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The Crucial Role of Child Language Brokers

The crucial role bilingual children take in their families and communities as translators goes largely unnoticed. The article, In the service of surveillance: Immigrant child language brokers in parent-teacher conferences by Jennifer F. Reynolds, Marjorie Faulstich Orellana and Inmaculada García-Sánchez, discusses the circumstances in which children of immigrants translate or interpret for their families using their linguistic repertoire of their mother tongue and the native language of their current living status. This circumstance has been coined as “language brokering.” Immigrant families work to provide for their families and establish a foundation for their families to survive and thrive in a new country. Their children provide support by completing everyday tasks that may seem small to natives of the country such as answering the phone, running errands, making purchases, researching information on the internet, reading written information, and interpreting for their families in public encounters with doctors, teachers, lawyers, store personnel and others (“In the service of surveillance: Immigrant child language brokers in parent-teacher conferences” 2015).

Reynolds, Orellana and García-Sánchez discuss the use of surveillance to determine the different ways child language brokers make an impact in their communities and their society as a whole. While surveying a parent-teacher conference, they’ve determined that students who speak multiple languages are given agency to be a bridge of communication for their parents and teachers since they understand both parties. This can be a challenging task in itself since the students, in most cases, have to speak to and for both their parents and teachers. There’s pressure for them to truthfully convey the thoughts, comments and opinions of both parties verbatim. There are words that have different meanings and alternative uses that can be difficult to interpret. The article uses “cool” as an example for describing a person. In Jamaican Patois, someone who is cool is usually referred to as a “gangsta” but in English, “gangsta” is a person involved in gang activity and thus viewed as a negative description. Teachers are evaluating the proficiency their students have with language which can develop into racialization of these students and their cultures. Although some of these child language brokers may be unaware of it, they’re representing their people and culture through their interactions during these conferences, and it doesn’t stop there. Child language brokers are being evaluated in more explicit ways like when they’re talking on the phone or talking to authority figures and in more subtle ways such as going to a clerk to purchase something.

These child language brokers suddenly change from being a helpful service to their parents and teachers into being misunderstood representations of an entire ethnic background and/or race. The importance and difficulty of this task is overlooked because of the stigma brought against immigrants that they should know the language of the country they reside in, without considering the circumstances as to why these immigrants don’t know the language. There needs to be more consideration and appreciation for this fantastic ability.

Citations

Reynolds, J, M Orellana, and I García-Sánchez (2015). “In the Service of Surveillance: Immigrant Child Language Brokers in Parent-Teacher Conferences.” Langage et société 153(3): 91-108.

Summary of “Emotions Have Many Faces: Inuit Lessons.” by Jean L. Briggs

“Emotions Have Many Faces: Inuit Lessons.” by Jean L. Briggs is a personal account of an anthropologist visiting the Arctic to live amongst the Inuit in a remote camp, trying to explore what is different about their culture. Briggs was taken into an Inuit family and quickly learned how distinct their way of life is. Through detailing her experiences living with the family, more specifically trying to make sense of how she became ostracized due to her instinctive behavior, Briggs uncovered the intricacies of Inuit social life in her attempt to become a better member of the Inuit community. Some time into staying at the camp, Briggs felt off, attributing it to homesickness, however Briggs later found out that the feeling was caused by the Inuit people ostracizing her for her inability to adapt to established Inuit social behaviors. Briggs acted in such a way that was seen as unsuitable for the Inuit community; her way of reacting to situations and interacting with the community in general revealed her unawareness of the deeper emotional meanings that Inuit people ascribe to their actions. After discovering the fact that there are crucial differences in how the Inuit people communicate their emotions, Briggs started to look deeper into how meanings of certain words are construed in the Inuktitut language. Through studying conceptual differences between the Inuktitut language and English, Briggs came to the conclusion that there is no universal set of emotion concepts. She describes how the Inuit way of life brings about the creation of words that contain multiple English concepts, as well as creating separate words for a single English concept. For instance, the English concept of “love” is divided into a couple distinct words to express either a positive or a negative connotation of the feeling. The conceptual differences in language are meant to create a hyper awareness of other people’s intentions and emotions behind their words. Briggs mentioned the living conditions of the Inuit and how the remote nature of the camp makes the community highly interdependent, and creates the need for understanding these subtle linguistic cues in order to avoid conflict. The importance of proper communication for the Inuit is seen in the way the Inuit children are taught these concepts from a young age. The children are oftentimes asked difficult questions that force them to think and make decisions based on how the words they hear make them feel. Over time the children start forming associations between feelings and certain words and the scenarios that they were encountered with. The formed connections lead children to develop a deeper understanding of the importance of selecting the proper words to express complex emotions. Through her research Briggs reveals the constructive nature of emotional expression in language; her work is meant to argue against the Western notion of attributing emotions to a negative connotation by showcasing the importance of this expression to the Inuit social life as it helps them communicate subtle unspoken meanings. 

Briggs, JL. (2000). “Emotions Have Many Faces: Inuit Lessons.”Anthropologica 42(2): 157-164.

Summary of “Silence in the western Apache culture” by KEITH H. BASSO (Rewrite)

Silence is a natural language that all humans generally speak. The article by Keith Basso dives into what silence truly is and the stereotype of Apache silence by combining methods from sociolinguistics and ethnoscience. The innominate quote summarizes the article’s central idea, “It is not the case that a man who is silent says nothing.” This research tries to eye the silence in the western Apache culture of east-central Arizona, which has received little or no concern from the linguists and the ethnographers. The author seeks to understand how the Apache to use language. When they chose to go silent or, in other terms, give up on the use of words. 

Through analysis of other people’s works, the author states that communication, mostly verbally, is a matter of decision-making. A speaker is supposed to select a suitable code concerning the immediate situation. They also determine the right channel of transmission and finally communicate. From this research, we understand that it is not enough for a stranger to formulate a clear message to the mind. Still, they also need to incorporate awareness of which code and channel to use in different situations and people.

Even though silence might seem an easy thing, Basso states that silence has various interpretations and many different uses contingent on the situation’s context. There are several occasions in which silence can be used in Apache culture. Basso has outlined these situations in the following manner; in the presence of someone for whom they sing, being with someone sad, during verbal altercations, children coming back home after prolonged amounts of time, dating /courting, and meeting with strangers. 

It is common to remain silent in Apache culture until both get-togethers receive an excellent introduction and have a better chance to strike up a conversation or speak. Similarly, it is common to remain silent when courting/dating for a reasonable amount of time while displaying fondness in ways such as staying close to each other and holding hands. The silence in dating/courting commonly happens due to forthright boldness or fear that they might say something inappropriate. The reason why parents remain silent when children return home after a long time is that they may fear that their children might perceive them differently or they may change changed their way away from home. 

It is appropriate in Apache culture to remain silent or refrain from responding when one is being cussed out or in verbal altercations. The silence is to prevent rage of whoever is angry, leading to potential loss of control or worsening of the situation. Silence is encouraged when someone is sad due to the death of a loved one. At this moment, silence lessens the physical and emotional drainage of the grieving individual. Silence is appropriate when a person receives healing through a ceremony since people believe that the individual is holy. However, this occurs with only a person whom they sing.

These several circumstances in which a person is encouraged to stay silent possess a common theme tying them together. They are all rooted in uncertainty whereby someone does not know how they should react around a particular person or the reaction of a specific individual when they speak. The situations of deciding whether to remain silent occur in consideration of other people and develop because of the individual’s mental state. Arguably the physical setting of these situations is commonly irrelevant.

The author of the article views the absence of verbal communication in Western Apache culture as something connected with social circumstances where there is the loss of the illusion of predictability in social interactions, role expectations lose their applicability, and the status of participants becomes ambiguous. In one sense, it is a response to unpredictability and uncertainty in social interactions.

Basso, Keith H. “To Give up on Words Silence in Western Apache Culture.” THE UNIVERSITY OF CHICAGO PUSS JOURNALS 26.3 (1970): 213-230. journal.

Summary of ““#Ferguson: Digital protest, hashtag ethnography, and the racial politics of social media in the United States”

The article “#Ferguson: Digital protest, hashtag ethnography, and the racial politics of social media in the United States”, written by Yarimar Bonilla and Jonathan Rosa explores the arthrological perspective on hashtags and social medias and their effects of racial political events that have happened in the past; specifically the horrible incident of Michael Brown. The authors look at how social media spread awareness and information about Browns death, leading to a national uproar and outcry against police brutality. This fast spread of information wouldn’t have been possible without the use of social media, and specifically the use of hashtags.

            The main arguments in this article are the ways in which social media and hashtags are a quick access in order to find information based on a certain event that has taken place. Another argument is that social media has been used as a tool in order to shine light of the marginalization happening to people of color, specifically the African American community.

Evidence that was presented to the reader to support their arguments was the use of the hashtag ‘#Ferguson’ after the murder of Michael Brown. They dissected this hashtag which quickly circulated different social media platforms. They analyzed how beneficial the hashtag was in order to circulate and find information used with the #Ferguson hashtag; which was primarily used to organize protest, learn about the death of Michael Brown, and follow the case as well as a plethora of information relating to the topic. However, it was quickly realized how much of a narrow view you receive since you are mostly seeing people’s perspective from your social community. Also, it was noted, not everyone used the hashtag to talk about the movement, some used the hashtag to state they were just in Ferguson, some used it just to redirect traffic to their account. So instead, it was more difficult finding the pattern of hashtag use, because it was used for multiple different things and not for the general idea of spreading awareness on Brown.

            The evidence the authors used are clear and do support the authors arguments. It was easy to follow the claims and find evidence which were shortly presented after the claims were. The article was written very well and very clearly, also it was described in depth. Not only would the authors say their claims, but they would give background on the information they were using in case the reader was not familiar with ‘hashtag ethnography’.

            The author helps us understand how critical the use of language is over social media. The author points out how biased informal journalism can be across social media and how limited of a view we are exposed to. It is incredibly important to do research, but frankly speaking a lot of millennials and teens do not do background research and instead get their information straight from Twitter or other social media platforms. It was not expected that the authors would point out the ultimate biases which people have when tweeting, this shows how easily it is to spread false or twisted information just with the use of a hashtag. It is surprising that with this information people still are quick to believe anything as long as it is accompanied with the hashtag of their interest.

