translate the following sentence into Xhosa: “In contrast to the behaviour of A, B behaves in the following way.”

Here are two of the Xhosa translations with their literal English translations:

1.Chasanisa kwisimo sika A, B ngalendlela ilandelayo.

(Differentiate within-nature of A, B way following)

The student has either misinterpreted the sentence as a directive (Differentiate), or, quite possibly does not know the standard form of Xhosa. As one informant described it: “Its kitchen Xhosa”.

2.Isichasanisi kwindlela ka A ahamba ngayo yahlukile kweka B.

(Difference in-way of A it goes different of-that B)

The double use of “difference” is superfluous. The Xhosa means “The way A goes is different from that of B.” A few of my other informants could not agree if this Xhosa sentence meant the same as the original English sentence, namely: “In contrast to A…”

Informant 2, a Xhosa speaker, maintains that the following is a good translation:

3.Ngokuchasene kwindlela u-A aziphethe ngayo, u-B uziphethe ngalendlela ilandelayo.

(Literal translation: As far as the difference the way A behaves, B behaves manner following).

Chasanisi in example 2 and -chasene in example 3 come from chasa (different).

These examples show that syntax of English and Xhosa (and Black languages in general) are radically different from each other. Of course, the English speaker, unless s/he is linguistically gifted, will have similar problems in learning Xhosa.

Problems in EMI

Besides the grammatical problems of learning a non-cognate language, there is also lexis. Lexis, unlike the finite (but nevertheless demanding) rules of grammar, is infinite (Note 5). But it is not just a question of the quantity of new words that have to be learned, but also the quantity of new concepts attached to each new word, especially abstract concepts, which do not “come” singly attached to each word, but rather in knotty, gluey bundles, each a cultural conglomerate of meaning.

Here are a few examples from the academic domain: Four of my Xhosa speaking informants tell me that in Xhosa there is only one word for mind and brain, namely Ingqondo. Therefore they translate “Psychological construct” by “Ukubona kwengqondo [kwengqondo = kwa ingqondo] (to see of mind). Does this mean that a “mental operation” will turn out in Xhosa to be a “brain operation”? (Note 6) There are numerous other problematic areas. For instance, in the field of science, there is no way to translate such “knots” as “atom”, “molecule”, “mole” into an African language. Each of these terms consists of a complex networks of concepts, which many non-mother tongue speakers of English (as well as many mother tongue speakers of English) find difficult to lock into.

In the non-academic domain, linguistic problems can cause more than inconvenience. Two situations come to mind:1. A Xhosa speaker with low English proficiency fails a driving test, because s/he had to learn the rules of the road from treacherous Xhosa translations of the original English; 2. Mistranslations in the Law Courts may lead to wrong convictions.

Many of the EMI problems are related to poor background knowledge. Problems occur when the background (old) knowledge of the learner cannot connect up with the new knowledge, either because the old knowledge has not been made available, or because the new knowledge is culturally (culture = symbolic meanings) so gooey that it gums up the understanding. In linguistic terms, the learner lacks the background schemata or relevant frames of reference to understand what s/he reads (Note 7). (Lanham, 1990:181; Chick, 1990:321). These frames of reference are constructed out of the totality of one’s life experiences, of which the first five years of life are often the most important.

I have given a few examples to show that English and Black languages are non-cognate languages, and therefore their linguistic maps differ quite radically. Now I find most astounding the following statement made by Gregersen (1977:2): “…African languages differ in no essential way from the languages of Europe, Asia, of the Americas”. What exactly does “essential” mean here? The Vedanta, Zen and a few quantum physicists would say that there is no essential difference between an arm and a leg, between a verb and a noun, between between and beneath, between essence and existence.

The fact is that Gregersen (1977:2) is just not interested in African languages as linguistic phenomena:

It is not linguistics, but a variety of nonlinguistic considerations – notably geographical, political, and anthropological – that has focused interest on the 1000 or so African languages as a group.

Well, if English, Black languages and Chinese do not differ in any essential way, the honour must go to pidgin the parasite for sucking out these differences, which would make pidgin the cognate base of all the languages of the four continents (including Estonian and Hungarian; and Hopi?).

Me one talk(ee) person, me hab grand(ee) time, me lub one talk;

me no can talk(ee)-talk(ee), me no lib good.

