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Language in Context Spring 11
Transcript of Language in Context Spring 11
School language is based on a particular dialect.
What would happen if we believed that no dialect is inherently superior to any other?
What if. . .
Printing press, wealth, standardization, privilege
Dialect variations in school = Mistakes
I done good; She say to me. . .; He all crazy
Child: “Me want milk!” (approximation)
Parent: “No! You may not have any milk until you master the correct pronoun usage!”
Huh? Would we really say this?
Therefore, fear of error results in limited language (spoken and written)
School language promotes particular ways of representing thought.
Intimacy of language in the home: Verbal short-cuts (natural growth) I amn't; Me and him; I did not know that; Acquired without effort
Non-intimate language in the school: Over-elaboration; Specificity; Non-assumptive (concerted cultivation); Learned rather than acquired
All school language subscribes to particular conventions of literacy.
Language is arbitrary:
Where do we ask questions to which we already know the answers?
Schools expect particular patterns of communication, of language behavior, and they demand physical behaviors that fit with those patterns.
Class time as a discourse event with expectations including clearly defined formal and informal roles
Eye contact, posture, interrupting, raising hands
Question/Response/Evaluation of response vs Active Negotiation of Meaning a la Vygotsky
School talk vs Home talk
Divergent language patterns are not typically understood or valued by the system that educates the students who use them. (Kutz & Roskelly, 1991).
“(M)iddle class children learn the language practices that end up being privileged in the schools long before they learn to read and write, bringing with them to school what they’ve learned at home” (p. 68).
School language asserts a larger set of values.
How do teachers perceive students who use a dialect which differs from the accepted Standard English dialect?
Which students in class appear more intelligent to the teacher?
Which students most likely share a dialect with the teacher?
. . .but don't we say this all the time to students who use a different dialect from Standard English?
“And I do not advocate that it is the school’s job to change the homes of poor and nonwhite children to match the homes of those in the culture of power . . .What the school personnel fail to understand is that if the parents were members of the culture of power and lived by its rules and codes, then they would transmit those codes to their children. In fact, they transmit another culture that children must learn at home in order to survive in their communities” (Delpit, 2006, p. 30).
"(O)ur language embraces us long before we are defined by any other medium of identity," (Delpit & Dowdy, The Skin That We Speak, 2002, p. xvii).
AAVE is a different dialect equally as valid, but it does not carry the same prestige and power as Standard English (Speicher & McMahon, 1992, p. 384)
Prescriptive Linguistics vs Descriptive Linguistics
Calling it AAVE is misleading; not all Blacks use this dialect. But for students who do use AAVE, do they have to make a decision between fitting in with family and peers or achieving in school? (Speicher & McMahon, 1992, p. 388)
Linguistic push-pull: "The dilemma for many African Americans is that language that serves as a symbol of ethnic identity may also serve as the focus of discrimination in mainstream society and language that can be useful for socioeconomic advancement may lead to suspicion in the African American community," (Rahman, 2008, p. 142).
“Dialects—all the varieties that exist—are fully grammatical, rule-governed systems of language. Some of the rules differ, but the dialects are rule-governed, nonetheless, and those differences occur in the phonological system, the vocabulary, the syntactic systems, and in conversational rules and the pragmatics of language. Even though we are socially judged by linguistic yardsticks that reflect language bias, no dialect is any less capable than any other of enabling speakers to express complex thoughts or of providing for a full range of linguistic functions and purposes,” (Wilson, 2001, p. 33)
“Negative attitudes toward other dialects are rarely developed on the basis of the dialect differences themselves; rather they are formed because of the attitudes toward the speakers of those dialects," (Wilson, 2001, p. 34).
Language constantly changes: “Students need to see for themselves that changes in language and language standards are evidence of flexibility and no cause for worry," (Zuidema, 2005, p. 872). (right click, "friend me")
Rahman, J. (2008). Middle-class African Americans: Reactions and attitudes toward African American English. American Speech, 83(2), 141-177.
Wilson, M. (March, 2001). The changing discourse of language study. English Journal, 31-36.
Zuidema, L. A. (2005). Myth education: Rationale and strategies for teaching against linguistic prejudice. Journal of Adolescent and Adult Literacy. 48(8), 666-675.
MacNeil, R. and Cran, W. (2005). Do You Speak American?: A Companion to the PBS Television Series. New York: Doubleday
Cukor-Avila, P. (2002). She say, She go, She be like: Verbs of quotation over time in African American Vernacular English. American Speech, 77(1), 3-31.
Eberhardt, M. (2008). The low back merger in the Steel City: African American English in Pittsburgh. American Speech, 83(3), 284-311,
Fulkerson, R. (1979). Four philosophies of composition. College Composition and Communication, 30(4), 343-348.
