Language, culture and the quest for commensurability
The thesis examines the key concept of 'incommensurability' in relation to issues of language and culture as they became salient to developments in English as a school subject in the United Kingdom during the 1960s and 1970s. Beginning with an outline of the notion of incommensurability as it has been discussed within anthropology and philosophy within the 20th century, the thesis traces the roots of a complex of educational issues through their immediate intellectual and social background in the mass culture debates in the 1920s and 1930s and as they were developed in the post-war period. The thesis analyses the dominant themes within the paradigm shift towards a focus on language that took place in English education during the 1970s. This it does particularly with respect to their immediate intellectual heritage, paying special attention to the position of F. R. Leavis, Basil Bernstein, James Britton and M. A. K. Halliday in the intellectual field. The thesis continues to pursue its analysis of ideas underlying issues in the period by tracing their origins and interrelations in the work of 18th century German philosophers of language, in particular, J. G. Hamann, J. G. Herder and W. von Humboldt. Within the work of these three writers, fundamental notions concerning the relation between language and thought and language and culture are found complexly explored. Some of the concepts generated by these thinkers came to have a direct and obvious influence on the thinking and writing of subsequent generations. However, this thesis attempts to clarify some of the contradictions and confusions evident within the domain of English education during the 1960s and 1970s with reference to less well knoWn aspects of the work of these thinkers. The argument attempts to draw together the threads of its investigation particularly to shed light on the question of the extent to which communication/understanding across difference is achievable.