I might agree that languages such as Greek and English have a common base of background schemata – of course their grammars, I would think, are quite distant from one another – because they share a common

European heritage, but the same can’t be said for English/Greek and the Bantu languages. If there is a problem, firstly in translating one Greek (e.g. Aristotle) into another Greek (e.g. Plato), and secondly Greek into English (there are certain lexical differences as well), the problem of translating Plato into Zulu (or Zulu into Plato) can only be – notwithstanding a glorious transformation – a treacherous translation (TRADUTTORE, TRADITORE “to translate is to betray”). And of course this does not mean that Zulu – or Greek – is not a rich language in its own right (Note 8).

I want to contrast Dean Mascher’s view with Gregersen’s. Mascher (1991) mentions Hartshorne’s (1987) four reasons for the low standard of English among black learners and teachers:

1. The effects of Bantu education.

2. The DET, staffed mostly by Afrikaners, lacks the dedication to promote English.

3. The majority of English teachers are black or Afrikaans speaking, many of whom cannot teach English for communicative purposes.

4. English mother tongue speakers and English second language learners are generally racially segregated into different schools.

Mascher does not deny that these factors play a role in poor English performance, but his view is that none of these factors can compare with the fact that “the medium of instruction from Std 3 onwards is a language which

is non-cognate to the learner’s first language” (Mascher, 1991:2). He complains that the ability to learn a second language in a tutored situation, especially a non-cognate one, requires special linguistic gifts of an analytical nature. To add to the difficulty, the child from Std 3 onwards has to learn through the medium of English, a task which s/he is generally wholly inadequate to do – as Macdonald (1990, 1990a) and her colleagues have so painstakingly shown.

For the moment consider the white children in this country. These children have to learn English or Afrikaans as a second language. Many of these children have a pathetic knowledge of their respective second languages, and if called on in Std 3 to start using this second language as a medium of instruction (which would involve reading relatively advanced texts), would be a laughing stock. And yet Mascher refers to English and Afrikaans as cognate languages, which in my view they are (relative to the differences between either of them and an African language). Mascher (1991:4) suggests that the formal teaching of non-cognate language should not begin until the child has mastered his own language, which occurs at the age of about twelve. The dilemma is that on the one hand there is the spiritual/ cultural dimension of the mother tongue and on the other hand there is the economic necessity of learning English; for without a sound knowledge of English, many blacks will not be able to get/give any enjoyment. And that is what life is mainly perceived to be about. As a practical step, Mascher (1991:11) suggests that

It is necessary for people to be working on African languages so that excellent materials in the mother tongue, materials suited to the real needs of the children, can be developed, published and used in schools.

The Molteno Project is a good example of the work being done in this area. Lanham (1990) has pinpointed fifteen problematic areas in ESL for black learners. Two of these thorny areas are: inaccessible background knowledge, and ellipsis. Here is an example of ellipsis, using simple a Tswana example, with a simplified literal translation:


A o lebetse go ya (ko) sekolo-ng?

(Dummy) you forgot to go school to?


Ke lebetse go ya.

I forgot to go.

Tswana can say Ke lebetse but not Ke lebetse go (I forgot to) as can be done in English.

So far so good. Many of us want the kind of material coming out of the Molteno project. Many of us, like Lanham and Mascher (I think), are swinging our pendulums back towards structure, i.e. many applied linguists, once again, are beginning to agree – the more things change the more they remain the same – that contrastive linguistics should play a central role in the writing of textbooks for blacks. But there is more to the problem than non-cognatism. The main problem does not lie in ESL learners, i.e. learners of OTHER tongues, but in the mOTHER tongue (English) and non-mOTHER tongue educators, who teach otherly (diverse) lessons, write otherly textbooks, set and evaluate in otherly ways. And the reason for this fortuitous diversity is that they construct their realities in otherly ways.

Reality construction view revisited

In the reality-construction view, there is no direct access to the real world. Grace argues that this does not mean that the models of reality that we construct are purely random, because the outside world, he maintains, does indeed impose some constraints on the inner world (Note 9). Gellner (1963:146) puts it this way:

We cannot say what the world is like without having [constructing?] concepts – language games [Wittgenstein] – in which to say it; and equally, we cannot say anything – operate language games – without there being a world, and a recognisable and familiar one at that, in which they existed and operated [Square brackets added].

Perhaps that is what culturing is all about; constructing meaningful games, playing them, and enjoying them. Of course, this enjoying is not a self-indulgent pleasure hunt, but rather a transitive (trans-site) (Note 10) en-joying of the world – perhaps the only kind of trans-lation that could be a success.

