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Here we note misconceptions and misreadings of LCT. Some are honest mistakes. Others are misreadings by sufferers of what Basil Bernstein termed ‘reading omnipotence … a clinical condition which renders texts which disturb one’s own interpretation unread, even when they are’ (1996: 184). We use quote marks to ensure the misconceptions are not attributed to us.

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LCT is blind to "the pedagogisation of knowledge, namely pedagogic discourse and the principle of recontextualisation ...there is a distinctive silence around pedagogic discourse and its principles of recontextualisation in K & K or LCT" (Parlo Singh book 'review', BJSE, 2015)

To claim a 'distinctive silence' is to ignore:

  • numerous studies of classroom practices by scholars using LCT, including Maton (2013) 'Making semantic waves', among others; there are also two major, nationally-funded studies in Australia of classroom practices in secondary schooling spanning over 8 years (the DISKS and PEAK projects)
  • growing number of uses of LCT to actively shape classroom practices, teaching of EAP, teaching of academic literacy, etc. (e.g. Blackie 2014)
  • numerous studies of textbooks and curriculum using LCT (e.g. Kilpert & Shay 2013, Shay 2013, Luckett 2010, Luckett 2009, etc).

These studies, reports and ongoing activities are not hard to discover - most are explicitly mentioned in the book Knowledge and Knowers that is being 'reviewed' and most can be downloaded from this website.

The basis for the misrepresentation may be clearer when considering that the 'review' asks the reader to read the reviewer's own work, citing one of her own articles four times in a brief 'book review'.

“LCT is positivist / scientistic / involves technicist analysis”

This is name-calling with no relation to reality.  What it attempts to do is analysed in chapter 8 of Knowledge and Knowers as ‘clusterfucking’. See also chapters 1–5 of Knowledge-building in which Maton and colleagues discuss the craft of enacting LCT in research studies. LCT is anything but technicist. It is not positivist but rather founded on a post-positivist ontology and epistemology.

“LCT argues we should abandon categories/types/boundaries and switch to continua/topologies/no boundaries”

This can only be argued through highly selective misquoting and deliberate misreading. Nowhere in the LCT core corpus does it state that the former should be replaced by the latter. Instead LCT proclaims “we can have both”. It is a ‘both/and’, not an ‘either/or’. See Maton’s paper ‘Making semantic waves’, chapters 3 and 7 of Knowledge and Knowers and chapter 1 of Knowledge-building, where this issue is explicitly addressed.

"LCT can teach students 'the rules of the game' but cannot critique the game; LCT fits students to the status quo"

LCT can be used to make explicit the 'rules of the game' (what constitutes achievement), which allows choices to be made. One can now choose to consciously change the rules of the game, with greater understanding of the effects that such a change will have. One can choose to teach the existing or adapted or changed bases of achievement to agents whose previous experiences have not privileged them with a ready understanding of and ability to act in ways that are viewed as successful. One can choose to critique those rules of the game. None of those choices can be made by simply having one's heart in the right place or good intentions. As Bourdieu argued, good sentiments make bad sociology.

"LCT fetishizes / reifies knowledge"

This assertion is not supported by any evidence. LCT analyses socio-cultural practices and includes major studies of classroom practices, among others.


“Semantics is sociolinguistics or adapts ideas from linguistics or is heavily influenced by linguistics

In 'Making semantic waves', Maton (2013: 11) states with respect to this mis-characterisation:

Discomfort with inter-disciplinary dialogue, conceptual development, the term ‘semantics’, and close analyses of textual data could lead some sociologists to profanize this dimension as overly inspired by or resembling linguistics. This would ignore relations to substantive studies in code theory and to Bernstein’s framework (which was itself influenced throughout by SFL), and decontextualize the concepts from their wider sociological framework (weakening their semantic density).

In 'Building powerful knowledge', Maton makes clear the genesis of these concepts. Semantic gravity was first outlined in a Bernstein conference (Lyon, June 2007) and publication (BJSE Jan 2009) that makes clear its origins in Bernstein's concepts. Semantic density was first outlined in a Bernstein conference (Cardiff, June 2008) and publication (Ivinson et al, 2011) that makes clear its sociological origins. These are also made explicit in Knowledge and Knowers and Maton (2014) 'Building powerful knowledge' paper. Their use in collaborative research with SFL scholars only began after the concepts were already developed (2009), and linguists are themselves very clear that SG and SD are sociological and not linguistic concepts. This point is illustrated clearly in the two papers by Maton & Doran (2016a, 2016b) that show how to enact the concept of semantic density to study English discourse.

The misrepresentation that Semantics is linguistic was made in a paper which appeared to quote Maton twice supporting the claim (Zaibing Luo and Shanshan Wu, 'Semantic wave of grammatical metaphor', 2015). However, one 'quote' changes Maton's words from a description of Semantics as emerging from dialogue with SFL into 'derived from ...' and the second 'quote' is not by Maton at all - it is a fabrication.

“Semantic gravity equates to external relations and semantic density equates to internal relations”

This is not suggested or hinted at anywhere in Maton’s work, and can only be maintained by changing the meaning of the terms. In ‘Theories and things’ (2011), which introduced ‘semantic density’, both semantic gravity and semantic density are used together to analyse both external relations and internal relations. See Knowledge and Knowers (chapter 7), where this claim is explicitly shown to be a misreading.

