Makes sense, David-Michael, as far as it goes. People do, indeed, use 
different registers to talk with people of different statuses and in 
different situations (e.g. formal vs. informal.), but of course the 
issue is that what is considered "formal" and "organized" speech is 
not the same for all speech communities. What is organized writing to 
me is not the same for many East Asian writers, what is organized 
story-telling for me is often not the same for Native Hawaiian 
speakers (Google "talk story"), and the narrative structures of many 
African-American speech communities have different features than the 
story grammars of many Standard American English speaking 
communities. By what criteria do we determine whether someone's 
communication is "organized" and "formal"? Communication is rooted in 
conventions and thus reciprocal expectations. I think we need to be 
careful that we don't equate "not meeting our expectations" with 
"disorganized". If we don't, then "organized" merely becomes a proxy 
for correct or proper. As critical listeners and speakers shouldn't 
we take as our goal (if not responsibility) to understand our 
interlocuters from their points of view and thus try to see how their 
speech is organized and formal TO THEM?

 From this perspective the perfectly reasonable dictum you state below 
can be turned around: An educated person should be able to understand 
people even if they don't communicate in the ways that such a person 
would consider formal and organized.


>My approach to this issue is to remind students that everyone
>communicates differently with different people. For example, the
>language we use with our parents is usually different from the language
>we use with our friends. An educated person should be able to
>communicate in a formal, organized manner.
>David-Michael Allen, Ph.D.
>Donnelly College
>-----Original Message-----
>From: Open Forum for Learning Assistance Professionals
>[mailto:[log in to unmask]] On Behalf Of Jessica Nettles
>Sent: Tuesday, February 20, 2007 8:32 AM
>To: [log in to unmask]
>Subject: Re: Language, status and discrimination
>I also agree with Nic. While society designates some language varieties
>as "low-status," there is no true "correct" or "incorrect" English. I
>find it to be much more productive to spend time explaining how students
>can use "standardized" English to their advantage, and how
>"standardization" can help them be understood by a larger audience. I
>find this to be an ah-ha moment for many of my students that do speak
>and write in a "low status" form of English. I also like to emphasize
>that none of us really speak "standardized" English, but we speak (and
>often write) the language we're most often exposed to. To tell them that
>the language they learned from birth is "incorrect" is demeaning, and
>defeats the purpose of teaching standardized English. As native
>Georgian, I know that there are infinite versions of English that are
>spoken, and even the pidgeon languages such as our own Geechee and
>Gullah languages add spice and variety to the symphony of language that
>we hear every single day. To say it's incorrect is not acceptable.
>Of course, everyone else has probably said this before...
>Jessica Nettles
>Instructor of Developmental English and Reading Chattahoochee Technical
>College, Main Campus Room B-152
>(770) 528-4544
>[log in to unmask]
>"Nature is a haunted house--but Art--is a house that tries to be
>Emily Dickinson
>From: Open Forum for Learning Assistance Professionals on behalf of beth
>Sent: Tue 2/13/2007 8:21 PM
>To: [log in to unmask]
>Subject: Language, status and discrimination
>Similar to Black English, Hawaiian Creole English (HCE -- popularly
>known as "Hawaiian pidgin") is also a low-status language.  (It is, in
>fact, linguistically distinct from English and has its own grammatical
>structure and intonation pattern.)  Generations of native speakers of
>HCE have referred to their language as "broken English", and it is
>regarded by many
>-- including many employers -- as less desirable or acceptable than
>standard American English.  For many native HCE speakers, the adaptive
>solution has been to learn standard English and to "code-switch" between
>the two languages as appropriate to the situation.  I believe it's
>possible for people to do this as a practical strategy without feeling
>like they are inferior.  I also agree with Nic that a dualistic view of
>language is not productive.
>    beth
>Beth Kupper-Herr
>Coordinator, Learning Resource Center
>Leeward Community College
>96-045 Ala Ike
>Pearl City, HI  96782
>e-mail:  [log in to unmask]
>phone/voice mail:  (808) 455-0413
>>  Rae,
>>  Thanks for picking this thread back up.
>>  When thinking of language variety or dialect (not "accent"), I think
>>  it is important to make a distinction between the rule-governed nature
>>  of a variety of language and its social, political and economic
>>  status. This distinction is suggested by the quote from McClendon
>>  below. He points out that "Black English" (note that not all Black
>>  people speak this variety, and persons who would not be considered
>>  black do, in fact, speak this variety) has features he likes, but that
>>  speaking it can lead to being discriminated against.
>>  That is, because the language is low status, those who speak it may be
>>  treated as low status, denied access to full participation in our
>>  society, and judged inferior in some way. So, while so-called Black
>>  English is as legitimate a variety of  language as any other in terms
>>  syntax, phonology, morphology, etc. it is not considered legitimate by
>>  most in dominate positions in our society. This is a social judgement,
>>  not a linguistic one. Few, if any, linguists would say that Standard
>>  American English is "better" linguistically than Black English. Why,
>>  indeed, should we even use dualisms of "better and worse", "correct
>>  and incorrect" when thinking about language? Is green "better" than
>>  orange? Is a chicken an incorrect variety of bird because it does not
>>  fly?
>>  So, I would ask Mr McClendon, "better" for what? Better grammatically?
>>  Linguistic evidence doesn't support that claim. Better in terms of
>>  having access to power? I would agree. But at what price to these
>>  speakers do we seek to change their ways of speaking to be like the
>>  standard?
>>  So, when we as educators attempt to  "improve" our students'
>>  dialects, we need to be aware that we are not teaching "correct"
>>  English, but rather, "conventional" and "codified" English that
>>  reflects the ways of speaking of those who do the codifying.
>>  Nic
>>>  Our College recently invited writer, diversity trainer and talk show
>>>  host Garrard McClendon to speak on his new book "Ax or Ask? The
>>>  African American Guide to Better English."  Our student newspaper ran
>>>  an article on McClendon.  He is quoted as saying, "I love Black
>>>  English, it's comfortable, rhythmic, but use it all the time and you
>>>  can be discriminated against. Sometimes we blame things on color,
>>>  when it could be dialect."  He reminded the audience that there is no
>>>  such word as "squoze" or "irregardless."  In addition to his book,
>>>  McClendon has created a website to further educate
>>>  African Americans.
>>>  I, myself, have not reviewed his book; and I have briefly visited his
>>>  website.  You may find one or both helpful.
>>>  Rae M. Maslana, M.Ed., NCC, LPC
>>>  Certified Learning Center Leadership Professional - Level 4 College
>>>  of DuPage Coordinator, Tutoring Services Academic Support Center, IC
>>>  3040
>>>  (630) 942-3681
>>>  and
>>>  C.O.D. Counselor
>>>  (630) 942-4804 - Westmont Center
>>>  (630)942-4603 - Addison Center
>>>  Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that
>>>  matter.
>>>  -- Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
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Knowledge emerges only through invention and reinvention,  through 
the restless, impatient, continuing, hopeful inquiry men pursue in 
the world, with the world, and with each other. --Paolo Freire

Dominic (Nic) J. Voge
Study Strategies Program Coordinator
University of California, Berkeley
Student Learning Center
136 Cesar Chavez Student Center  #4260
Berkeley, CA 94720-4260

(510) 643-9278
[log in to unmask]

Spring 2007 Office Hours
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