We saw that the key assumption of the mapping view states that “any content that can be expressed in one language can be expressed in any other language” (Grace, 1987:7-8). This view, which is referred to as the intertranslatability postulate, hopefully assumes that there exists a common conceptual ground – a mental esperanto – underlying the differences between cultures-languages. In the reality construction view (Grace, 1987:10), on the other hand, there is no clear boundary between culture, thinking and language. Each language-culture therefore constitutes its own conceptual world (Note 11). However, reality construction does not only obtain in different language-culture groups. The reason is that each human being constructs his/her own culture. And much of this constructing (si[gh]ting) (Note 12) is done through the insights gained from language, which makes it possible to make novel excavations – not only in syntax but also in lexis – into the hidden sedimentations of one’s cultural past, as well as make novel leaps of creativity. Each language theorist has a personal way of looking at language, i.e. a particular way of constructing a view of language, which may coincidentally concur with another’s view. But no two views are exactly the same (unless two people share the same eyeballs). Some find answers (Botha, 1992; Chomsky, 1965, 1967) in the hard-wiring of universal grammar (LAD – language acquisition device). Others argue that if there can be a LAD, then why not a mathematical acquisition device as well (Putnam, 1967:21; Staats, 1971:117) (Note 13) – a MAD.

Kuhn (1955) shows that conflicting schools of thought who share the same grammar and lexicon, may not understand one another’s way of talking. For example, I see a conflict between applied linguistics (where the talk is of grammar and communication) and literary theory (where the traditional – and often quite insipid – fare is spiced with such relishes as grammatology, deconstruction and zen). In my own speciality of language testing, I have found in modern literary theory new ways of thinking/talking about my subject. For example, here are two ways of my talking about “tests and construct validity”: the first one is quite acceptable in a traditional applied linguistics article; the second has a literary style.

Passage 1. Convergent.

In order to understand what a construct is, we first need to know what a test is. A test is a measurement instrument used to elicit a specific sample of an individual’s behaviour. A test is sometimes also defined, more obscurely, as an operational definition of a construct. The problem is that there is no visible link between the test (operational definition) and the abstract construct.

Passage 2. Divergent.

A thing is only intelligible if it is part of one’s experience. A trait (in the mind) is beyond our experience, and cannot be conceived or depicted without dipping the brush into a generous palette of symbols. For example, a religious person cannot imagine the glory of God without thinking of warmth, acceptance, perhaps of eroticism [C.S. Lewis’s (1965:101) idea]. Similarly, a psychological trait in its conception becomes a trait of metaphor, because it is impossible to conceive of the trait without the prior prickle (“senuweeprikkel”) (Note 14) of an external sti[mu]lus.

The first passage is an example of traditional scientific discourse, where a conscious (but unsuccessful) effort is made to skirt round the tropical forests of metaphor. The second is a deliberate effort to exploit metaphor. Actually I don’t think it is possible to use language without using metaphor. One can be more dull, but one cannot be less metaphorical (pictorial).

Having considered, in various parts of this paper, the relativity of meanings within the same linguistic group, namely English speakers, let us look at some of the problems between different language-cultures in terms of the mapping view of language. Consider Van Niekerk’s (1993:32) view of translation, which seems to be a mapping view (of the inner world, if not of the outer – if such a distinction still makes sense):

Isn’t the ease with which different cultures and languages seem to be conceivable and expressible in the other’s conceptual framework not remarkable? And does not that reveal something of a type of conceptual commonality or constant that is ab initio denied by social relativists?

Contrast the above statement with the following statement by Van Niekerk (1993:34), who is describing Western culture versus “Azande” culture:

The contrast between Western and Azande culture is that the latter is unfamiliar with the theoretical approach to problem solving and rather represents a residue of the mythical thought pattern with its entwinement of knowledge and action [the meaning of “mythical” here is “a story that conveys a system of values and meanings”]

