printability and standardization

Lynn Goldstein lgoldstein at
Mon Jan 12 00:15:34 UTC 2004

I’ve been lurking in the background reading what everyone has to say; this
email really isn’t in reply to anyone’s in particular. I agree with almost
everything that has been said and that in fact is the problem. I can see
all sides in terms of the social issues involved in language choice,
language use, and language education. Yes, some people want English
(Standard- whatever that really is) and I can understand why, in terms
what is gained. On the other hand having Standard English (or Standard
other languages) doesn’t necessarily get people what they want if they
don’t have other types of capital, so it’s just not that simple. I can
also understand wanting to redress imbalances of power, to not buy into
hegemony, so that "capital” can be gained through a variety of linguistic

I also think that sociolinguists have to take into account what everyday
people believe about language and what they do as a result of these
beliefs. This is just as legitimate an area of investigation/concern, as
is what sociolinguists believe about language. I've been doing work in
this area of" folklinguistics”, particularly looking at the media in terms
of how they wrote about the Ebonics resolution and looking at voters in my
area of California in terms of how they voted on Proposition 227(the Unz
initiative), why they voted the way the did, what they knew about the
initiative and bilingual ed before they voted, and what were their sources
of their information. Through all of this I have been struck by the "gulf"
between many of the "folk" and sociolinguists. It's not my intention to
disparage either side- I believe that each side is "legitimate". I
personally don’t want to be “paternalistic”, but I would like to find ways
of sharing knowledge that might be empowering to others. One of the things
I have seen if my folklinguistic research is that in a lot of cases we do
an absolutely lousy job of talking with the "folk" about language issues
that are critical in their lives. The contrast between the emotive, value
laden language of the everyday people I saw in the research I did on
Ebonics and the neutral, value free language used by many linguists is
striking. And, what are people to think of "experts" who say ( and this is
from my data) " It's not for linguists to decide if Ebonics is a language
or a dialect". While we know what that statement" means", what do we think
everyday people make of such a statement?

I don’t have an easy answer to any of this, nor to do I think there is an
easy answer. .

Lynn Goldstein
Professor, TESOL and Applied Linguistics
The Monterey Institute of International Studies

lgpolicy-list at writes:
>Dear Maggie,
>    I have read all the people you mention - although not the particular
>piece by Silverstein whom I stay away from if I can help it ( his ideas
>brilliant; his writing is dreadful).
>    When I say you can tell Af-Am that AAVE is a wonderful dialect, in
>ways more expressive (he talking~ he be talking) than standard English, it
>might "take" with some, but not your ordinary working class, LMC - they
>simply don't believe it. With good reason, I might add. (For social
>Only linguists would believe it. Why do I say that. I have tried many,
>times - I have supervised any numbers of lge attitude studies and it is
>always the same. Dislike and distrust.
>    But if you want to read something really great, find Samy Alim's
>dissertation, defended last spring at Stanford, John Baugh's student. That
>should make you cheer. But again, that's the students, not the parents.
>    Please understand, I think AAVE is great, fascinating and intriguing
>that we have no generally accepted history of its genesis. ALL I object to
>is pontificating social policies on linguistic grounds and against the
>community's wishes whether they be Quechua Indians, African-American,
>Hasidim Jews, etc etc.
>    And I am fairly well read :-) Christina PS But hang in there
>>From: Margaret Ronkin <ronkinm at>
>>To: lgpolicy-list at
>>Subject: RE: printability and standardization
>>Date: Sun, Jan 11, 2004, 2:55 PM
>> Also of possible interest; the first two readings are at an "easier"
>> than the third.
>> Lippi-Green, Rosina. 1997. The standard language myth. In English with
>> accent: language, ideology, and discrimination in the United States.
>> London: Routledge. Pp. 53-62.
>> Lippi-Green Rosina. 1997. Language ideology and the language
>> model. In English with an accent: language, ideology, and
>discrimination in
>> the United States. London: Routledge. Pp. 63-78.
>> Silverstein, Michael. 1996. Monoglot "standard" in America:
>> and metaphors of linguistic hegemony. In Donald Brenneis and Ronald K.S.
>> Macaulay, eds. The matrix of language: Contemporary linguistic
>> anthropology. Boulder, CO: Westview Press. Pp. 284-306.
>> [From a shorter paper, "Standardization and Metaphors of Linguistic
>> Hegemony", presented at the Annual Meeting of the American
>> Association, Philadelphia, 6 December 1996.]
>> -----
>> --Maggie
>> ----- Original Message -----
>> From: Ronald Kephart <rkephart at>
>> Date: Sunday, January 11, 2004 4:15 pm
>> Subject: RE: printability and standardization
>>> 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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