printability and standardization

Rachel Reynolds rrr28 at
Mon Jan 12 11:16:50 UTC 2004

I am wondering why no one has quite mentioned that language is just a
single part of the ethnic/racial stratification scene in the United States
(and elsewhere).  There is only so much that educating people about
language can accomplish when race relations have a lot to do also with
clean water supplies, prison, health care disparities (Christina mentioned
this!), sociogeographical isolation of the poor, the impetus towards
empire, enduring and changing commercialization of black bodies and sounds,
etc. etc. etc.   The efficacy of language consciousness education depends
of course on historical and cultural contexts of other forms of
consciousness raising and the ethnic/class struggle (i.e. timing is
everything).  Someone mentioned Kendall King's book earlier on Quechua,
standardization and the classroom where, for example, in the introduction
King points out that her ethnography takes place in a setting where
indigenous people in Ecuador had just won a political place in the wording
of the constitution and that the wide ranging effects of this will have
mattered at a more pervasive level than the efforts of a single educational
consortium.  Nonetheless, this educational consortium arose at the time of
political change and was probably more effective because of its correlation
with the zeitgeist. (that last part is me talking, not necessarily King
whose book I do not presently have by my side).  That's related to why King
concludes that language revitalization may not necessarily fully reinstate
languages within all domains, but that it has a positive
social-psychological effect on minority children and within their
communities. (again, I hope I've summarized that accurately).

Wasn't it Marvin Harris who points out that changing superstructural
concerns from the top, like language and its ideologies, have less
likelihood of affecting the infrastructure or the structure of a social
group?  While changes form the base, in the infrastructure and the
structure will have wider-ranging on the superstructure?  When and how are
minority language planning efforts likely to change the structure, I guess,
is what I'm asking...

Rachel Reynolds

At 05:51 AM 1/12/2004 +0200, you wrote:
>Christina's comment reminds me of a remark made by a Navajo graduate
>student of mine many years ago: by moving to the city, she knew it was
>unlikely that her son would grow up speaking Navajo, but at least she
>wouldn't have to carry water a mile or two every day.
>Of course, those who stayed on the Reservation are speaking Navajo less
>and less.
>-----Original Message-----
>From: owner-lgpolicy-list at
>[mailto:owner-lgpolicy-list at] On Behalf Of Christina
>Sent: Sunday, January 11, 2004 9:54 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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