Universiteit Leiden

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Critical and Cultural Discourse Analyses of Tourist Phrasebooks

  • Richard W. Hallett (Northeastern Illinois University, USA)
Thursday 16 May 2019
Cleveringaplaats 1
2311 BD Leiden


As Jaworski and Thurlow (2010:258) argue, the expansion of tourism has ‘highlighted the significance of language commodification’. One result of this expansion has been the proliferation of tourist phrasebooks, which, arguably, are ‘transcultural texts’, i.e. ‘writings which help to establish popular understandings of the meanings of other cultures’ (Gilbert 1999:283). In other words, travel phrasebooks reify and reinforce attitudes toward languages other than English (LOTE). In so doing, they perpetuate the hegemonic positioning of the English language in opposition to other languages and their speakers through fractal recursivity and erasure (Irvine and Gal 2000). Tourism and – by extension – phrasebooks respond to tourists’ ‘desire for difference’ (Berger 2011:110; see also Bruner 1995) for something new by ‘transforming the banal into the exotic’ (Jaworksi and Thurlow 2010:256). 

This presentation employs Critical Discourse Analysis (CDA) and Cultural Approach to Discourse (CAD) to Lonely Planet’s phrasebooks for multilingual areas of the Global South and Tuttle Publishing’s ‘Making Out’ series of tourist phrasebooks. Drawing on research in the areas of tourism, the sociolinguistics of mobility (Bloomaert 2010), and metrolingualism (Pennycook and Otsuji 2014), this presentation heeds Phillipson’s (2017:313) call for critical scholarship on the ‘conceptual myth-making promoting global English’. Analyses of these phrasebooks reveal a concomitant exoticization and reductionism of LOTE.

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