This latter statement implies that different cultures “have different views of the world” (Van Niekerk, 1992:33). But wait; Van Niekerk also maintains that it is wrong to argue that the “practice of argumentation, that is of establishing relationships between beliefs by means of logical rules… does not obtain in certain cultures”. There are two points I would like to make here. Firstly, there are many who would disagree (Note 15) with Van Nierkerk’s observation that “conceptual frameworks” are easily translatable. Secondly, it may be true that the “practice of argumentation” obtains in all cultures, but this is a far cry from the claim that “conceptual frameworks” are intertranslatable. For example, how does one translate this paper into a black language? Or into (someone else’s) English? According to Verster (1986:15) “some, if not most executive processes (I identify this with Van Niekerk’s “conceptual frameworks”) may be culturally relative and hence not represented in all populations. Millar (1988:157) goes further and makes the polemic claim that courses in skills development pursue the “impossible” because processes such as classifying and hypothesising cannot be taught, but can only develop (i.e. they are part of inborn intelligence). The upshot: Van Niekerk, maintains that all cultures have got much in common; Verster says we (i.e. non-cognate cultures) have not got much in common; and Millar says if you haven’t got it, you’ll never get it (Note 16).

The mystique of culture/language versus information exchange

Earlier I mentioned that Gregersen’s interest in African languages is not in the least linguistic, but political and anthropological. He is obviously not a teacher of ESL, where the ultimate concern is the processing and exchange of information through the medium of academic discourse. The danger is that in the political rush to develop a national culture of information exchange (communication), it may arise that a nation-builder constructs a reality that may clash with the reality-constructions of others.

I am referring to Alexander (1989:30), one of the most active proponents of a national culture in South Africa. For Alexander, language is merely seen as a tool for exchanging information. He maintains that the idea of a language group as the basis of a nation or the national group, stems from a “mystique” about language, and from a failure to see this phenomenon in terms of the rise of capitalism. This “mystique”, he claims, is based on the belief that each language has its own “soul” or “psyche”. Alexander rejects this – some would say, spooky – view and argues that

there is a historical explanation why language groups constitute the basis of nations in Western Europe and that historical explanation has to do with the fact that the development of means of communication [information exchange] was then in a very primitive state [Square brackets added].

Alexander (1989:3) adds that the language question leads these (could we call them) mystics,

straight into the murky, obscure area of culture, to the idea that language groups are not just co-extensive with nations but that nations and language groups are different aspects of cultural groups,that languages and cultures are co-extensive. It leads us on the political plane to the whole debate which is now “shaking” South Africa itself, viz. should we guarantee group rights or individual rights?

[See Vyas, 1992:261, with regard to individual and group rights].

This “murky, obscure area of culture” has developed in the last few decades into what is called “multicultural education”, which, if I have interpreted Alexander correctly, would represent for him nothing more than a multicoloured spook. For Alexander, the main issue is information exchange. Before I comment on Alexander’s exclusive preoccupation with information exchange, I think we should recall what it means to be competent in a language in the modern working (industrialising) society.

The main use of language in the modern working world is the exchange of information. But so is this (exchange of information) the main use of language in the academic world of scientific discourse (some forms of literary discourse are excluded here). This means that language competence – in the working world and specifically in the academic domain -should include (Peirce, 1990):

the ability to say and write what one means; to hear what is said and what is hidden; to defend one’s point of view; to argue, to persuade, to negotiate; to create, to reflect, to invent; to explore relationships, personal, structural, political; to speak, read, and write with confidence; to make one’s voice heard; to read print and resist it where necessary.

Few democratic educationists would disagree with such a description of language competence, and it has been merry-go-rounding for at least three decades in Europe and America. Part of the problem in South Africa is that cultural differences as well as past political policies have made it difficult for the majority of the population to develop this kind of language competence. In fact this kind of language competence is so new to many South Africans that it has been given a new name, with a political flavour, that seems to have lost much of its original bite; “People’s English” (Peirce, 1990:8).

Academic discourse requires specialised knowledge and skills that basic interpersonal communication does not require. Accordingly, the ability to argue, persuade and resist print where necessary requires a highly developed mix of linguistic knowledge and cognitive skill. For Alexander (1989:30), the sole purpose of language is communication (information exchange):

The proposition I’m going to put forward presently is that what is in fact at stake here is not language, not morphology, not syntax, nor grammar and the particular ways in which words and sounds are put together. Communication [information exchange] is what is at stake [Square brackets added].

Suppose that we are in a boat and are caught in a gale off shore. For Alexander, and for most of us, what is at stake is not manoeuvring the boat skilfully (putting words and sounds together), but getting safely to the bank (communicating a message successfully). In this sense it is true that what is at stake is communication and not putting words and sounds together. But then all (language) teachers, no matter what approach they adopt, whether the grammar-translation approach or the communicative approach or the “multicultural approach” (?), would not disagree with Alexander. The main point is that if the boat is unsound, there is less chance of getting safely to shore. If I have read Alexander correctly, I do read a certain dissatisfaction with the amount of attention language teachers pay to “grammar” compared to the amount paid to “communication”.

