Standard language ideology in an English-medium Irish secondary school

Conflicting perspectives on the discouragement of nonstandard language


  • Stephen Lucek University College Dublin



Teenagers, language ideologies, standard language ideology, raciolinguistics


The current paper aims to address how one English-medium school functions from the different perspectives within the school: the principal, student/teacher classroom interaction and the students. This approach allows us to see the power differential of the different stakeholders in a school and how iconisation, fractal recursivity, and erasure affect teenagers in Dublin. This paper presents interview data with a principal and the students in a secondary school. Taking a qualitative approach to these data, I show that standard language ideology is linked with economic disadvantage. The school principal’s approach to identifying, problematising and seeking to eliminate certain types of nonstandard language in the school reflects a standard language ideology and is consistent with a raciolinguistic approach to linguistic discrimination. The data suggest that the students themselves take a more nuanced approach.

Author Biography

Stephen Lucek, University College Dublin

Stephen Lucek is currently Research Associate in the University College Dublin School of Education and is an adjunct lecturer in the Centre for Linguistics and Communication Studies at Trinity College Dublin. He has previously worked in the School of Languages, Cultures and Linguistics at University College Dublin, where this research was carried out. His research interests lie at the intersection of language and cognition, including language attitudes and ideologies, cognitive sociolinguistics and perceptual dialectology.


Adger, C. T., Snow, C. E., and Christian, D. (eds) (2018) What Teachers Need to Know About Language. Bristol: Multilingual Matters. DOI:

Alim, H. S., Rickford, J. R., and Ball, A. F. (eds) (2016) Raciolinguistics: How Language Shapes Our Ideas About Race. Oxford: Oxford University Press. DOI:

Anderson, K. T. (2015) The discursive construction of lower-tracked students: ideologies of meritocracy and the politics of education. Education Policy Analysis Archives 23(110): 1–26. DOI:

Andronis, M.A. (2004) Iconization, fractal recursivity, and erasure: Linguistic ideologies and standardization in Quichua-speaking Ecuador. Texas Linguistic Forum 47: 263–269.

Blommaert, J. (1999) The debate is open. In J. Blommaert (ed.) Language Ideological Debates 1–38. Berlin: Walter de Gruyter. DOI:

Blommaert, J. (2006) Language Policy and National Identity. An Introduction to Language Policy. Malden, MA: Blackwell.

Bonacina-Pugh, F. (2012) Researching ‘practiced language policies’: insights from conversation analysis. Language Policy 11: 213–234. DOI:

Bucholtz, M. and Hall, K. (2004) Language and identity. In Alessandro Duranti (ed.) A Companion to Linguistic Anthropology 369–394. Oxford: Blackwell. DOI:

Cheney, G. (2005) Ireland Education Report. Washington, DC: National Center on Education and The Economy.

Craig, H. K. and Washington, J. A. (2004) Grade-related changes in the production of African-American English. Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research 47(2): 450–463. DOI:

Creese, A. (2010) Two-teacher classrooms, personalized learning and the inclusion paradigm in the United Kingdom: What’s in it for learners of EAL? In K. Menken and O. García (eds) Negotiating Language Policies in Schools. Educators as Policymakers 32–51. London: Routledge.

Cushing, I. (2019) Prescriptivism, linguicism and pedagogical coercion in primary school UK curriculum policy. English Teaching: Practice & Critique 19(1): 35–47. DOI:

Cushing, I. (2020) The policy and policing of language in schools. Language in Society 49(3): 425–50. DOI:

Cushing, I. (2021) ‘Say it like the Queen’: the standard language ideology and language policy making in English primary schools. Language, Culture and Curriculum 34(3): 321–336. DOI:

Darmody, M. and Daly, T. (2015) Attitudes towards the Irish Language on the Island of Ireland. Dublin: Foras na Gaeilge and ESRI.

