indigenous, cont.

Dennis R. Preston preston at PILOT.MSU.EDU
Fri Dec 15 13:44:41 UTC 2000

>Please remember Geneva Smitherman's very interesting fieldwork
>research (published in our own AS) on just this question for
>"African American" (and interesting political/historical commentary
>by John Baugh in I believe the same issue).
>We have found some interesting lower-level linguistic features which
>accompany such preferences among African-American students here at
>Michigan State (but haven't gotten around to publishing them). For
>example, in a fairly large survey, we found that "African-American"
>was a preferred label for people ("He's an African American
>student") but that "Black" was preferred for cultural artifacts ("He
>likes Black music"; "She goes to a Black church"). "Black" was
>strongly dispreferred in stand-alone NPs ("He's a Black," "There are
>some Blacks in the other room"), although I believe the same has
>been noted for "Jew" (versus "Jewish person") on the list earlier
>and that one simple explanation has to do with a dislike of
>monosyllabicity for person reference.


>Frank Abate wrote:
>>  2. Is it the case (it is often said to be, without much evidence), that
>>  many (clearly not all) Native American/American Indian groups, or
>>  individuals, are proud of the term "Indian" (despite its etymology) and
>>  prefer it in reference to themselves?
>I've seen survey results somewhere suggesting a preference by American
>Indians for the label "Indian" over "Native American," but I can't
>remember where.  My own research on the question is running 100% for
>a preference for "Indian."  As one Indian said, context usually makes
>clear whether you mean Indian Indian or American Indian and "American"
>can be added as a clarifier if necessary.  I haven't gotten the
>impression that "pride" is involved -- just that the people I've
>talked to see nothing wrong with being called Indian and find "Native
>American" wordy, confusing, unnecessary.  I must add, however, that
>my informal research is based on only a handful of respondents.
>    --Natalie Maynor (maynor at

Dennis R. Preston
Department of Linguistics and Languages
Michigan State University
East Lansing MI 48824-1027 USA
preston at
Office: (517)353-0740
Fax: (517)432-2736

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