Macquarie University
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A review of Bernstein's theory of language, social class, and education

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posted on 2023-10-18, 04:46 authored by Nancy M. Robinson

This review provides an analysis and evaluation of Bernstein's Theory of Social Class, Language and Education. "Bernstein's work in Great Britain is cited in virtually every discussion of subcultural differences - in this case, social class - on language and cognition. It is cited, but rarely is it subjected to the analysis it deserves" (Cazden, 1966:106). Although this statement was made in 1966, only two published reviews have emerged (Lawton, 1968; Cazden, 1968 ). Since Bernstein's theory has provided the impetus for a large number of studies in developmental sociolinguistics, a thorough analysis and evaluation of his hypothesis appears to be most appropriate. This review is presented in the light of the belief that there is a need for such an evaluation.

The early theories of language and cognition which have particular relevance to the development of Bernstein's ideas are briefly reviewed. Bernstein's original theoretical structure is presented and its subsequent development and modification traced. The empirical review is limited to those studies which are directly related to the evaluation of his hypotheses, to allow for a qualitative analysis.

Special emphasis is given to the work done by the Sociological Research Unit in England. The later chapters evaluate the hypotheses in the light of the empirical evidence and theoretical criticisms. The concluding chapter focuses on the implications of the Bernstein theory for the educational process.


Table of Contents

Chapter 1. Introduction -- Chapter 2. Bernstein's theory of language, and social class -- Chapter 3. Empirical review -- Chapter 4. Evaluation of the theory -- Chapter 5. Relevance to education -- Chapter 6. Summary and conclusions -- Bibliography

Awarding Institution

Macquarie University

Degree Type

Thesis bachelor honours

Department, Centre or School

School of Education

Year of Award


Principal Supervisor

W. P. Robinson


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160 pages

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