Department of Education and Science. (2005) DEIS: (Delivering Equality Of Opportunity In Schools) An Action Plan for Educational Inclusion. Available at:

Department of Education and Skills. (2019) Cumasú: Empowering through learning. Action Plan for Education 2019. Available at:

Denny, E. (2015) Transition from second level and further education to higher education. Focused Research Project #6. Dublin: National Forum for the Enhancement of Teaching and Learning in Higher Education. Available at:

Edwards, J. (1977) The speech of disadvantaged Dublin children. Language Problems and Language Planning 1: 65–72. DOI:

Edwards, J. (2009) Language and Identity: An Introduction. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Fairclough, N. (2004) Analysing Discourse: Textual Analysis for Social Research. London: Routledge. DOI:

Farr, M. and Song, J. (2011) Language ideologies and policies: multilingualism and education. Language and Linguistics Compass 5(9): 650–65. DOI:

Fitzsimmons-Doolan, S., Palmer, D., and Henderson, K. (2017) Educator language ideologies and a top-down dual language program. International Journal of Bilingual Education and Bilingualism 20(6): 704–21. DOI:

Flores, N. and Rosa, J. (2015) Undoing appropriateness: Raciolinguistic ideologies and language diversity in education. Harvard Educational Review 85(2): 149–171. DOI:

Gates, S. M. and Ilbury, C. (2019) Standard language ideology and the non-standard adolescent speaker. In C. Wright, L. Harvey, and J. Simpson (eds) Voices and Practices in Applied Linguistics: Diversifying a Discipline 109–125. York: White Rose University Press. DOI:

Goossens, S. (2019) Embracing multilingualism, experiencing old tensions. Promoting and problematising language at a self-declared multilingual school. Journal of Multilingual and Multicultural Development. DOI:

Guest, G., MacQueen, K. M. and Namey, E. E. (2012) Applied Thematic Analysis. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage. DOI:

Haddix, M. (2008) Beyond sociolinguistics: Towards a critical approach to cultural and linguistic diversity in teacher education. Language and Education 22(5): 254–270. DOI:

Haig, Y. and Oliver, R. (2003) Language variation and education: teachers’ perceptions. Language and Education 17(4): 266–280. DOI:

Hallett, J. (2020) Teachers’ development of a socially-stigmatized dialect. Language and Education 34(6): 520–534. DOI:

Harju-Luukkainen, H., Vettenranta, J., Kanervio, P. and Pulkkinen, S. (2014) Principals’ perceptions for Finnish- and Swedish-language schools in Finland: An analysis of school-level indices from programme for international student assessment 2009. Leadership and Policy in Schools 13(3): 334–351. DOI:

Hélot, C. (2010) “Tu Sais Bien Parler Maîtresse!”: Negotiating languages other than French in the primary classroom in France. In K. Menken and O. García (eds) Negotiating Language Policies in Schools. Educators as Policymakers 52–71. London: Routledge.

Hickey, R. (2007) Irish English: History and Present-day Forms. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. DOI:

Hickey, R. (2016) English in Ireland: development and varieties. In R. Hickey (ed.) Sociolinguistics in Ireland 3–40. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan. DOI:

Irvine, J. (1989) When talk isn’t cheap: Language and political economy. American Ethnologist 16(2): 248–267. DOI:

Irvine, J. and Gal, S. (2000) Language ideology and linguistic differentiation. In Paul Kroskrity (ed.) Regimes of Language: Ideologies, Polities, and Identities: 35–84. Santa Fe: School of American Research Press. DOI:

Jaffe, A. (1999) Locating power: Corsican translators and their critics. In J. Blommaert (ed) Language Ideological Debates 39–68. Berlin: Walter de Gruyter.

Janks, H. (2004) The access paradox. Literacy Learning: The Middle Years 12(1): 33–42.

Jaspers, J. and Rosiers, K. (2019) Soft power: teachers’ friendly implementation of a severe monolingual policy. Journal of Multilingual and Multicultural Development. DOI:

Johnson, D. C. and Freeman, R. (2010) Appropriating language policy on the local level: Working the spaces for bilingual education. In K. Menken and O. García (eds) Negotiating Language Policies in Schools. Educators as Policymakers 13–31. London: Routledge.