When we put the definition of “People’s English” above together with what seems to be Alexander’s marginalisation of grammar, it becomes easier to understand the opposition to grammar that exists in some institutions that are for “People’s education”. It is worrying, but understandable, when teachers tell their students that English grammar is a tool of Bantu Education and that they only teach English (grammar and culture) because they have to. However, one can understand the frustration of these teachers, many of whom had spent seven years or more learning English in Bantu Education schools, and getting little out of it. Whatever the frustrations of the past, let us not throw out the grammatical baby with the Bantu bath water. Grammar should be, of course, the handmaiden of communication, and not its mistress (the meaning of mistress here is not “illicit lover”, but female of “master”). What is more, language is far more than grammar and communication. We need the Jewish wisdom of a Noam Chomsky (1972) to lead us away from the Babel of confusion and put us back on the right track:

…it is wrong to think of human use of language as characteristically informative, in fact or in intention. Human language can be used to inform or mislead, to clarify one’s own thoughts or to display one’s cleverness, or simply for play. If I speak with no concern for modifying your behaviour or thoughts, I am not using language any less than if I say exactly the same things with [original italics] such intention. If we hope to understand human language and the psychological capacities on which it rests, we must first ask what it is, not how or for what purposes it is used.

Chomsky’s view has much in common with Mascher and with the writer Ngugi wa Thiong’o, who both maintain that language is first and foremost the carrier-transmitter-preserver of culture, i.e. of self-expression, of spirituality, of play, of enjoyment, of sanity. Surely such a belief, which is based on sound human(e)-scientific principles, cannot be a myth. Can we say the same about the belief in a united “national culture” (a culture of the nation) which consolidates itself by mythologising (away) the “mystique of cultures”. Such mythologising resembles an attempt to demolish the primeval confusion of Babel, by construing, out of the babble of its rabble (rubble), a new Tower. And using a trio of masonic misfits to do so; the likes of a Hopi Heidegger, a Latvian La-otse, and a Tswana Tolstoy. The prospect of engulfing linguistic-cultural diversity beneath the universal culture of political unity and information exchange would parallel the extinction of a whole synagogue of biological species; of human families. And politics is not possible without human political animals. This is not to say that unity (between individuals and groups) should not be the ultimate goal of humankind. But (political) unity without (cultural) diversity, and diversity without unity would be like the (non-)sound of one hand clapping. Arbib and Hesse put it this way (1986:58):

There is no reason that schemas developed in one culture should be fully translatable into patterns and schemas in another language. Even for persons raised in the same society, the differences in genetic constitution and individual experience provide “individuality” and “personality” as is constituted by a distinctive network of schemas for each person.


In the domain of translation, the basic assumption, according to Grace (1987:7), is that all theories about translation are “incorrigible”, i.e. they are not subject to correction in the light of subsequent experience. What seems to be the case is that experience is sifted in terms of one’s preconceived theories rather than one’s theories being modified by experience. What is “incorrigible” in the field of translation is also incorrigible in all quests for knowledge. The reason is that our theories (“schemas” [schemes, schemata]) are always undetermined by our experience (data), which means that we are caught up in a hermeneutic (epistemological) circle of theory and experience. My job (and enjoyment) as an academic thinker (taylor) is to unpick verbal knots, e.g. the knot of “reality”, the knot of “culture”, and the latest and most illusionary (playful) one of them all, the multi-syllabic knot of “multiculturalism”. I suggest that not until we make some progress in untying these hyperactive words/concepts can we successfully play the concrete game of applied linguistics. For Young (1990) an important part of the applied linguistics game is to “bridge the gap between linguistic theorists and language practitioners” (p.6) by relating “our practice to the base discipline of linguistics” (p.10). I think that besides linguistics, we need to relate our practice to other disciplines as well, such as anthropology, literary theory, poetry, philosophy, play.