"Semantic gravity / semantic density is about ideas / instructional discourse / knowledge only"

This is to see only epistemic–semantic density or epistemic-semantic gravity. See 'Cosmologies' in Knowledge and Knowers, as well as numerous mentions of axiological condensation in papers, to see that SG and SD can also be applied to morals, feelings, political beliefs, etc. This misunderstanding leads to notions such as 'moral gravity', which mashes together semantic gravity with an interpretation of Bernstein's 'regulative discourse' to capture something already embraced within the more encompassing and better integrated concept of axiological-semantic gravity. In other words, 'moral gravity' simply renames an existing concept after removing it from its relations within a more complex framework.

"Semantic gravity fails to theorize the nature of the context"

This misunderstands the nature of code concepts. SG and SD can be applied to all practices, and this involves a wide variety of contexts. The purpose of translation devices (such as external languages) is to show how strengths of SG or SD are realised in one's object of study. So, theorizing the nature of the context forms forms part of the external language for SG rather than its internal language. To aid enactment a translation device for enacting epistemic-semantic gravity in the analysis of English discourse is being completed by Maton's research team at the University of Sydney.

"Karl Maton borrowed the notion “wave” from physics"

This is not accurate. It comes from a presentation that confuses the use of 'wave' by SFL scholars (in a totally different context for a totally different purpose) with 'wave' in LCT.

"Semantics is only about pedagogy / segmentalism because 'semantic waves' is about segmentalism in pedagogy"

This takes the context within which concepts were introduced (exploring the issue of segmentalism in pedagogy) and proclaims that as the full extent of applicability of those concepts, which is clearly shown to be nonsense by the large number of studies of very different topics, problems, and issues using concepts from Semantics.

"Semantic density cannot capture the difference between two subjects which use the same words for concepts"

This is mistaken. The ESD translation device captures this issue and the forms taken by different of the same word could be explored using, for example, ontic relations and discursive relations.


“LCT comes from extending Bernstein’s model of knowledge structures and is not related to his earlier work on codes and coding orientations”

Specialization, the first dimension of LCT to emerge, came from extending both Bernstein’s concepts of pedagogic codes/coding orientations and knowledge structures, simultaneously (see Maton, 2000, ‘Recovering pedagogic discourse’). For every classification (C) and framing (F) strength Bernstein highlighted, Maton found another strength, often different. For example, where Bernstein would describe didactic pedagogy as +C and +F, Maton additionally found –C and –F; where Bernstein described progressive pedagogy as –C and –F, Maton also found +C and +F.

Maton realised there were two things to which the concepts of C and F could be applied. These were conceptualised as epistemic relations (ER) and social relations (SR). The strengths of ER and SR come together to give specialisation codes (ER+/–, SR+/–), where these condense C and F within them; e.g. ER+, SR– (knowledge codes) is short for ER(+C, +F), SR(–C, –F). See Maton’s Knowledge and Knowers, chapter 3 and chapter 10.

This extension and integration of codes and coding orientations within specialisation codes came to include the pedagogic device (within the epistemic–pedagogic device) and knowledge structures (within knowledge–knower structures).  Maton highlights in Knowledge and Knowers (chapter 10) that his early papers focused more on showing the extension of knowledge structures simply to provide a way into the ideas that was more contemporary in the field. Specialization does not build only on 'knowledge structures'.

“Specialization is another way of describing Durkheim’s mechanical and organic solidarities or Bernstein’s instructional and regulative discourses’

Education exists in a state of what Maton and Moore (2000) called ‘historical amnesia’, so questions of whether new concepts reinvent old ones are important. However, integrative knowledge-building involves building on past ideas. This makes it difficult for some to recognise conceptual advance. The reductionism involved in reducing Specialisation back to those theorisations which it advances is well discussed by Moore and Muller (2002). In Knowledge and Knowers (chapter 10), Maton explains how Specialisation extends and integrates code theory concepts inherited from Bernstein, and Bernstein discussed how his framework extended that of Durkheim. The proof of the pudding is in the greater explanatory power generated by Specialisation in substantive studies.

“LCT believes knowledge codes are the answer and attacks knower codes”

Maton’s papers on ‘the cultivated gaze’ and ‘cumulative and segmented learning’ (now both revised as chapters in Knowledge and Knowers) make very clear that knower codes have considerable value. His analysis of ‘insights’ in the ‘4-K model’ shows how  knowledge codes can be deleterious to cumulative progress of powerful knowledge. Chapter 9 of Knowledge and Knowers shows clearly that no single code, insight or gaze is always the answer.

"We've added another principle into specialisation codes"

Two academics at Ghana University Technical College in a paper called 'Reframing the principle of specialisation in legitimation code theory' claim there is a need to add 'structural alignment' into specialisation codes, next to epistemic relations and social relations. While specialisation codes do not deal with 'structural alignment', their solution (inserting it as a third 'principle' alongside epistemic relations and social relations) represents a fundamental misunderstanding of the nature of LCT. Specialisation begins (as all LCT dimensions do) from a simple premise (in this case, that knowledge practices are about something and by someone). The premise generates the organising principles (epistemic relations to the 'something' and social relations to 'the someone'). This simple beginning provides an integrity to the codes. If there is another issue not covered by a set of codes, then it is either dealt with by another dimension, may result from a dimension not yet conceptualised, or is simply an external variable or factor to which specialisation codes may relate (in their case, this is likely to be the simple issue). Inserting 'principles' into codes to cover each separate issue is empiricist, segmental and opposed to the principles that characterise LCT.


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Last Updated on Thursday, 11 January 2018 13:29