Kallen, J. (2013) Irish English Volume 2: The Republic of Ireland. Berlin: de Gruyter Mouton. DOI:

Kelly-Holmes, H. and Milani, T. (2011) Thematising multilingualism in the media. Journal of Language and Politics 10(4): 467–489. DOI:

Kircher, R. and Fox, S. (2019) Attitudes towards multicultural London English: implications for attitude theory and language planning. Journal of Multilingual and Multicultural Development 40(10): 847–864. DOI:

Kirk, J. (2011) What is Irish Standard English?: The International Corpus of English-Ireland can be used to understand how standard English manifests itself in both the north and south of Ireland. English Today 27(2): 32–38. DOI:

Labov, W. (1963) The social motivation of a sound change. Word 19: 273–309. DOI:

Labov, W. (1969) The logic of nonstandard English. Georgetown Monographs in Language and Linguistics 22: 1–44.

Levey, S. (2012) Understanding children’s non-standard spoken English: a perspective from variationist sociolinguistics. Language and Education 26(5): 405–421. DOI:

Lippi-Green, R. (1997) English with an Accent: Language, Ideology and Discrimination in the United States. London: Routledge.

Lucek, S. (forthcoming) Perceptions of Irish English. In R. Hickey (ed) Oxford Handbook of Irish English. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Lucek, S. and Garnett, V. (2020) Perceptions of linguistic identity among Irish English speakers. In C Amador-Moreno and R. Hickey (eds) Irish Identities – Sociolinguistic Perspectives 104–130. Berlin: De Gruyter Mouton. DOI:

Lynch, K. and Crean, M. (2018) Economic inequality and class privilege in education: Why equality of economic condition is essential for equality of opportunity. In J. Harford (ed) Education for All?: The Legacy of Free Post-Primary Education in Ireland 139–160. Oxford: Peter Lang.

MacLeod, B. (2015) A critical evaluation of two approaches to defining perceptual salience. Ampersand 2: 83–92. DOI:

Mallinson, C. and Charity Hudley, A. (2010) Communicating about communication: Multidisciplinary approaches to educating educators about language variation. Language and Linguistics Compass 4(4): 245–257. DOI:

McBee Orzulak, M. (2015) Disinviting deficit ideologies: Beyond “That’s Standard,” “That’s Racist,” and “That’s Your Mother Tongue”. Research in the Teaching of English 50(2): 176–198.

Menken, K. and García, O. (eds) (2010) Negotiating Language Policies in Schools. Educators as Policymakers. London: Routledge. DOI:

Mercille, J. and Murphy, E. (2015) The neoliberalization of Irish higher education under austerity. Critical Sociology 43(3): 1–17. DOI:

Metz, M. (2018) Exploring the complexity of high school students’ beliefs about language variation. Linguistics and Education 45: 10–19. DOI:

Milroy, J. and Milroy, L. (1999) Authority and Language (3rd edn). London: Routledge.

Mordaunt, O. G. (2011) Bidialectalism in the classroom: the case of African-American English. Language, Culture and Curriculum 24(1): 77–87. DOI:

Morgan, M. (2009) Foreword: Just take me as I am. In S. Lanehart (ed.) African American Women’s Language: Discourse, Education, and Identity xiii–xxiii. Newcastle upon Tyne: Cambridge Scholars Press.

Ó Murchadha, N. (2013) Authenticity, authority and prestige: Teenagers’ perceptions of variation in spoken Irish. In T. Kristiansen and S. Grondelaers (eds) Experimental Studies of Changing Language Standards in Contemporary Europe 71–96. Oslo: Novus.