We need to, if not break down the walls, then reduce the distances between the “ghettos” (Boulding, 1973:ix) that we call “disciplines”. Go back to the drawing board, or to the bedroom rather, for the simple reason that most humans begin (their anagrammatic being) in bed; and therefore so does politics, so does culture, so does linguistics. So does EMI. And for that matter, so does agriculture. At conception, a new mind-brain-heart-limbs burgeons forth from the ground of being, into the haven of the womb. One of the dangers the developing baby person has to contend with is getting tangled up in the umbilical chord. The process of culturing, i.e. the armed struggle for enjoyment, begins. For the rest of our lives, we struggle, exiled from the mothering womb, caught up in the entanglements of words. Wrestling with our MOTHER tongue. Vying with the OTHER; with the OTHER self. Representing the world. Grasping the gooey bundlings of concepts that words are meant to signify. Forever (im)proving “our model of our internal reality – of the nature of ourselves” (Churchland and Sejnowski (1990:225).

What I have tried to show in this paper is that sometimes we need to take a break from the music of EMI, and take another look at the score. We need to ask: What is thought, language; What-EM-I? Does the answer lie in the constructing of reality? Or/and in the mapping of reality?

Someone who can shed some light is the wisest of all Greeks, whose soul, with each remarkable soar of thought, transmigrated beyond the hemlock, beyond the limit (Note 17), to realise (release) yet another level of being:

“First there’s the real; then the really real; then the really really real”,

(opinions)                 (knowledge)              (understanding)

as Andrew Murray, former Professor of political philosophy at UCT used to say about Socrates, rolling his Afrikaans r’s (Murray’s of course), and ending off, in his posh Oxford accent,

“and so forth.”


1.. The use of “skills” in BICS and “proficiency” in “CALP” is unfortunate, because it creates the impression that “skills” in general belong to lower cognitive orders. Some writers distinguish between “transferable skills” and “transferring skills” (Bridges, 1993:50). Transferable skills are those that are learnt in one situation and are transferable to another. For example, a reading skill such as scanning that is learnt in the English class can also be used in the geography class. Transferring skills are metacompetences that consist of three elements (Bridges, 1993:50):

– a sensitive and intelligent discernment of similarities and differences. This seems to be Millar’s classifying skills.

– cognitive equipment that enables one to modify, extend and adapt.

– attitudes and dispositions that support both of the above. I suppose these have to do with motivational factors.

(See Note 17).

(Perhaps Cummins has the same view as Bridges; but if this is so, then surely BICS and CALP are misacronyms. Perhaps Cummins had other reasons for his choice of acronyms: BICP, unlike BICS, hardly goes down well with a nice cuppa.

2. These definitions (including my own), resemble museum pieces in that they do not capture the dynamic clashings of culture. Just as I was putting the last few finishing touches to this paper, I received a letter (14 June, 1993) from Manton Hirst, Principal Curator of King William’s Town Museum; in which he said the following:

“I tend to opt for a dynamic conception of culture.” Here is Hirst’s definition:

Culture is a mode of communication that expresses and addresses the self and the world, involves both verbal and non-verbal behaviour and not only has a logic, but a dialogic of its own.

This description fits in with what I am trying to say in the rest of the paper. (Actually I have deliberately avoided the term “dynamic” in my descriptions, because it, like “culture” – which I couldn’t avoid – is too gooey for words).

3. This description of intelligence would certainly be rejected by many Eastern thinkers. For example in Vedantic thought, the notion of cause and effect is an illusion, because (oops) cause and effect are not two separable events (parts of experience), but all of a piece: cause-effect. A cat does not have a head followed by a tail; it is a “head-tailed” cat (Watts, 1989:32).

Bohm maintains that intelligence is unconditioned. This means that intelligence operates independent of heredity and environment. Bohm (1980:51-52) argues that if intelligence were conditioned by either heredity or environment (or both) it would mean that the statement `intelligence is the product of heredity or/and environment’ is merely the product of heredity or/and environment. This would mean that meaning is the product of heredity or/and environment, and nothing more than the conditioned “spouting forth of word patterns”, which reduces intelligence to the product of either genetic or environmental forces. Once we step outside these two forces, we search for explanations in other domains. For Bohm, the answer lies in the universal flux of quantum physics. For Nietzsche (Esterhuyse, 1993) the answer begins in the first stage of metaphor, i.e. with the “senuweeprikkel” (stimulus). For Weideman (1981:231) it lies in the “creational ordinances”. For Grace the explanation lies in the linguistic construction of reality (which is similar to Nietzsche’s “metaphor” view). For Groddeck (1977) language itself is a lie, because each disclosure produces a complementaryenclosure, i.e. one cannot expose one(‘s) SELF without hiding another.