            This hashtag #Ferguson is related to #BLM or #BlackLivesMatter and even #BlackOutTuesday. With these hashtags there was a national and even international coverage of police brutality and racial discrimination amongst the black community. However, the issue that seemed to be prominent was people used the hashtag with no content, just a black square to show solidarity. This caused a stop in information flow, so it was harder to find information such as protest gatherings with these black squares, but it also pointed out that digital activism is real and very much temporary. It does not call for action and is the easiest way to think you are helping, which the article did mention.

Bonilla, Yarimar, and Jonathan Rosa. 2015. “#Ferguson: Digital Protest, Hashtag Ethnography, and the Racial Politics of Social Media in the United States: #Ferguson.” American Ethnologist 42 (1): 4–17.

Summary of “To Give up on Words”: Silence in Western Apache Culture

In “’to Give up on Words’: Silence in Western Apache Culture” by Keith H. Bascco, the author uses various social situations to defend his hypothesis. Through his research, Bascco illustrates that silences in Western Apache culture is directly associated with social situations in which participants perceive their relationships with another to be ambiguous.  He, then, argues that refraining from speech can be seen in other cultures. 

Bascco uses six types of social contexts where silence is often preferred. The first is meeting with strangers. Verbal reticence is often an approach used to examine the stranger from a distance and determine whether or not you would like to establish a friendship. The second situation is courting, where in the initial stages of courtship, the couples are reluctance to speak because of a sense of unfamiliarity. The third social context is children coming home after a long absence from home.  There’s a prolonged period of silences after the reunion because parents are still unsure of how much the child might have changed during their absence. The fourth example that the author provides is when getting cussed out. Those who are getting cursed at refrain from speech because of the awareness that individuals that are enraged are often considered irrational or crazy. Because of the assumption that the enraged person is temporarily crazy and unreasonable, silence is used instead of reasoning with the person.  The fifth situation being with people who are sad. Three explanations for why silence is preferred around someone who is grieving a loss is that speaking requires a large amount of physical effort, verbal communication can seem unnecessary, and intense grief can lead to intense rage. The final example is being with someone for whom they sing. During the singing process, the patient is brought into contact with a supernatural force and it is believed that silence is needed.

Overall, something that was observed in all of the situations that were described is silence is a common approach used during ambitious moments. The author makes this argument to illustrate that just like Indian societies of the American Southwest, Western Apache cultures also experience silence behavior. By quoting Priscilla Mowrer, “who inquired into the situational features of Navajo silence behavior in the vicinity of Tuba City on the Navajo Reservation in east-central Arizona”, Bascco portrayed the similarities between the types of social contexts in which Navajos and western Apaches refrain from speech (227). Sometimes when Westerns analyze other cultures and their interactions with one another, they can view them as inferior and uneducated. I believe Bascco decided to make this argument to illustrate that Western culture also experience moments of silences that aren’t that much different from other cultures. I feel that Bascco provided sufficient evidences that was very clear and supported his hypothesis.  

Summary of “To Give up on Words”: Silence in Western Apache Culture

In “’to Give up on Words’: Silence in Western Apache Culture” by Keith H. Bascco, the author uses various social situations to defend his hypothesis. Through his research, Bascco illustrates that silences in Western Apache culture is directly associated with social situations in which participants perceive their relationships with another to be ambiguous. He, then, argues that refraining from speech can be seen in other cultures.
Bascco uses six types of social contexts where silence is often preferred. The first is meeting with strangers. Verbal reticence is often an approach used to examine the stranger from a distance and determine whether or not you would like to establish a friendship. The second situation is courting, where in the initial stages of courtship, the couples are reluctance to speak because of a sense of unfamiliarity. The third social context is children coming home after a long absence from home. There’s a prolonged period of silences after the reunion because parents are still unsure of how much the child might have changed during their absence. The fourth example that the author provides is when getting cussed out. Those who are getting cursed at refrain from speech because of the awareness that individuals that are enraged are often considered irrational or crazy. Because of the assumption that the enraged person is temporarily crazy and unreasonable, silence is used instead of reasoning with the person. The fifth situation being with people who are sad. Three explanations for why silence is preferred around someone who is grieving a loss is that speaking requires a large amount of physical effort, verbal communication can seem unnecessary, and intense grief can lead to intense rage. The final example is being with someone for whom they sing. During the singing process, the patient is brought into contact with a supernatural force and it is believed that silence is needed.
Overall, something that was observed in all of the situations that were described is silence is a common approach used during ambitious moments. The author makes this argument to illustrate that just like Indian societies of the American Southwest, Western Apache cultures also experience silence behavior. By quoting Priscilla Mowrer, “who inquired into the situational features of Navajo silence behavior in the vicinity of Tuba City on the Navajo Reservation in east-central Arizona”, Bascco portrayed the similarities between the types of social contexts in which Navajos and western Apaches refrain from speech (227). Sometimes when Westerns analyze other cultures and their interactions with one another, they can view them as inferior and uneducated. I believe Bascco decided to make this argument to illustrate that Western culture also experience moments of silences that aren’t that much different from other cultures. I feel that Bascco provided sufficient evidences that was very clear and supported his hypothesis.

Summary of “‘To Give Up on Words’: Silence in Western Apache Culture” by Keith H. Basso

In the reading “‘To Give Up on Words’: Silence in Western Apache Culture” Basso displayed is that in Western Apache culture there is no verbal communication between persons in social situations that include the loss of a loved one, uncertainty of an outcome, and the encounter of an unfamiliar person(s). Basso briefly discussed social situations in which silence is normal in the Navajo culture which was similar to the Apache culture. The reading describes six total situations in which the hypothesis of the Western Apache culture is seen. The first example is when encountering strangers, a story was told about two men who worked together and had some connection through friends but had never met one another. It took them a while to begin talking, because if it had been sooner it can be seen as desperate and strange. Conversation needs to happen naturally, no one else can interfere, they don’t know what each of them are capable of so it takes time. The second example that was given was during the beginning stages of courting it’s common to stay silent for even up to an hour, usually because they’re too shy or nervous they won’t say the right thing. The third situation is between a child who’s been away from home for a while and their parents who feel too nervous to talk because they think being away from home for so long has changed them, soon they realize there was nothing to worry about once the child starts the conversation.

The last three include emotions, or family. The fourth example is when a person is angry, they may yell or curse at people that may have nothing to do with their anger and the Apache people tend to stay silent until the person has calmed down enough to speak rationally because things could end badly for everyone. The fifth example is during the loss of a loved one, usually comforting the loved ones of the deceased happens after a couple of days when the loved one has been able to process their loss. Lastly the sixth is during a curing ceremony, people can talk to the patient as much as they want but once the curing begins no one can speak to the patient until the next day, only the medicine man, it’s possible it could ruin the ceremony. All of these situations are different in the sense that the encounters are but the case of silence remains the same because they no longer or never were familiar with the consequences that come with speaking.

The different situations described in the article about how the Apache people socially interact can effectively support the hypothesis that staying silent within the Western Apache can be “a response to uncertainty and unpredictability in social relations” (227). This article brings awareness of how language or no speech in this case, like that of American Indians can be seen as strange, but in actuality, ours and others may be more alike then what was initially thought.

Language is a very important part of culture for the Apache people as seen in this video, where some people describe the significance of it for them.

Basso, Keith H. 1970. “‘To Give Up on Words’: Silence in Western Apache Culture.” Southwestern Journal of Anthropology 26 (3): 213–30.

Summary of “‘Nah, We Straight’: Black Language and America’s First Black President” by Samy Alim and Geneva Smitherman

The reading “‘Nah, We Straight’: Black Language and America’s First Black President” explains how the different use of language can be a powerful source of interlinkage within certain situations. Barack Obama was used as a victim to demonstrate how we tend to shift languages and accents when needed. Obama is the perfect example because not only he was the president of the United States, but he was a multicultural president of the United States, identifying as an African American and American man. Obama got the opportunity to gain exclusive access to experiencing both black and white cultures. Due to his ethnicity, he has the power to connect with each race through his use of language. The reading emphasizes that we live in a country where the ideal figurative speech is the standard “white American” persona to make it far with professionalism. Though in Obama’s case it was necessary for him to speak professionally and formally to maintain his image, it was also necessary for him to use black language to gain a relationship with his multicultural citizens. The reading states different forms of opinions towards Obama’s worth of presidency. For instance, the author states“ ‘we argue that the ‘brotha with the funny name’ wouldn’t have gotten elected if he couldn’t kick it in a way that was ‘familiarly Black.’” (3). As well as,  “ ‘In order for Obama to sound ‘knowledgeable’ to the majority he must speak like a white man, communicate clearly, say r’s, etc.’” Who was “bluntly stated by a white woman”. (23). The many different interpretations of how people perceive language prove that language is very powerful, it determines who you are as a person, and humans tend to complement and cater to their culture. Based on the reading, this gave Obama a hard time because without realizing, he would say “ ‘nah rather than ‘no.’ “. (7). And for linguistics, that is not proper, especially for a president.                  

     Though the United States hosts many different cultures, it is still ideal to speak proper English. We learned from Obama himself, after the election he had to change the way he spoke to represent professionalism. In that case, it helped citizens take him seriously while it prepared him to be the best version of himself. Despite the professionalism, Smitherman was amazed at how before the election, Obama used his African roots to connect with the diverse crowd. Smitherman felt that Obama taking a break from proper dialects into slang was comforting and inspiring to the diverse population. Obama connecting with the crowd manifested signs of encouragement and confidence within different cultures. Obama represents an eloquent balance of speech through his black and white roots, which lead to Smitherman’s conclusion of him making a great president one day. 

