printability and standardization

Felicia Briscoe FBriscoe at
Sun Jan 11 21:06:25 UTC 2004

Why do you think that giving them all the linguistic information will not
help?  This seems a strange perspective for one who is engaged in the
creation of linguistic knowledge.  Is linguistic knowledge itself of no use?
Or is it just of no use to these particular parents for some reason?

-----Original Message-----
From: Christina Paulston [mailto:paulston+ at]
Sent: Sunday, January 11, 2004 1:54 PM
To: lgpolicy-list at
Subject: Re: printability and standardization

I must express myself extremely badly to be so misunderstood. Of course a
person can be literate in more than one language or dialect - I read some
seven languages, eight, myself. We are not, that is,  I am not talking about
a linguistic problem but a social. Of course the LSA comment "from this
perspective" they noted, was perfectly sound. It was the Black community
across the country who rose up in protest at having AAVE imposed on them and
you can give them all the linguistic information you want and it is not
going to help.
    What about South Africa, now with 11 official languages? Many Afrikaners
for "pedagogically sound" reasons now urge the African population to send
their children to mother tongue schools - exactly the same policy enforced
under apartheid for reasons of segregation.  Parents prefer education in
English for their children - are you going to tell them they suffer from
false consciousness ( a singularly brilliant concept, that)? There are as
always other circumstances, quality of teachers, texts, etc but parents
still want English.  And I think it should be their choice.
    The problem of course becomes worse when the children and the parents
disagree over that choice - which is not uncommon with immigrant groups.  I
just object to linguists playing omniscient gods and recommending  options
for life decisions on the basis of linguistic criteria.  Most people want a
decent life, at least for their children, a good job, good health care (Bush
should take note), a secure old age, etc, and if that necessitates another
language, they don't care. Of course they can remain bilingual but the
children usually don't think it is worth it.
    Etc.  My very last comment, Christina

From: Ronald Kephart <rkephart at>
To: lgpolicy-list at
Subject: RE: printability and standardization
Date: Sun, Jan 11, 2004, 11:15 AM

At 11:02 AM -0600 1/10/04, Felicia Briscoe wrote:

...There also seems to be an underlying assumption in much of the recent
writing that
bilingualism is either very difficult to attain or that it is someway is
detrimental to the person who is bilingual.  I find this a very strange
assumption. Why can't a person be fully literate in AAVE and fully literate
in standard English.  Why is it so often posed as an either/or option?

I think part of the answer lies in what anthropological linguist MJ Hardman
calls our linguistic postulates: specifically, the importance of
singularity. This manifests itself in all sorts of ways not only within our
language but also how we think about language, as well as more widely: one
"right" answer, one god, preference for individual over collective work,
"most valuable players," the totalitarian nature of our corporations, even
the prescriptive insistence on "he" rather than "they" as a generic pronoun.
And of course, "one language."

See: Hardman, 1978, Linguistic postulates and applied anthropological
linguistics, in Papers on linguistics and child language, edited by V. Honsa
and M.J. Hardman-de-Bautista, 117-36. The Hague: Mouton.

Ronald Kephart
Sociology, Anthropology, & Criminal Justice
University of North Florida

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