Kinloch, V. (2010). “To not be a traitor of Black English”: Youth perceptions of language rights in an urban context. Teachers College Record, 112(1), 103-141.
Mahiri, J. and Sablo, S. (1996). Writing for their lives: The non-school literacy of California’s urban African American youth. The Journal of Negro Education, 65(2), 164-180.
Palacas, A. I. (2001). Liberating American Ebonics from Euro-English. College English, 63(3), 326-352.
Sanchez, D. M. (2010). Hip-hop and a hybrid test in a postsecondary English class. Journal of Adolescent and Adult Literacy, 53(6), 478-487.
Wolfram, W. (2003). Reexamining the development of African American English: Evidence from isolated communities. Language, 79(2), 282-316.
Rickford, J. R. (2000). Spoken Soul: The Story of Black English. New York: John Wiley & Sons.
Kutz, E. & Roskelly, H. (1991). An Unquiet Pedaogy: Tranforming Practice in the English Classroom. Portsmouth, NH: Heineman.
Delpit, L. (1997) (in Cross-talk in Comp Theory: A Reader. Villanueva, V., Jr. Ed.). The silenced dialogue: Power and pedagogy in educating other people's Children. Urbana, IL: NCTE.
Rules of Power:
1. Issues of power are enacted in the classroom;
2. There are codes or rules for participating in power (culture of power);
3. The rules of the culture of power are a reflection of the rules of the culture of those in power;
4. If you are not already a participant in the culture of power, being told explicitly the rules of that culture make acquiring power easier;
5. Those with power are frequently least aware of its existence; those without power are often most aware of its existence.
(Delpit in Villanueva, 1997, p. 568)
What to do?
1. Acknowledge dialectical differences and teach students to recognize dialectical differences for what they are--differences.
2. Give students practice in code-switching.
3. Have fun with language! Ask students to translate classic works into text or slang; translate slang into Standard English.
4. Use literature which employs rich dialects as a way to develop characters.
5. Try the red, yellow, green light strategy: red light=high attention to surface features; yellow light=some attention to surface features; green light=little to no attention to surface features
6. Give students samples of written work and ask them to identify the intended audience.
7. Other ideas?
Characteristics of AAVE
History of AAVE
Theories on the Origin and Development of AAVE
Anglicist: derived from British-based dialects; similar to dialects of local community; through 1960-70's
Creolist: the roots of AAVE were embedded in an expansive creole found in the African diaspora, including the antebellum Plantation South
Neo-anglicist: earlier, postcolonial African American speech was directly linked to the early British dialects brought to North America but AAVE has since diverged so that it is now distinct from contemporary Europeon American vernacular speech (Wolfram, 2003, 284-5)
What's next. . .?
AAVE is a product of its unique contact history, its distribution in time and place, and the pervasive racial categories and cultural boundaries
that have separated African Americans and European Americans in the US in the past and the present (p. 311).
Absence of copula: He tall (He's tall)
Habitual be: He be at the store (He is usually at the store)
Stressed bin: She bin married (She's been married a long time and still is married); He bin wrote a letter (He wrote a letter a long time ago)
Completive done: He done did his homework (He has already finished his homework)
Absence of -s tense inflection: He go home late every day (He goes home late every day)
Double tense marking: He swepted the floor (He swept the floor)
Negative concord: Can't nobody make none (Nobody can make any)
Existential it: It's a fly in my soup (There is a fly in my soup)
Complementizer say: I told him say, "You should go home." (I told him, "You should go home.")
Raising of auxilaries: What time it is? (What time is it?)
They as possessive: This is they house (This is their house)
(Rahman, 2008, p. 146)
VE, not just AAVE
Codes are transmitted in the home: Survival?
System doesn't value divergent language patterns
Our language embraces us
Bias as a result of attitudes toward speakers, not dialect
AAVE doesn't carry prestige of Standard English
All dialects are capable of a full range of linguistic functions and purposes
Harlem Children's Zone
Middle class parenting practices vs Low income parenting practices
Solution to poverty in America? Teach parents about brain development, reading to children, using time-outs instead of corporal punishment
Two sets of families: professional & welfare: Biggest difference? 20 million more words in first three years of life; extra words impacted overall verbal ability
Biggest factor in determining future academic success: the number of words spoken in the home in childhood
James Heckman: Job training was not the answer--need basic skills like communication, simple math, reading, self-control, motivation, work habits, be open to ideas. How do those skills get formed? Should be acquired by ten. If you can intervene in a child's life early on, small interventions have huge effects.
Not just amount of language, but also type of language:
Middle income: 500,000 encouragements; 80,000 discouragements
Low income: 80,000 encouragements; 200,000 discouragements