Sounds like Greek to me

Lynn Goldstein lgoldstein at
Fri Dec 12 19:02:06 UTC 2008

lgpolicy-list at writes:
>On 12/12/08 12:05 PM, "Ann Anderson Evans" <[
>]annevans123 at> wrote:
>In Israel the Arabic I heard on the streets was not attractive to my ear,
>to say the least, rough and guttural. Then one night I heard Arabic
>poetry being read on the radio.  Talk about rich!
>How do we operationalize value judgements like “rough, guttural, rich?”
>These kinds of statements are totally subjective, and have no linguistic
>(i.e., scientific) merit whatsoever. I suspect, though, that maybe what
>was happening here was that the poetic reading style was probably very
>different from the typical on the street interaction. I suspect that we
>might make the same contrasting judgements about street vs. poetic
>English. Think for example about taxi drivers arguing over a parking
>space, versus someone reading from Whitman.
>By the way, when I was in high school, I thought Spanish was the gods’
>gift to humankind. Beautiful! So much so, that I majored in it as an
>undergrad. Then, in grad school, I took Aymara and began learning about
>how the Spanish had oppressed, exploited, and otherwise abused the Aymara
>and other indigenous peoples in the Andes and elsewhere. Somehow, Spanish
>didn’t sound so beautiful anymore...
I am quite interested in folk linguistics and  I strongly believe that
these types of statements and beliefs , while subjective, have great
linguistic/scientific merit. Understanding and describing people's folk
views  should be an essential part of linguistics.  

I've been doing work in this area for while, and although I have not had
the time to write much of it  up ( During the discussion of the Ebonics
Resolution I examined 10 newspapers across the United States ,over a year
period of time, looking at how the "folk", journalists, and  linguistics
talked about the resolution; did poling of Californians as to how they
voted for proposition 227, what they knew about the proposition, what they
thought it would "do" and what the sources of knowledge and information
were that informed their vote; and I have a published article  about 
English Only as discussed in The New York Times, The Monterey Herald, and
the San Francisco Chronicle). The results have been eye opening in terms
of folk knowledge and views and the impact they have  on real life
decisions such as the passing of prop 227 in California and in terms of
how we (linguists) need to  learn how to talk to and with the folk if we
want our own voices to be heard in crucial policy decisions.    I'm
currently working on a project where I collected my sociolinguists
students' ( in their first semester of our MA program) folk views across a
wide variety of topics about language at the beginning of the course and
at the end of the course. I'm examining what these views were, how they
did or did not change,where these views came from, and what impact what we
read and discuss in sociolinguistics have had on these views. 

Folk Linguistics is an integral part of the graduate sociolinguistic
course I teach , as I want my students to understand  the "folk" and their
views  they will be working with as language teachers, language program
administrators, language assessment specialists, policy makers,
sociolinguists and so forth. As part of their work in this course they all
undertake a folk linguistic study ( they've looked at folk  views of
bilingual education, AAVE, prescription/description in language use, media
treatments of language topics, how attitudes towards language varieties
are strategically  portrayed in movies and in novels and so forth).
They've come away with an appreciation for how folk views may differ from
those held by linguists and importantly how they cannot be dismissed if we
are to understand language and how it is used and the roles it plays in
people's lives. 

Lynn Goldstein

Professor, TESOL and Applied Linguistics
The Monterey Institute of International Studies 
460 Pierce Street
Monterey, CA 93940
(831) 647-4184
lgoldstein at

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