Alim, H. Samy, and Geneva Smitherman. 2012. “‘Nah, We Straight’: Black Language and America’s First Black President.” In Articulate While Black: Barack Obama, Language, and Race in the U.S., 1–30. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

The Article “Belated Thoughts on Obama’s Accent” by Ben, shows a timeline of Barack Obama’s speeches and how his dialect improved over the years. Ben accomplished keeping track of Obama’s speech through staying in tune with Obama’s background. In the first video, Ben explained how Obama was “shaped by Chicago” because of the way Obama stretches and intensifies his a’s. In the second, Ben recognizes a slight Southern Kansas accent by the way Obama “leans towards glide deletion”. Ben pointed out that during the second video, Obama ”is talking to democratic voters in a Red State. Since his audience is a group of people who probably disassociate themselves from the surrounding political environment, slipping into a local accent may hurt Obama more than it helps him. Although I couldn’t say for sure.” Compared to Smitherman’s reading, Ben’s quote was another opinion on dialect which proves that language is a powerful source of forming relationships and should be transitioned depending on the situation. 

Summary of “#Ferguson: Digital protest, hashtag ethnography, and the racial politics of social media in the United States” by Yarimar Bonilla and Jonathan Rosa

In the reading “#Ferguson: Digital protest, hashtag ethnography, and the racial politics

of social media in the United States,” written by authors Yarimar Bonilla and Jonathan Rosa, the authors discuss and try to make sense of the use of hashtags nowadays. They discuss the specific example of Michael Brown. Michael Brown was shot in 2014, word of his death got around and people began gathering around his shooting site wanting answers about what happened. Due to the fact that there was a lot of social media coverage, this became a protest. By the end of the month there were over eight million tweets that had #Ferguson,”  trying to reach people and bring awareness to what occurred with Michael Brown. The use of this hashtag made it easy for people to find information about this occurrence in the click of a button. A lot of people showed their support through the hashtag and that was all. The authors’ main argument is that hashtag activism is a poor substitute for real activism. They believe that hashtag activism will not have a long lasting impact. They also believe that you have to look beyond a hashtag to gain your information. Hashtags do not provide the full view of any topic, so they believe that they have to look beyond it and it is not as effective. I believe that the authors’ argument helps us understand that there is something called the language of the media and with that we have different ways of communicating and speaking our thoughts and beliefs. I found this argument to be very surprising due to the fact that I do not agree with the authors. I do find hashtag activism to be very effective in communicating and sharing information as well. I disagree with them because I have seen it work and how well it works. For example, with the hashtag Black Lives Matter, the way I gained knowledge of what occured was through social media. A lot of teens do not watch the news or read articles to know current events. To see this kind of news on social media is a big deal and helped reach people of all ages. Most people social media and use it every day, to be able to get information and news about big things and being able to share your thoughts and opinions with others is amazing in my opinion. 

Works Cited

“American Ethnologist: Journal of the American Ethnological Society.” #Ferguson: Digital Protest, Hashtag Ethnography, and the Racial Politics of Social Media in the United States, anthrosource.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/epdf/10.1111/amet.12112.

Summary of “Why Ethnography” By Penelope Eckert

According to the article “Why Ethnography?”, Eckert examines adolescents and the stages of life a person goes through. The main argument that Eckert is analyzing is that socioeconomic class has an impact on adolescents more than people think it does. In this article, Eckert uses the type of students who are considered to be   the “jocks” and “burnouts.” The jocks are described as being the students who care for their future, dress very regularly, usually go to study, complete some work for the school like go to football games, and talk with other jocks. Students who are deemed as ‘burnouts’ tend to dress, talk, act differently compared to the jocks they; do more of what they want and don’t speak the same as jocks or have the same goals as them. The information that Eckert uses to support her views are valid and help her argument. An example of this is when she goes to a high school and studies the students that attend the school and see how they act and talk with each other. The jocks are students who pay attention in school, want to do well in classes, and end up applying to go to college. Burnouts are people who don’t care much for school and will end up working at a small job after they graduate high school and don’t mind that. Furthermore, whether the students are jocks or burnouts through their own social choice, affects what kind of friends or people they associate themselves with. The type of person you are becoming now leads to you forming your friend groups and socioeconomic group in the future. The central purpose of Eckert presenting this article is because it determines that although all the students studied are considered to be middle class when they get older. Choosing their future based on who they are really as a person directs them to engage and talk to other people who are seeking the same kind of future as them. Many people connect with others based on their personality as well. People who are determined enough and work hard will end up going where they want to and pursue the path they want, and their socioeconomic class can support their journey. 

Eckert, Penelope. n.d. “Why Ethnography?” https://web.stanford.edu/~eckert/PDF/whyethnography.pdf.

Summary of “Lip Service on the Fantasy Lines” by Kira Hall

The article “Lip Service on the Fantasy Lines” by Kira Hall is about how in order to be in a position of power, women are able to create a language based on stereotypes of them being powerless. Women are able to create language in order to adapt to different situations. A man’s language is powerful whereas a woman is powerless. Women and men are in an industry of phone sex that’s marginalized and the reason they put themselves in this industry is due to not having access to other employment or not having enough freedom in life. To other people, people in this industry are seen as powerless. However, the author is trying to dispute that. That they are using language in order to get what they want. Men are paying large sums of money thinking that the person on the other end of the phone is powerless, yet that person is using their language in order to seem completely into the phone sex, yet they could be watching tv or cooking at the same time. They use language in order to be powerful. The author uses interviews from the experiences of people working in the industry to show examples of how people are able to become powerful and the different ways they use language. The author also uses interviews to show the intentional ways that women’s language especially is associated with being powerless and mobilizing that stereotype in order to get power. Men paying for the service feel that they are the ones in power and get women to do what they want not realizing that the women are in power and just doing their job. After the session, the women are going about their lives forgetting about that phone call. Yet the men are still thinking about the phone call. The article really sheds new light on the stereotypes that women face and the true reality of those stereotypes.

In the video “Rachel And Ross Get Pulled Over”, from the tv show friends, you can see how once the police officer stops Rachel to give her a ticket, she becomes very friendly and speaks in a small voice in order to seem innocent. Calling his name Hansen as Handsome by flirting,  telling him she won’t do it again, and him being attracted to her photo. This is what we call sweet talk. By using language to appeal to someone to persuade them. Rachel was able to persuade him compared to Ross who wasn’t able to persuade a different cop. Rachel was able to use this situation to put herself in control of the conversation compared to Ross. The difference in language was shown in this clip. Another huge topic presented in the article is how a man’s fantasy of an ideal woman plays a role in the difference in language in gender. A lip-service digs into this fantasy by portraying the inequality of males and females for “male pornographic discourse”. Images of women show women as objects for men. The scene from the Japanese movie “Audition“(0:00-0:40) by Takashi Miike, portrays this. There’s an audition for a movie being held with two judges; Aoyama and his friend Yoshikawa. The audition is not actually a movie audition. It’s for one of the judges (Aoyama) to find a potential wife. They treating women as if they are just tools for Aoyama’s purpose. They use the terms “Obedient” and “well-trained”. These are kinds of terms shown in this image from “How do you define her?” by Amy L.Jorgensen.

With this image, you can see the difference in adjectives shown for both women and men. The men in the movie are self-confident, assertive, and Dominant and are looking for women who will be submissive, weak, dependent, and attractive. Yoshikawa states how some women in a bar are awful girls who are stuck up and stupid. This happens a lot when women reject men. They feel as though the problem is with the women, and start calling them names as if they weren’t the ones who started it. If they would have gone about their day, they wouldn’t have been rejected. They resort to calling the women names instead of thinking that the problem is with them. Maybe they didn’t approach her the right way with their words. Another thing I want to point out is how I watch a lot of Japanese dramas and movies and a lot of the female main characters are portrayed as someone who is innocent, reserved, soft-spoken, and submissive to the point they take while before they can even stand up for themselves which also relates tot he image of adjectives. Whereas the men are in a more dominant role. This movie defies that and portrays the main character Asami as a strong character. At first, she seems innocent but then changes and is not the ideal obedient woman that Aoyama thought she was and that is Aoyama’s Karma. Asami went against the stereotype. For lip service, female employees have to create characters based on the ideal type of woman of the client. An example presented in the article is an actual message “ ~ I can tell ~ everything, now I can give you everything you want,g!l you desire, I can do it now…” (Page 195, Para 2)The author presents this evidence just to show how the words that the female says connects with the notion that they need a powerful dominant man to submit and give them the desire that they want.  They even try to portray a different race to match the ideal types of their clients. Reading the article I found that very interesting that because of these fantasies that some men have, it can ruin their concept of reality. I feel that even if you are able to find someone that matches that fantasy, your mind will be so focused on that fantasy, that it will ruin the connection that you made with that person. And that’s what the author is trying to portray. By highlighting the differences in the language between men and women, the author connects that to women who are able to use their language to adapt to various situations compared to men and use those situations to become powerful. This breaks the notion that they are powerless. Instead, they are able to put themselves in a position of power. The author wants to show that women can use these adjectives of weak, powerless, submissive, to create something good out of it.

Citation

Hall, Kira. (1995). “Lip Service on the Fantasy Lines.” In Gender Articulated: Language and the Socially Constructed Self. London: Routledge, pp. 183-216.

Bits, Gorey. (2013). “Best of I Audition.” 0:00-0:40.

PureBloodedPaul. (2014). “Friends-HD-Rachel And Ross Get Pulled Over.” 0:00-3:30.

AmyLJorgensen. (2014). “How do you define her?”

Coffeetalk: Starbucks and the Commercialization of Casual Conversation

In “Coffeetalk: StarbucksTM and the commercialization of casual conversation”, Rudolf P. Gaudio addresses ideas and literature regarding “casualness” and dissects the North American practice of meeting others for coffee in a so-called casual manner.

Gaudio’s primary argument is that “casualness” is culturally constructed- not naturally occurring. The author states that such constructions of casualness are predicated upon various cultural practices and ideologies. Furthermore, Gaudio argues that coffeetalk is a specific form of constructed casualness which was largely influenced by commercialization and capitalism.