4.  We meet the problem of definition again and again. One man’s “assumptions” are another man’s “beliefs”. I use the term “beliefs” in the way C.S. Lewis describes it:

“The scientist, when at work, that is, when he is a scientist, is labouring to escape from belief and unbelief into knowledge. Of course he uses hypotheses or supposals. I do not think these are beliefs. We must look, then, for the scientist’s behaviour about belief not to his scientific life but to his leisure hours” (Lewis, 1965a:60).

These “hypotheses and supposals” are what I mean by assumptions. Johnson-Laird (1988:61) distinguishes two kinds of assumptions: those that are “built into the nervous system” and those “learned during a person’s lifetime”. It is the learned assumptions that are the fruits of the intercourse between the “thought” responses to memory (see Bohm’s definition of thought) and intelligence. Beyond that, we don’t know much.

With regard to Lewis’ distinction between “science” and beliefs, He certainly does not mean that there ever need be a clash between scientific assumptions and beliefs. However, according to Widdowson (1989:128) “All interpretation, after all, is a matter of reformulating ideas so that they key in with one’s own frame of reference.” Widdowson’s “frame of reference” seems to include both his scientific assumptions as well as his beliefs (as described by C.S. Lewis above). In Fodor (1986), we also find a collapse of the boundaries between science and beliefs, where “beliefs and desires”, “commonsense intentional psychology” and “the place of meaning in the world order” are all welded together in his psychosemantic descriptions (See his Preface).

5. The splitting up of language into function (grammar) and content (lexis) words can be quite useful, but there are wide cracks in such a theory. This bricks-and-cement (lexis and grammar respectively) approach has been criticised quite convincingly in the “cognitive grammar” of authors such as Langacker (1987) and Taylor (1989).

6. The single Xhosa word Ingqondo for both “brain” and “mental” seems to be more in tune with the modern science of neurobiology: “Language acquisition researchers need a basic working knowledge of the brain because ultimately that is what is being investigated” (Jacobs and Schumann, 1992:285). So then who needs the term “mental” except Descartes? In order to “get with” neurobiology, we should perhaps think like a Xhosa and discard our excess mentalist baggage; but in so doing we will have to coin a new word; instead of mental operation, we could have – to distinguish it from a brain operation – a branal operation.

7. Mastery of a language involves combining the ability to unravel lexical knots with the ability to manipulate grammar. I do not want to create the impression that grammatical dexterity is something separate from lexical prowess. See Note 5.

8. See Note 9, paragraphs 3 and 4.

9. Is the smell in the mentalist’s nose or in the empiricalist’s rose? For Watts (1989[1966]), it is an illusion (“Ludere” = play) to suppose that there is an inside or an outside to our brains, that there is such a thing as our or brains, This marginal note (hors-de-texte), for instance, need not be of marginal importance; because the significance of what is said does not depend on the kind of space it occupies; in the text, or outside the text. The hors-de-texte is an escape-hatch for the divergent thinker.

(Empiricism claims that the innate structures of the brain only contain general learning mechanisms, while the rationalist, like Chomsky, would claim that there are specific innate concepts or devices such as space-time or universal grammar – see Burks, 1979 cited in Arbib and Hesse, 1986:45).

Watts also thinks that it is an illusion to think and talk of rose or nose as nouns. For Watts (1989) and Bohm all is “wholeness” (Bohm, 1980) and they advise that we dispose of the nouns and play the verb game instead, anosing and arosing, or rather anosing-arosing. “Why can’t we think of people as “peopling”, of brains as “braining”, of an ant as an “anting” (Watts, 1989:95). Watts’ vedantic verb games have much in common with David Bohm’s quantum physics games, where the ground of being is a fluxing of ubiquitous energy: “Is it not possible for the syntax and grammatical form [syntax is part of grammar: Bohm’s “grammatical form” is commonly called “morphology”; R.G.] of language to be changed so as to give a basic role to the verb rather than the noun…for the verb describes actions and movements, which flow into each other and merge” (Bloch, 1980:29-30).

With regard to the inside (nose) and the outside (rose), I don’t think that the ontological division between inside (whiffer) and outside (whiffed) can be resolved using traditional ways (rationalist or empiricist) of thinking. I must admit I find the Bohm-Watts descriptions very interesting, and very much in tune with literary repertoires such as deconstruction, whose major focus is translation-interpretation, not only between natural languages, but within natural languages (i.e. between people using the same natural languages) – “between Greek and Greek”, where translation (of meanings) deals with nothing less than the “problem of the very passage into philosophy” (Derrida, 1981:71-72).