Ó Murchadha, N. and Flynn, C. (2018) Language educators’ regard for variation in late modernity: Perceptions of linguistic variation in minority contexts. Journal of Sociolinguistics 22(3): 288–311. DOI:

O Riagain, P. (1997) Language Policy and Social Reproduction: Ireland 1893–1993. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

O’Rourke, B. and Walsh, J. (2015) New speakers of Irish: shifting boundaries across time and space. International Journal of the Sociology of Language 231: 63–83. DOI:

Pobal, (no date)

Podesva, R. J. and Callier, P. (2015) Voice quality and identity. Annual Review of Applied Linguistics 35: 173–194. DOI:

Rampton, B. (2005) Crossing: Language & Ethnicity among Adolescents (2nd edn). Manchester: St Jerome Publishing.

Reaser, J., Adger, C.T., Wolfram, W., and Christian, D. (2017) Dialects at School: Educating Linguistically Diverse Students. London: Routledge. DOI:

Rosa, J. D. (2016) Standardization, racialization, languagelessness: Raciolinguistic ideologies across communicative contexts. Journal of Linguistic Anthropology 26(2): 162–183. DOI:

Rosa, J. and Flores, N. (2017) Unsettling race and language: Toward a raciolinguistic perspective. Language in Society 46: 621–647. DOI:

Rotter, C. (2019) Cognitive categorisations of language: how EFL students’ (mis-)identifications of three British accents engender stereotypic attributions. Journal of Multilingual and Multicultural Development. DOI:

Rumsey, A. (1990) Wording, meaning and linguistic ideology. American Anthropologist 92: 346–361. DOI:

Schieffelin, B., Kroskrity, P. and Woolard, K. (eds) (1992) Special issue of pragmatics: Language ideologies. Pragmatics 3(2): 235–449. DOI:

Selleck, C. (2013) Inclusive policy and exclusionary practice in secondary education in Wales. International Journal of Bilingual Education and Bilingualism 16(1): 20–41. DOI:

Silverstein, M. (1979) Language structure and linguistic ideology. In R. Clyne, W. Hanks and C. Hofbauer (eds) The Elements: A Parasession on Linguistic Units and Levels 192–247. Chicago: Chicago Linguistic Society.

Snell, J. (2013) Dialect, interaction and class positioning at school: from deficit to difference to repertoire. Language and Education 27(2): 110–128. DOI:

Snell, J. and Andrews, R. (2017) To what extent does a regional dialect and accent impact on the development of reading and writing skills? Cambridge Journal of Education 47(3): 297–313. DOI:

Spencer, S., Clegg, J. and Stackhouse, J. (2013) Language, social class and education: listening to adolescents’ perceptions. Language and Education 27(2): 129–143. DOI:

Spolsky, B. (2004) Language Policy. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Sterzuk, A. (2015) The standard remains the same: language standardisation, race and othering in higher education. Journal of Multilingual and Multicultural Development 36(1) 53–66. DOI:

Trudgill, P. (1975) Accent, Dialect and the School. London: Hodder Arnold.

Weaver, M. (2019) “I still think there’s a need for proper, academic, Standard English”: Examining a teacher’s negotiation of multiple language ideologies. Linguistics and Education 49: 41–51. DOI:

Willoughby, L., Starks, D. and Taylor-Leech, K. (2015) What their friends say about the way they talk: the metalanguage of pre-adolescent and adolescent Australians. Language Awareness 24(1): 84–100. DOI:

Wolfram, W. and Christian, D. (1989) Dialects and Education: Issues and Answers. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall Regents.

Woolard, K. (1992) Language ideology: Issues and approaches. Pragmatics 3(2): 235–249. DOI:

Woolard, K. (2008) Language and identity choice in Catalonia: The interplay of contrasting ideologies of linguistic authority. In K. Suselbeck, U. Muhlschlegel and P. Masson Lengua, nacion e identidad. La regulacion del plurilinguismo en Espana y America Latina 303–323. Madrid: Iberoamericana Editorial.



How to Cite

Lucek, S. . (2021). Standard language ideology in an English-medium Irish secondary school: Conflicting perspectives on the discouragement of nonstandard language. Journal of Language and Discrimination, 5(2), 199–225.