The author uses a variety of research and evidence to support his arguments. He opens with and continuously refers back to a scene in the movie, “Good Will Hunting”, where two characters of vastly different socioeconomic backgrounds discuss getting coffee. The posh Harvard student, Skylar, suggests to the lower-class main character, Will, that they should get coffee sometime. To which Will responds, “Or maybe we can just get together and eat a bunch of caramels… When you think about it, it’s as arbitrary as drinking coffee.” Though this example is not typical ethnographic evidence, in this instance, it perfectly encapsulates what the author is trying to say in an easily-understood, relatable manner: getting coffee is a default idea for casually socializing in North America, but it is by no means inherent.

The author uses an example from his previous research in Nigeria to further this point. He states that scheduling to meet for food or drink is “virtually unheard of” in northern Nigeria, effectively introducing an instance of casualness which opposes the Western idea of casual coffeetalk (660). Gaudio also refers to past literature to reveal Western coffeetalk’s “bourgeois” history and bias, noting that conversing over coffee was originally an activity specific to British elite.

Relatedly, Gaudio’s ethnographic evidence highlights coffeetalk as a form of casualness which is highly dependent upon financial status. The author uses his own ethnographic research on coffeetalk practices in Tucson, Arizona and other North American cities to display the significant influence of capitalism on “casual”, Coffeetalk culture. He especially highlights the common necessity of scheduling coffee meet-ups due to busy schedules in the average person’s life. Gaudio’s ethnographic evidence successfully portrays the commercialization of casualness by the coffeehouse chain, Starbucks, through their creation of a “safe” and “cultured” environment to meet customer’s needs or wants of casualness. Specific ethnographic details as minute as the importance of drink names at Starbucks- such as “Frappucino” or “grande”- go above and beyond to show the intentionality of commodifying a certain ambience for conversation.

Overall, Gaudio’s article generates larger implications that conversation and settings of conversation are not inherently “casual” or otherwise. It reiterates that uses and ideas of language are predicated upon cultural factors.

Gaudio, R. P. (2003). Coffeetalk: StarbucksTM and the Commercialization of Casual Conversation. Language in Society, 32(5), 659–691.

Martin, Emily. “The Egg and the Sperm: How Science Has Constructed A Romance Based On Stereotypical Male-Female Roles.”

Content warning: mention of r*pe, abortion

Emily Martin’s article “The Egg and the Sperm: How Science Has Constructed A Romance Based On Stereotypical Male-Female Roles explores the influence cultural language has in reproductive science — a realm we often believe transcends personal influence. Martin’s central argument is that our cultural images are being integrated into our understanding of natural phenomenon, which feeds into the social perception of cultural beliefs and incorrect stereotypes as having a “natural explanation.” The author seeks to challenge the use of metaphors and the personification of the egg and sperm by delving into the language of major pre-medical and medical textbooks and examining the social implications of the language within the text.

Martin first establishes the abundance of metaphors used in these reputable scientific textbooks framing the male reproductive system as a biological marvel contrasted to denigrating descriptions of the female reproductive system. Sperm are regarded as multitudinous and persisting, whereas eggs are few and limited. The male reproductive process is extolled for its supposed executive ability to accomplish its “mission,” whereas menstruation is framed as wasteful, ovaries are merely present, and ova are depreciating assets.

These descriptors work hand-in-hand with common sex and gender stereotypes. The sperm is seen as the active member of the reproductive process, contrary to the “passive role” of the egg. The sperm is seen as a valiant aggressor in its quest to either trounce or rescue whereas the egg is either the conquest or the damsel in distress.

In revised scientific literature, new stereotypes emerge even as researchers sought to pursue more egalitarian terms. The portrayal of the female reproductive system as a damsel was exchanged for that of a black widow figure, trading in a demure role for one of an aggressor made to “trap” the sperm. Rather than researchers merely appreciating the active role of the egg in the reproductive process, Martin notes that these new accounts deviate from one damaging stereotype to another. The implication, then, is that these cultural stereotypes are then regarded as scientific “truth,” and a fixed part of our natural understanding.

What is surprising is how far reaching the consequences can be. This linguistic impact goes beyond a deceitful belief a biased experiment might have — such as claiming . The use of these metaphors as scientific fact as real world implications. For example, the incident where American politician Todd Akin claimed that victims of rape seldom become pregnant because women’s bodies have natural solutions to prevent unwanted pregnancy. When we essentialize aspects of female and male reproduction processes we say more than just what’s said. Our language has power, and to naturalize what our culture’s stereotypes can hurt women’s political power in a world where we aren’t beyond sexual/gender inequality. Martin addresses this problem as well, mentioning that allowing these sexual organs personhood can directly impact women’s autonomy in exchange for stricter legislation regarding their rights to abortion, for example (Martin, 500).

Martin, Emily. (1991). “The Egg and the Sperm: How Science Has Constructed A Romance Based On Stereotypical Male-Female Roles.” Signs, Vol. 16(3), 485-501.

Summary of “They’re Bilingual…That Means They Don’t Know the Language” by Jonathan Rosa

In the chapter “They’re Bilingual . . . That Means They Don’t Know the Language,” extracted from the book “Looking Like a Language, Sounding Like a Race: Raciolinguistic Ideologies and the Learning of Latinidad” by Jonathan Rosa, the author discusses the ideology of languagelessness in practice, policy and theory. The author looks into popular ideologies of ‘bilingualism’ in the Latinx community and the impacts they have on ethnic kids (mainly Latinx) in school, mentioning this particular school called New Northwest High School (NNHS).

I believe the main arguments that the author highlighted in this excerpt can be represented and divided into three parts: the redefined idea of bilingualism, the problematic and rather questionable system of bilingual education, and the notion of racialized ideology of languagelessness.

I think it’s vital that issues like these are discussed amongst ourselves in a mixed and multicultural nation like the United States, because it has direct impacts on our kids which essentially means our future. And since language is indispensable in any civil society, working on this is equivalent to working in the root cause of any given problem.

Now let’s talk about the three main arguments that the author presented in the chapter. The first one discusses the very definition of bilingualism being redefined in another misleading way by both the school system and the parents. As the author states, “bilingualism is generally associated with abilities in two languages (e.g., English and Spanish), it becomes redefined as linguistic deficiency altogether,” it shockingly gives us an idea of how faulty the definition itself became to people. Bilingualism, as Mia Nacamulli describes in her TED-Ed video, makes your brain healthy, complex and actively engaged; therefore looking at it as a deficiency altogether can be substantially ignorant. The very notion and title  “They’re bilingual . . . that means they don’t know the language” proves that it contradicts the original definition of bilingualism. Instead of looking at it as an advantage or an individual quality, it is presented as a deficiency. And when this notion is planted so early in a kid’s brain, it automatically and subconsciously works as a deficiency rather than a power they could have used otherwise. This raciolinguistic ideology frames the linguistic practices of racialized populations and creates an inverted conceptualization of bilingualism.

The second and rather the most discussed part is the questionable system of bilingual education in New Northwest High School (NNHS) which I believe is a representation of most high schools in the United States. The author personally went to the school to understand and evaluate the bilingual education system and assess the differences among the general students and ELL (English Language Learner) students. He found out that most of these ELL students’ skills were measured only in relation to lack of their limited English proficiency and there was no formal way in which their Spanish language proficiency was recognized as academically useful. As Rosa explains, “The emphasis on English language deficiency rather than Spanish language proficiency laid the groundwork for bilingual education programs that would focus on transitioning students from the use of languages other than English to monolingual English use.”

The third part I believe is a wrap of all the ideas in the chapter which is the racialized ideology of languagelessness. The ELL students are labeled as having deficiency in both English and Spanish language or a “non-non”- “The notion of “non- non” is an explicit example of a racialized ideology of languagelessness”. The irony is that while bilingualism is understood as a valuable asset or goal for middle class and upper- class students, for working- class and poor students it is framed as a disability that must be overcome. The languagelessness is planted in the root of these students that invokes the notion of them belonging to neither party.

In conclusion, I would say that looking at bilingual students as students with deficiency, the primary language of children considered a problem and treated it as inessential to ‘real’ education, and labelling their bilingualism as languagelessness severely affects the students in so many different ways. It has a lasting negative impact on their educational and social confidence. This is why the most effective and important change should be from within. We ought to change our own thinking paradigms about bilingualism and educate ourselves first so that we don’t unknowingly contribute barriers to our next generation’s success.

Rosa, J. (2019). “They’re Bilingual…That Means They Don’t Know the Language”: The Ideology of Languagelessness in Practice, Policy, and Theory. In Looking like a language, sounding like a race: Raciolinguistic ideologies and the learning of Latinidad. 1-19.

TED-Ed. “The benefits of a bilingual brain – Mia Nacamulli.” Online Video Clip. YouTube, June 23, 2015.

Summary of “Emotions Have Many Faces: Inuit Lessons”

For this assignment, I have chosen to analyze the journal article Emotions Have Many Faces: Inuit Lessons by Jean L. Briggs. The article details an expedition by Briggs into the the Arctic to locate the most isolated Inuit tribes. The goal of Briggs was to identify how language differs around the world, especially in such an exotic area as the Arctic. To begin her study, Jean was adopted by an Inuit man and women to be their daughter, which helped her transition to and learn the culture of the Inuit. In her study, Briggs wanted to identify how Inuit emotion is expressed and received. One point that Briggs made that I found very interesting was that emotions exist in every culture, but the difference is the way in which they are expressed. In her study of the Inuit, Briggs discovered how the Inuit had associated emotions with with social meanings, values and also actions. For example. Briggs states how the Inuit may associate happiness with someone that is a good person and a safe person, while displaying anger meant you might kill (Briggs 4). Furthermore, the Inuit believed that emotions motivated people’s behaviors. To support this, Briggs uses primary sources from her own accounts as a member of Inuit community. For example, Briggs states that there were multiple Inuit words for the same word in English, this was because the Inuit words had different meanings. The example that Briggs uses is the word love. According to Briggs, the Inuit had two meanings for love. The first meaning referred to biblical love, such as “love thy neighbor” (Briggs 4). The other word for love was meant for someone that was needy or dependent (Briggs 4). Briggs provides this example of a primary source because it shows how the Inuit culture is different from ours. Briggs explains that there is no word for love because if someone truly loves someone in a romantic or caring way, they would just associate them with being a good person, or good in a relationship (Briggs 4). The main lesson that Briggs’s obtained was there was “no universal set of concepts” in regards to emotions. The reading was very useful and impactful to me because it taught me about language. This article showed me how that not only is language different around the world and societies, but more importantly it is different in the way it is expressed and shown.

