Assessing Neoliberal Discourses in Communicative Language Teaching Policy: A Critical Corpus-Based Critical Discourse Analysis of Canadian French as a Second Language Curricula

  • Ria Angelo

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Education (EdD)


This thesis assesses neoliberal discourses in current Canadian communicative language teaching (CLT) policy of French as a Second Language (FSL). Neoliberalism or the deregulation of the state based on the principle of meritocracy, or equal competition (Brown & Lauder 2006) gives rise to the competing discourses of language commodification or standardization (LC) (Cameron 2012; Block 2019) and sociolinguistic superdiversity (SSD) (Blommaert 2010, 2016) that marks the mixed and hybrid language forms of transnational workers and their families. Parallel discourses in CLT pedagogy, advocated by Canadian FSL policy, also distinguish between standard or monolingual language forms and emergent language through its weak and strong methodological approaches. This thesis offers a three-way contribution to current research. Firstly, I deploy a novel philosophical argument that problematizes meritocracy in discursive and epistemic terms. I argue that the neoliberal view of meritocracy imposes monolingual language constraints on language learners through the neoliberal discourse of LC that manifests as a hegemonic discourse in weak CLT policy precepts. This illuminates a long-standing criticism of CLT that charges its weak form with limiting discursive and hence social possibilities for post-structuralist (PS) language learners (Norton 2000, 2013; Norton & Toohey 2011; Pavlenko & Blackledge 2004; Lin 2012). I call this tension between monolingual language standards and PS language learner identities the method-related problem of identity (MRPI) and argue that it emerges as a product of LC.Secondly, I deploy a (critical) corpus-based critical discourse analysis (CDA) to assess neoliberal discourses in Canadian CLT policy of FSL. A computerized keyword analysis that statistically isolates the nodes ‘teachers’ and ‘students’ serves as an entrypoint to the two-part critical analysis of policy. I conceptualize and carry out a critical approach to semantic preference (SP) in corpus-based research (CBR), which extends the analysis of collocations beyond their immediate lexical environment to consider macro political discourses as retroductive antecedents to social injustice found in discourse. Thirdly, a CDA of the node ‘students’ confirms the findings of the critical SP of ‘teachers’ to conclude that aspects of current Canadian CLT policy seem to suggest a weak CLT-oriented pedagogy and hence to an LC neoliberal discourse that gives rise to MRPI language learning contexts. This thesis ends with a discussion on the theoretical and methodological contributions of this study. I reflect on limitations and suggest directions this thesis opens for future research.
Date of Award26 May 2021
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University of Bath
SupervisorTrevor Grimshaw (Supervisor) & Hugh Lauder (Supervisor)

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