An understanding of the above problems are crucial to understanding what multiculturalism (cultural relativism) is all about, namely about multi-thinkings, multi-talkings and multi-doings, firstly and foremostly within a language, because unless we see that the problem of translation/interpretation is primarily one between “Greek and Greek” – in our case between “English and English”, we shall never be able to understand the problems of second language learning (in this country).

There are at least three choices: 1. Type (tap) on our divergent tympanums, to the rhythm of Bohm-Derrida-Bohm-Derrida-Bohm-Derrida-Bohm; 2. “Believe” in Aunty Fodor’s convergent commonsense” (1986:xi); 3. or perhaps the best – and most natural – choice of all, regard divergence and convergence as the two sides of the drumskin. (The tympanum (eardrum) “separates” the inner and outer chambers of the ear. Fodor in his Preface monologues to “Aunty” about “commonsense belief/desire psychology”).

10. See Note 15.

11.  “One of the die-hard myths of modern thought is the so-called neutrality or objectivity of our subjective theorizing. It is a dogma of scientific endeavour that has survived every major shake-up in the history of Western thinking. But it is nonetheless recognised today more than ever before that the dogma of objectivity is exactly that: an unverified and indeed unverifiable dogma. It has remained as much an illusion as the intellectual mirage of the attendant belief in the progressive discovery of truth” (Weideman, 1981:1).

12.  Babel is restricted to a particular site. See Note 15.

13. Chomsky claims in his earlier writings (1965, 1967) – in his “Language and mind” (1972), he is more cautious – that there is an innate language acquisition device; Putnam (1967:21) counterclaims that such a device only “postpones the problem of learning; it does not solve it”. And Staats (1971:117), in support of Putnam, states: “…the type of theory Chomsky describes is not explanatory, it tells us nothing of the determinants of the language responses of the original subjects.” (See Chomsky’s answers to these criticisms in his “Language and mind”).

14. See end of Note 3.

15. One of the messages of the Tower of Babel story is essentially this: In order to build or construct (POIESIS “construct”) successfully, one has to move smoothly between the paradigm (plan) and its exemplification (the building). Architecture as paradigm is disrupted by its limitation to a site; a limitation that distorts the paradigm (image). Similarly, in translation it “goes without saying, translation is anything but a smooth and efficient circulation between signifiers [paradigms] and signifieds [exemplification, site] ( Sallis, 1992:30). There is a copious literature on the problems of translation (one of the finest is Graham, 1985).

16. I have ignored the distinction between “content” (background knowledge) and “skills” in this assessment. Actually I think the distinction is often quite difficult to make, and for this reason I find Cummins’ [1983, 1984] two orthogonal continua of “context” (content?) and “cognitive involvement” (skills?) quite confusing in this regard. See Note 1.

17. According to Dreyfus and Dreyfus (1986:202) the kind of “critical objective thought” espoused by Socrates “should be appealed to only by a beginner or an expert who, having left his domain of experience, can no longer trust his instincts” (for “instincts” read “intuition”). For the obsessive (my bias) Nietzsche, Socrates was the “first degenerate” of our culture ( Dreyfus and Dreyfus, 1986:202).

Socrates was an unsparing critic (Critias was one of the anti-democrats whom Socrates supported) of the democracy and democratic leaders of the time. For Socrates there were lots of sheep but no shepherd. Socrates was accused on the trumped up charge of corrupting the young and of being a traitor of being a traitor, but claimed to be an envoy of the “Good”. He was condemned to death and forced to poison himself with a potion of hemlock. If Socrates did not break through the “limit” in his lifetime, I believe he did so in the next.

In a universal perspective home [culture]… individual continent or world… inner circumstances is perfumed and gorgeoused by the sounding existence of happiness … The happiness which permits its development, a compounded feeling which proves itself to be only love which is strong as death, that love which many waters cannot quench, nor the floods drown, beside which the passion… evanescant as a dream.

A likely evaluation of the above passage by  three English teachers:


Teacher 1: 20% The real?

Teacher 2: 60% The really real?

Teacher 3: 75% The really really real?

And so forth……

One man’s meat is another man’s…fish?


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