Summary of “‘To Give up on Words’: Silence in Western Apache Culture” by Keith H. Basso

Did you know there is an innate language that all humans speak? This language is silence. “‘To Give up on Words’: Silence in Western Apache Culture” by Keith H. Basso dives into the stereotype of Apache silence and what silence truly is. The anonymous quote at the beginning of the article “It is not the case that a man who is silent says nothing.” encapsulates the main idea of the article. Silence is a form of communication, a versatile language used in countless different ways in many cultures, Basso focuses on the intricate uses of silence in Apache culture.

Silence may seem simple but as basso states, silence has many different uses and various interpretations depending on the context of the situation. In Apache culture there are many situations in which silence is used, Basso lists them as the following: Meeting Strangers, Courting/Dating, Children returning home after long amounts of time, during verbal altercations, being with someone who is sad, and finally, in the presence of someone for whom they sing.

When meeting strangers it is common in Apache culture to remain silent until both parties have been introduced and have an organic opportunity to speak or strike up a conversation. When dating/courting or dating it’s common to remain silent for a significant amount of time, while still showing affection like holding hands and remaining close to each other. This occurs anywhere from ceremonies to wakes, the reason for this seems to be the fear of saying something inappropriate or just plain old shyness. The use of silence when children return home after a long time is particularly interesting. The reason parents remain silent is in fear that their children have changed in their journey away from home, and think of their parents differently. When I’m verbal altercations, or, when being cussed out, the appropriate response in Apache culture is to refrain from responding and stay silent. They use this response as a way to prevent whoever is angry from getting any worse or potentially losing control and harming others. When being with someone who is sad, usually in the times of grieving weeks after losing a loved one, silence is encouraged as a way of lessening the burden of the person grieving, for even talking about what happened can be emotionally and physically draining for them. Finally, the last situation listed, being with someone for whom they sing. This situation can be a little complicated to understand, during ceremonies in which someone is sick and attempting to be healed, after this ceremony the person is deemed to be “holy” and isn’t spoken too in fear of a change within that person.

All of these situations have a common theme tying them together. They are all born from a place of uncertainty, where they either aren’t sure how someone will react if they speak, or don’t know how they should act around a certain person. The physical setting is irrelevant and most of these situations develop because of an individual’s mental state, along with the consideration of others. 

 Basso’s paper gives us some valuable insight towards language as a whole. Silence is usually thought of as the lack of language, devoid of all communication, however, this is not the case. It’s a versatile tool to be used in a variety of situations in Western Apache culture and other cultures around the world. I’m not sure where this aptitude for interpreting silence developed, but next time I’m in a situation like the ones listed above, instead of wondering what to say, I may just remain silent altogether.

Basso, Keith H. 1970. “‘To Give Up on Words’: Silence in Western Apache Culture.”
Southwestern Journal of Anthropology 26 (3): 213–30.
Ochs, Elinor, and Bambi B. Schieffelin. (1984) 1995. “Language Acquisition and Socialization: Three Developmental Stories and Their Implications.” In Language, Culture, and Society: A Book of Readings, edited by Ben G. Blount, 2nd ed., 470–512. Prospect Heights, IL: Waveland Press

 

Emotions Have Many Faces: Inuit Lessons by Jean L. Briggs

The article “Emotions Have Many Faces: Inuit Lessons” written by Jean L. Briggs and published by the Canadian Anthrolopogy Society, examines the interpretation of Inuit emotions and how emotions play a huge part in their society; differentiating the meanings of Naklik- or Nallik, Unga, and Hira. 

Jean L. Briggs, who’s given the name Yinii, is adopted into an Inuit family while doing her initial research into the Inuit people. It is this initial research process that sparks Briggs’ interest to pay attention to the Inuit behavioral methods. Briggs points out the fact that she was a “Bad daughter” (pg 157) and later goes on to describe the actions that labeled her as such, including the fact that she was hesitant to share supplies with others when the supplies were running low. Although she knew she was a “bad daughter” to her Inuit family, she was not aware that her actions were disturbing others’ perceptions of her within her tribe. She became ostracized by the tribe and this intrigued Briggs to take a look at how emotions play a role in the Inuit society. 

While looking into the emotional side of the Inuit people, Briggs took a look at other anthropologists who also included emotions in their research, some being Margaret Mead’s book Growing Up in New Guinea, Kenneth Read’s article, High Valley, and Hildred Geertzhe, Vocabulary of Emotion: A Study of Javanese Socialization Processes. These readings range from talking about rhetoric that is used, to how to correlate to a person’s emotional status, to how emotions affect the way people within a tribe behave. 

Jean L. Briggs returns to the Inuit tribe a few years after being ostracized with intention of learning more about Inuit emotions and how it led to her being ostracized. Briggs mentions that emotions or being emotional within her society is usually associated with women. She then compares it to the Inuit society and how being overly emotional isn’t associated with gender but instead behavior. Briggs states, “For them, a happy person was a good person, a safe person; anger was mindless, childish; also dangerous: an angry person might kill” (pg, 160). Relating this to how she behaved when she first arrived, it is easy to see why Briggs was labeled as a “Bad daughter” (pg 157). Briggs introduces the emotional concepts that play a large role within the Inuit lifestyle. The concepts, Naklik- or Nallik, is “referred to a nurturant, protective attachment, in some contexts rather similar to our notion of Biblical love, as in ‘love thy neighbor as thyself’” (pg 159), Unga is “was a needy, dependent attachment, which was considered immature: ‘The way a small child feels toward its mother (pg 159)”, and Hira is a number of feelings including “nervous awe that comes from being in a position of irreversible disadvantage … in which one cannot modify or control the actions of another (Brody, 1975:158-9)” and “a feeling of dependence (Brody, 1975:159)”.

Jean L. Briggs demonstrates that Unga and Hira’s behaviors are similar to that of a child, which is why she was being portrayed negatively in the tribe. They expected an adult to exhibit a balance of both Naklik and Unga, but Briggs did not know this at the time. Briggs then goes on to examine how children are taught the methods of displaying emotions, concentrating on a little girl, Mataa. The Inuit tribe uses the method of questioning children to instill their beliefs into Naklik, Unga, and Hira. Unfortunately, the questions can be confusing at times and when a child can’t properly determine when a tribe member is being serious or not, it puts that child at risk because they won’t be able to determine how to emotionally and physically react to a person outside of the questioning. Inuit people correlate emotion with behavior, so when a person is unable to emote how they feel it can cause a setback in how people behave in return. Briggs displays in her article that emotion and behavior are entangled with the way Inuit people choose to communicate with one another.

Summary of “In the Service of Surveillance: Immigrant Child Language Brokers in Parent-Teacher Conferences.” by Jennifer F. Reynolds, Marjorie Failstich Orellana, and Inmacilada Garcia-Sanchez

In the service of surveillance: Immigrant child language brokers in parent-teacher conferences by Jennifer F. Reynolds, Marjorie Failstich Orellana, and Inmacilada Garcia-Sanchez, the authors discussed how the children of immigrant families in America serve as, what Lucy Tse called in 1995, language brokers. They serve a highly important job to their parents as being permanent, built in translators for various aspects of the immigrant families who live in a new country form a different language from their own. Specifically, the authors set the example of the language broker’s role in their own parent teacher conferences in school. As these kids have their role of language broker the authors state that it gives the children multiple layers of surveillance over what they are now involved in. The ethnographic research that the authors based their findings from as well as their own ethnographic research, as stated by the authors, was very wide-ranging. The main study the argument is based off, is a study of immigrant-child language brokering among Latino immigrants in Chicago and Southern California. It involved an enormous amount of participant-observation, informal interviews with families, children’s research journals, and audio-recordings of children in a variety of translation situations over a period of several years.

The authors argue that these roles, of the children who were put into such family situations, have different opportunities and outlooks into certain situations in life that most American born families never have to think of or experience. The authors use the example of how, in the situation of the parent teacher conference, the teacher praised the student. The translations tended to be more directly verbatim of what they said. Rather than when something was said less praise-worthy. The students were more inclined to summarize what the teacher said and translate to their parents . The evidence provided by the authors very clearly accompanied the argument of the children being put into different positions versus non immigrant children. The authors allowed readers to see how the lives of immigrant children are given different tasks opposed to the others. As well as how the children take their language broker expertise and use it in their favor.

The reader now has an inside view on the job many immigrant children are tasked with. The author gives various examples of the struggle these children have to endure, more specifically, with the example of the parent teacher conference.The children are now open to surveillance over situations most non-immigrant are not put into.

Reynolds, J, M Orellana, and I García-Sánchez (2015). “In the Service of Surveillance: Immigrant Child Language Brokers in Parent-Teacher Conferences.” Langage et société 153(3): 91-108.

Anzaldua, G. (1987). How to Tame a Wild Tongue. In Borderlands La Frontera: The New Mestiza. Pp. 53-64. San Francisco: Aunt Lute Books.

In “How to Tame a Wild Tongue” by Gloria Anzaldua, she discusses how language is intertwined with a person’s identity, and by keeping her tongue wild, not letting the closing linguistic borders control her language. The main argument Anzaldua has is that people should not be made to feel ashamed about their own languages. Throughout Anzaldua’s paper, one instance where we can see her argument come to life is on page 34 where her own mother was mortified that Anzaldua would be speaking English like a Mexican, meaning that she is speaking English with an accent. And right under that, we can also see that at “Pan American University”, she and others like her were made to take two speech classes all for the purpose of removing their accents. Lastly, on page 35, we see text where “purists” of the Spanish language view Chicano Spanish, which is a border language of people who are not from Mexico but are not white Americans either, as something that is ruining their language. From the evidence given here, we can see the attempts to ridicule people who speak Chicano Spanish face, they have been ridiculed for ruining the language and have had people try to remove it from them, they are being shamed for speaking what they have grown up knowing. Though in actuality, they are making a language that is their own, by mixing the two together they are making their own language, their own identities.  Anzaldua makes this argument to show the connection the someone’s language has to their identity, and how the two go hand in hand together. She wants people to see that having a “wild tongue” does not make them less, because then that would make them less. She wants people to embrace their own languages and be proud of them as they make up a part of them. This paper contradicts the idea of people who come to the United States and try to become more American by losing their accents, or not teaching their kids their native tongue. By doing so they’re cutting themselves off from their identities just because the world said their way of accented speaking or just native tongue is wrong. When they aren’t wrong, they are making the best with what they have and being proud of who they are and what they achieved. That in the end, people should not be made to feel ashamed about who they are in their identity.

Anzaldua, G. (1987). How to Tame a Wild Tongue. In Borderlands La Frontera: The New Mestiza. Pp. 53-64. San Francisco: Aunt Lute Books.

Summary of Unsettling race and language: Toward a raciolinguistic perspective by Johathan Rosa and Nelson Flores

In Unsettling race and language: Toward a raciolinguistic perspective Johathan Rosa and Nelson Flores details the topic of language and race. The main arguments the author makes are how and why language and race are related throughout history and now using a raciolinguistic perspective. A brief description of the ethnographic examples used to support this argument is shown within the five sections of the article in which discuss the five elements of a raciolinguistic perspective.

The first section of the article called “Historical and Contemporary Co-naturalization of race and language as Part of the Colonial Formation of Modernity” discussed two elements of modern European colonial formation which are race and language being linked to certain racial groups. Europeans believe colanism was justified because they believed non- Europeans were inferior to them. European colonizers believed indegeous people lacked knowledge and weren’t human because of the way they spoke. As a outcome of Spanish and US colonialism both Latin American and the US were stereotyped. Latin America was seen as brown and spanish-speaking and the US was seen as white and English-speaking.

The second section of the article  called “Perceptions of Racial and Linguistic Difference”  discussed Inoue’s work on how perceptions of language are related to social categories that produce ideas of linguistic signs. This part of the article suggests that certain languages are associated with certain races. This section shows examples of racism towards African Americans and Latinos. The third section of the article called “Regimentations of Racial and Linguistic Categories” discussed how schools use linguistic screener to put language into particular racial groups. The fourth section of the article  called “Racial and Linguistic Intersections and Assemblages” discussed how race and language can be put into the social construct of gender. The fifth section of the article  called “The Contestation of Racial and Linguistic Power Formations” discussed how language forms political and economic orders of global capitalism.

The evidence is presented in a way that makes it clear on how it is intended to support the author’s argument because each section has a title that represents the way in which it supports the evidence. It adequately does so by discussing the historical colonial America and the modern school system. The author’s argument helps us understand that language works by connecting it to race. The author might be making this argument because they want to bring attention to their main topic. Something in the argument that is surprising or that contradicts something traditionally thought about language is its connection to gender. This article relates to an article called “Nah, We Straight’: Black Language and America’s First Black President.” by Alim, H. Samy, & Smitherman, Geneva because in this article African Americans connect Barack Obama  language to his race by saying he ‘sounds black’. 

Alim, H. Samy, & Smitherman, Geneva (2012). “‘Nah, We Straight’: Black Language and America’s First Black President.” In Articulate While Black: Barack Obama, Language, and Race in the U.S. 1-30. New York: Oxford University

Press.Rosa, Jonathan, and Nelson Flores. 2017. “Unsettling Race and Language: Toward a Raciolinguistic Perspective.” Language in Society 46 (5): 621–47.

Summary of “‘Nah, We Straight’: Black Language and America’s First Black President” by H. Samy Alim and Geneva Smitherman

“‘Nah, We Straight’: Black Language and America’s First Black President,” by Alim, H. Samy, & Smitherman, Geneva (2012) published by Oxford University Press,  is an article that focuses on the racial experiences of President Barack Obama before and after being elected into office. Being African American in America, it will always be a challenge due to the hatred and prejudice that we face because of our skin color. We will forever be judged for where we come from and our backgrounds. The author of this article wanted to use Obama’s way of speaking as a segway into the conversation of language based on race. Race defines the way we are viewed by others and who we are able to connect with. Smitherman also uses examples of how Obama relates to different cultural backgrounds while still maintaining his presidential responsibilities. Through these examples, this demonstrates how a certain setting can change the way you are meant to speak in society. The usage of black slang in the professional world is an argument that is often two-sided, especially here in the United States. 

Throughout the text, Smitherman was fascinated with how Obama used his dialect to connect with the diverse crowds. His enthusiasm when speaking to an audience made a lot of people respect him for embracing his culture and expressing himself no matter what. Language in the African American community is an important part of our culture. However, it makes it a struggle for us to get professional opportunities because of how we are viewed. The author recalled a time at Barack Obama’s rally where political figures commented on his language. A politician named Harry Reid stated that he “speaks no Negro dialect, unless he wants to have one ” (3). These racialized comments aren’t the only ones that Obama has received during his campaigns and presidency. People constantly accused him of not being black because he is from Hawaii and his mom is white. The truth in the matter is Barack Obama is considered African American if he has any kind of African American background. Because of these rallies, Smitherman was captivated with the fact even through all of the fuss, Obama would potentially become America’s first black president. 

In addition, Obama was known to use black slang as a way to amuse the African American community and to show that he was still one of us even though he was president. On pg. 8, “Many observers have noted Barack Obama’s use of Black slang in relation to Hip Hop Culture, using such words as flow or tight” (8). The use of this language showcased to the world the significance of black language and how it connects us as a culture. Studies have shown the Black Language separates itself from the typical American English. Obama also tries his best to connect with communities outside of his own race. For example, he uses what he knows to speak to people in the Latin community and create a connection with them also. On the contrary, numerous amounts of non-black supporters on Twitter  call this kind of speech “lazy” and “ungrammatical.” Smitherman defended his argument by explaining how complex Black Language actually is. According to the article, Black Language has origins in a Creolized form and from Europe as well (Smitherman 8). This creates a sense of uniqueness from the original White American English used in the United States today. 

After Obama became our president he had to change the way he spoke to crowds because of his newfound position. As president, you have to maintain a professional dialect to “impress” the public eye. Barack Obama was known to be proficient at communicating towards an audience when speaking. Every time he made a speech, he was able to grasp the attention of everyone who was listening. In the article, his language was described to be confident and composed. He was always in control of every situation he was put in. Although many Republican politicians described his speech as too professional, “he was often described as ‘clear,’ ‘direct,’ ‘down to earth,’  and also as ‘careful.’” (4). According to an article on CNN about a speech given at the Oval Office in 2010, CNN experts discussed his language with two different perspectives. One viewed it as less academic and professional, while the other viewed it as straightforward and easy to understand his points. Obama’s language struck the attention of the younger generation like myself and inspired others to believe that anything is possible. Through all the criticism that he faced before and during his presidency, he knew that he would become a very successful leader. 

Alim, H. Samy, and Geneva Smitherman. 2012. “‘Nah, We Straight’: Black Language and America’s First Black President.” In Articulate While Black: Barack Obama, Language, and Race in the U.S., 1–30. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

“Language Mavens Exchange Words over Obama’s Oval Office Speech.” CNN, Cable News Network, 17 June 2010, www.cnn.com/2010/POLITICS/06/16/obama.speech.analysis/index.html.

Summary of “The Language of Multiple Identities among Dominican Americans” by Benjamin Bailey

In this small passage from “The Language of Multiple Identities among Dominican Americans” by Benjamin Bailey, shows how young Dominican Americans use language to connect themselves to their surroundings. Many Dominican Americans are bilingual, meaning they can speak Spanish and English fairly well. Many cultures find that language is important to identity, and Dominicans are no different. In the article, the author, Benjamin Bailey, conducts research to find out just how much language means to these young men and women.

Many Spanish speaking countries tend to have different dialects of Spanish than standard Spanish, which leads to differences in tone and speech between the different Spanish speaking countries. For example, Dominican Spanish tends to have the speaker speak much faster than other country dialects, like Mexican Spanish. And sometimes, if English is also a part of the place’s origin, the speakers will speak Spanglish, a mix of Spanish and English in the middle of their conversation. A good example would be starting the sentence in English, but then sprinkling Spanish words in the middle, or vice versa. The author’s research found that up to 90 percent of Dominican Americans have Sub-Saharan African ancestry, however, Most Dominicans identify themselves as Spanish or “Dominican” despite the fact that they may be more African than have actual Spanish ancestors. Some feel that if someone speaks Spanish, then they are Spanish, not black, as many Dominicans will argue that speaking Spanish is what makes them different than African Americans. Many feel the need to distinguish themselves from other African Americans to retain their own identity. Though this doesn’t mean they show animosity to their African American friends, they can still be friends with them, but they consider themselves Spanish instead of being “black”.

Dominican Americans also find that they also don’t feel at home with “Pure” Dominicans because they are called “Bootleg Dominicans”, a “knock-off” version of a “real” Dominican. They are socially out-casted from “real” Dominican social groups because they have the parentage of being Dominican, but haven’t been raised in the Dominican Republic. This leads to Dominican Americans to stick closer together and create their own social circles of themselves. Dominicans tend to feel superior to Dominican Americans because they were born and raised in D.R as an “authentic” Dominican.

Dominican Americans use Spanish as a racial identifier instead of using their skin like many others do. Dominicans feel that if you weren’t born in D.R and raised there, you aren’t a “true” Dominican. The author has found that there is a social divide between Dominicans and Dominican Americans because of their definition of what is and isn’t “authentic” regarding their origin. Though there is no animosity between Dominican Americans and their African American peers, the Dominican Americans still tend to associate themselves as Spanish instead of being African American.

Bailey, Benjamin. 2000. “The Language of Multiple Identities among Dominican Americans.”
Journal of Linguistic Anthropology 10 (2): 190–223

Summary of “#Ferguson: Digital Protest, Hashtag Ethnography, and the Racial Politics of Social Media in the United States” by Yarimar Bonilla and Jonathan Rosa

Yarimar Bonilla and Jonathan Rosa in “#Ferguson: Digital Protest, Hashtag Ethnography, and the Racial Politics of Social Media in the United States” discuss and explore the social, political, and technological phenomenon of hashtag activism. One of the main arguments they illustrate is that social media, specifically Twitter hashtags, can be implemented as an influential tool that can help propel activism and movements.

Social media is an interactive virtual technology where individuals can post, share, and reply to others. According to the article, when it was released in 2015, social media was prevalent, with over 56% of the US population owning video-enabled smartphones (Bonilla and Rosa 2015, 5). As the use of technology and social media increases and becomes more ubiquitous, anthropologists inquire whether hashtags should or should not be analyzed in ethnography. Bonilla and Rosa indicate that hashtag ethnography has potential, but anthropologists should be aware of its issues. For example, they discuss the protests and demonstrations that were triggered after Michael Brown, an unarmed black teenager, was fatally shot on August 9, 2014, in Ferguson (Bonilla and Rosa 2015, 4). Following this, there was an upsurge in posts and hashtags on Twitter, with over 3.6 million posts reflecting Brown’s death, and over eight million posts with #Ferguson (Bonilla and Rosa 2015, 5). With such a myriad amount of posts and hashtags, Bonilla and Rosa discuss their interest and concerns for the analysis of social media by anthropologists. They illustrate their interest that with Twitter, people can quickly retrieve a lot of information that is constantly updated as users post and utilize hashtags to help file and arrange specific information. However, they note their concerns that anthropologists must examine the variations in perspectives, and contexts of posts, including why and for whom it was posted. They also introduce the hashtag filtering effect that can dilute information and perspectives as users receive a specific perspective from people in their social network.

Some consider hashtag activism as a poor substitute for real activism as it might not provide a permanent impact. However, even though hashtag activism is digital it still provides a sense of unity and participation as people connect. In the article, hashtags like #HandsUpDontShoot, #IfTheyGunnedMeDown, and #NoAngel also created connections and movements as they portrayed the misrepresentation of African Americans in mainstream media. Similarly, “How a Hashtag Defined a Movement” depicts the founders of the Black Lives Matter movement explaining that with the #BlackLivesMatter hashtag, they wanted to create a space to collaborate and impart messages (Schmidt Gordon). In this article, Bonilla and Rosa help us understand that language isn’t only a confronted interaction, it can be communicated through posts and hashtags on social media, a space to spread information and reflect. They note that this new form of language should be analyzed by anthropologists, but anthropologists should be aware of factors like perspectives. These hashtags were overall powerful socially, politically, and technologically. It provided a public communications platform that spread awareness, where anyone can obtain quickly updated information and news, publicize their notions, and join together in solidarity.

Bonilla, Yarimar, and Rosa Jonathan. 2015. “#Ferguson: Digital Protest, Hashtag Ethnography, and the Racial Politics of Social Media in the United States.” American Ethnologist 42 (1): 4-17.

Schmidt Gordon, Sabrina, director. “How a Hashtag Defined a Movement.Youtube, uploaded by Emerging US, 26 Sept. 2016, www.youtube.com/watch?v=-8-KZ0RIN3w&feature=youtu.be. 

Summary of “Variations in Sign Language” by Barbara LeMaster and Leila Monaghan

In “Variation in Sign Language” written by Barbara LeMaster and Leila Monaghan , the authors discuss sign language which is a signed language communicated through the use of one’s hands, face and body (LeMaster, B and L Monaghan, 2004). It is used and understood through the sense of seeing instead of speech which is why sign language is commonly used among deaf individuals (LeMaster, B and L Monaghan, 2004). The authors also discuss the different kinds of variations relating to sign language that’s based on region, age, gender, ethnicity, and social setting (LeMaster, B and L Monaghan, 2004).  

          The authors argue that there are variations within specific sign languages according to characteristics such as region, age, sex/gender, and register (LeMaster, B and L Monaghan, 2004). This argument was supported with evidence such as the fact that slang can mark an individual’s age which is determined by whether they’re used or used appropriately (LeMaster, B and L Monaghan, 2004). For example, a couple years ago, the term I have reason, was used by young women as a safe way to speak about their period in front of adults usually in the presence of teachers who weren’t supposed to know the sign because of their age (LeMaster, B and L Monaghan, 2004). This reminds me of how similar and true this is for spoken language as well because from my experience, often the use of slang is common among young people and I’ve often found it to be used incorrectly with older aged individuals. Some other examples used to support the argument are gender variations. Gender variation in signed languages come from Irish Sign Language used in Ireland which stemmed from sex-segregated deaf school language use where two gender-distinct sign lexicons developed (LeMaster, B and L Monaghan, 2004). Signs used for common nouns, verbs, and adjectives in the lexicon such as night, use, and cruel differed by the sex of the signer which is why women born before 1930 and men born before 1945 who attended the Dublin deaf schools typically use gendered forms of ISL (LeMaster, B and L Monaghan, 2004).

  “Apple” Female Sign        ”Apple” Male Sign

     Also, another kind of variation in ASL and other sign languages is by ethnicity (LeMaster, B and L Monaghan, 2004). With African American Deaf signing (Aramburo 1989), signing is influenced by the separation between white and African American communities (LeMaster, B and L Monaghan, 2004). In southern communities where schools were segregated, there are signing differences between them and African American signers, especially in the South, have different vocabularies from white signers that live in the same area (LeMaster, B and L Monaghan, 2004). 

      The authors provide clear evidence and examples for the different types of variations such as ethnicity, gender, and age in sign language. The author’s argument gives us an understanding about how language works by discussing sign language. It’s explained how deaf people are separated through variations of sign language based on certain characteristics and that there isn’t just one way to sign. The author may be making this argument to show that deaf people don’t all sign the same way and factors such as ethnicity and region are why.


 LeMaster, B and L Monaghan. (2004). “Variation in Sign Language.” In A Companion to Linguistic Anthropology. Pp. 141-165. Malden, MA: Blackwell.

Summary of “The Language of Multiple Identities among Dominican Americans” by Benjamin Bailey

The Language of Multiple Identities among Dominican Americans by Benjamin Bailey explores the language used by Dominican Americans and its relationship to their identities in the United States. Dominican American lineage includes Hispanic, American, and African. Therefore, the majority of group members are racially mixed. On top of being racially mixed, Dominican American group members are multilingual speakers (Spanish and English). Due to the multiracial and multi-linguistic traits that the group holds, not all group members agree on the same self-identification. To further understand how linguistics play a role in shaping self-identity, including racial and ethnic categories, Bailey conducted ethnographic research on mostly low-income Dominican Americans second-generation high school students at Rhode Island, focusing on their use of language. 

The second generation high school Dominican American students alternate their language from Dominican Spanish, African American English (AAVE), and the standard form of English; generally code-switching between Spanish and English. The students use and alternate between these languages to differentiate themselves from European Americans, African Americans, as well as in-group Dominican American members. Unlike European and African Americans who choose their identity that’s determined on a black and white scale, the Dominican American students choose to identify themselves through their ethnic traits: language. In a conversation that Bailey observed between two students named Isabelle and Janelle, the students were speaking in Spanish and English, casually code-switching between the two languages as they conversed. They were speaking in English, however, AAVE was used instead of standard English. Bailey writes, “…AAVE linguistic forms not only display a sociopolitical position or stance to others, but rather also suggest membership in an essentialized racial group” (204). This demonstrates the idea that Dominican Americans use AAVE to distinguish from the dominant group. They are choosing to classify themselves in a group that is neither Black nor White.

The students’ relationships are closer to their African American peers than their White peers, but they do not consider themselves Black.  Even when they are phenotypically similar to their African American friends, and even when they are seen as African American by others, they argue that they are not Black because they speak Spanish. For Dominican American students, phenotype and ancestry are ignored if they are Dominican and Spanish speaking. Thus, this system of classifying identity is based on traits of individuals and not one’s race. For this reason, Bailey makes it clear that language is a tool in shaping Dominican American’s identity. 

As Dominican American students oppose self-identifying as Black, they also oppose self-identifying as White even though they may appear white in skin color. Dominican American students use both AAVE and Spanish to differentiate themselves from being White. Oftentimes when an in-group member speaks standard English, they are criticized for “talking White”. In a sense, Dominican American students are mocking the standard form of English, as well as their own group members for using it. Mocking the standard form of English is a way that Dominican American students are resisting to become part of the dominant group and to maintain the social boundaries with White group members. However, this mockery of using standard English can lead in-group members to feel like an outcast. A student named Rosa that Bailey interviewed stated that she felt at ease with White Americans, but she had to be careful with switching communicative styles when she interacted with members of different groups due to fear of being criticized (Bailey, 200). Consequently, this mockery can break the solidarity within the group. Nonetheless, Dominican Americans still do not self-identify as White even though they may use standard form English. In addition to mocking in-group members for using standard English, recent Dominican immigrants are also mocked for their usage of Spanish. Due to the difference in language use (code-switching) of Dominican American students and recently immigrated Dominicans, there is a distinction that makes in-group members different. Therefore Dominican Americans can be sometimes called “bootleg Dominican,” and similar negative comments are also made against Dominican immigrants. In sum, Bailey showcases that language is the main source of maintaining one’s identity, such as resisting standard English or that not knowing enough of the language may revoke one’s status of being an in-group member. 

Capturing the main points of the article, Bailey concluded that: Dominican Americans adopted AAVE to distinguish from the dominant group and to mock standard forms of English; Dominican Americans use the Spanish language rather than the racial category to self-identify; Dominican Americans also use Spanish to distinguish within in-group members. Through these points, it shows how language is used as a classification tool. Since Dominican Americans value their Spanish traits, their racial or ethnic category would be closer to Hispanic or Latinx as opposed to African American. By using language to determine self-identity, Dominican Americans are dismantling the racial hierarchy. In other words, Bailey’s arguments may be to point out how race is a social construct.  All in all, language isn’t just a spoken instrument but plays a significant role in one’s identity, including race and ethnicity.


Bailey, Benjamin. 2000. “The Language of Multiple Identities among Dominican Americans.” Journal of Linguistic Anthropology 10 (2): 190–223.

Summary of “‘Nah, We Straight’: Black Language and America’s First Black President” by H. Samy Alim and Geneva Smitherman

In the excerpt  “‘Nah, We Straight’: Black Language and America’s First Black President” from In Articulate While Black: Barack Obama, Language, and Race in the U.S published by Oxford University Press, the authors H. Samy Alim and Geneva Smitherman investigate the way Barack Obama spoke in different settings. The authors discuss how Obama utilized a mixture of Black Language and Standard English to his advantage in making himself appear more familiar and more American, which contributed greatly towards his election. 

The authors claim that language is usually not talked about in the context of race. There is a well-defined dialogue about race, but when it comes to language and the role it plays in the broader context of the race most Americans are largely unaware. The authors intend to use the example of Barak Obama and his strategic use of language to shed light on this relatively uncommon subject. It is a well-established statement that Obama is a skilled orator and has a way with language that adds to his credibility and enables him to connect with average Americans. The authors mention that Obama’s change in the style of speaking is in fact deliberate. Obama is “hyperaware” of his surroundings and his audience and has the ability to address different parts of the same audience differently. However, surprisingly White people are less likely to notice this dynamic of speech than Black people. This is primarily because Black people themselves have to struggle and change their language when they are in different spheres of society to fit the needs of that particular sphere. 

The authors provide a detailed analysis of the example of style-shifting used by Obama. When talking to a Black cashier Obama declined the change, saying “Nah, we straight.” The authors mention that Obama’s style-shifting is usually characterized by changing between different “lexical variants and different pronunciations” (pg 7).  In this case, the use of ‘Nah’ a lexical variant of “no” is significant because of its association with the language used by Black people. Another important aspect of this phrase is the word “straight,” which in this case served in the place of ‘ok’ or ‘I am good’. Obama is often heard using a mix of a modernized, hip-hop, pop culture variation of slang as well as slang not widely known to connect and communicate with people on a personal level. Another important thing to note about the phrase is the absence of copula, different forms of the word “to be.” This is a unique aspect of Black Language where copula is often left out.  While some people consider it lazy language or grammatically incorrect, the authors argue that it is not random but rather is rule-governed and systematic, as with any language. 

Another important aspect of Obama’s language is “signifying”, snapping, or poking fun at someone, which is a distinct aspect of Black Language. The authors note that Obama is able to “signify” as well as mirror the language of the person he is addressing at the moment. Obama is willing to turn his standard English speech into the English commonly used by the Black folks if the person he is addressing is doing the same. 

The overall style of Obama’s speech is characterized as that of a preacher by the authors. His way of speaking includes repetition, narration, slow and deliberate words, and rhythm almost as if he is singing. This puts him in a positive light with other Black orators like Martin Luther King who had a similar style. Obama uses parallel structure in his sentences and repetition of certain phrases to put emphasis on them and makes it seem almost poetry. Furthermore, Obama also makes sure that the audience is with him with every sentence he says. Even if he is speaking to a large audience he still speaks as if it’s a conversation between them, not just him talking. 

The authors argue that Obama’s style of language was important and played a key role in his election. He was able to merge “White syntax with Black style” (pg 21). This provided him with three main benefits. Firstly, he was considered capable and someone to be taken seriously because of his command of Standard English which White people are familiar with. Secondly, his Black style of speaking and utilizing distinct features of Black language encouraged a feeling of familiarity with Black people. Lastly, he was able to use this mix of language and style to portray himself as an ‘American’ which eased the distrust of Americans about him being a Muslim in the aftermath years of the 9/11 attacks. He was no too White that the Blacks could not trust him and he was not too Black that the Whites could deem him incapable. He uses many techniques to show familiarity.  In his introductory speech in 2004, he talked about the G.I bill and being born to immigrant parents, and his struggles so that everyone with a similar story, anyone who can relate feels that sense of familiarity.  He used storytelling and narration, especially the ones that his audience can relate to and are familiar with, to connect with people and to hit his point across. He also used techniques like repetition and parallel structure that is rhythmic and poetic to captivate the audience, as seen in the video. Through his language and style, he was able to “Whiten, Blacken, Americanize and Christianize” himself which led to his successful election (pg 23).

The authors’ analysis of the style-shifting and language used by Barack Obama is insightful. Language is generally not given a second thought beyond the surface meaning. The authors, however, looked beyond the surface meaning and broke down his simple phrase of “Nah, we straight” explained the significance of saying what he said, the way he said it. The language used by Obama was very influential in his election and through his examples that the authors analyzed, the gap between the dialogue of language in the context of race is being bridged. The authors’ used people’s perception of Obama’s speech as evidence. This is effective because the issue that is being discussed is the impact of Obama’s style of language on the people and how it made him the popular choice in the minds of the people. For this reason, examining the responses of individuals on his speech gave us a report card of sorts as to how is his language is perceived. 

The authors are highlighting a very significant point: language is beyond just the means of communication, it is the identity of an individual. Therefore the significance of language is also intertwined with the socio-political struggles of its speakers. It is also enabling us to dig deeper into the intricacy of Black English rather than just dismissing it as lazy or incorrect. The way Black people have to switch between different styles of speaking is a testimony to their struggles. They have to change their language to seem qualified, and competent. Their language, their hairstyle, their appearance has to be altered before they are perceived ‘fit’ for a certain job or space. The authors’ are well aware of the absence of serious dialogue on the matter and this excerpt is an example of their effort to bring it into the light of public awareness.  

Alim, H. Samy, & Smitherman, Geneva (2012). “‘Nah, We Straight’: Black Language and America’s First Black President.” In Articulate While Black: Barack Obama, Language, and Race in the U.S. 1-30. New York: Oxford University Press.

THNKR. “The Speech that Made Obama President.” Online Video Clip. YouTube. Youtube, 30 August 2012. Web. 10 October 2020.

Summary of “‘To Give up on Words’: Silence in Western Apache Culture” by Keith H. Basso

The article “‘To Give up on Words’: Silence in Western Apache Culture” by Keith H. Basso focuses on the use of silence and why it’s acceptable to not use words at times. The main argument is based on the use of silence in the Western Apache culture and how it comes into play during these situations and is one of the main reasons they use silence. Silence can be beneficial to many situations such as listening to someone vent about their problems, in church, in serious situations and much more. As the author states, “Although the form of silence is always the same, the function of a specific act of silence- that is, its interpretation by and effect upon other people- will vary according to the social context in which it occurs” (Page 215). This stood out the most because it shows deeper meaning to why silence can be so important, due to all the different things it can show instead of just having one universal meaning. The author makes many clear points to help the reader understand their argument such as using specific examples of when silence becomes okay, which gives us a deeper understanding of why it would be appropriate at that time. For example, talking to a stranger sometimes allows for silence because you never know what is okay to say to others without offending or crossing boundaries with people you don’t know. I feel like that example is the easiest for most individuals to relate to because everyone has been in weird situations with strangers and being left not knowing how to answer. The author’s argument helps us understand language on another level. The definition of language is “the principal method of human communication, consisting of words used in a structured and conventional way and conveyed by speech, writing, or gesture”, however silence shows a different side to language which is something we should be aware of. It goes against what we would traditionally consider language, but it expands our knowledge on language and the diversity of it. While reading this article, the author shows the readers that silence can say just as much as words can. Silence is equally as expressive as anything words can say. This may be an eye opener to people from other cultures who don’t believe silence is a form of language due to what is seen as socially acceptable in some cultures. The author develops a strong argument that expresses that in the Western Apache culture silence is critical and should be valued the same as words. This article had clear and valid points that showed the readers the meaning of silence and when they see it being the best way to communicate in situations. 

Basso, K. H. (1970). ‘To Give up on Words’: Silence in Western Apache Culture. Southwestern Journal of Anthropology, 26(3), 213-230

Summary of “The Egg and the Sperm: How Science Has Constructed a Romance Based on Stereotypical Male-Female Roles” by Emily Martin

In this article, the author begins to explain that the egg and sperm in reproductive biology depends on stereotypes surrounding our cultural definitions of female and male. It suggests that female biological processes are less worthy compared to the males as well as women being less worthy than men. Martin uses the scientific language of biology to elucidate on the hidden gender stereotypes. 

She starts her argument by introducing that a woman’s monthly cycle is made to produce eggs and have a fit place to fertilize and grow to make babies. Then that means menstruation is a failure since the woman is not having children. When words like “debris” are included in the uterine lining description, it implies that it is wasted or scrap. Other words included in medical texts are “ceasing”, “dying”, and “losing” which has a negative connotation to it. 

Male reproductive processes are spoken about differently. In the text, Medical Physiology, it describes that a female “sheds” one gamete a month meanwhile a male “produces” hundreds of millions of sperm each day. It expresses enthusiasm of the male processes but not the women’s. There are positive and masculine terms to describe a man’s reproductive system. 

Martin shows the common depiction that the egg is usually the feminine “damsel in distress” while the sperm is the masculine “heroic warrior” coming to the rescue. 

New research shows that sperm and egg stick together because of adhesive molecules on the surfaces of each but researchers who made the discovery continue to write as if the sperm were the active party who “penetrates” the egg. Evidence shows that the egg and sperm do interact on mutual terms but biological imagery refuses to portray it that way. Even though each new account gives the egg a larger and more active role it still plays into another cultural stereotype which is that a woman is dangerous and an aggressive threat. In Western culture, images of women being dangerous and aggressive are spread. Martin wants to envision a less stereotypical view where the female reproductive system is seen as more positive. 

Martin concludes to become more aware of projections in cultural imagery that doesn’t only influence the understanding of nature but also influences actions and behaviors to be seen as natural. To be aware of such imagery we can denaturalize these social stereotypes in gender. Her argument helps readers understand the hidden stereotypes in something unexpected like science. It informs us to understand how women are seen lesser than in something down to a fundamental level. The words Martin sees included  in scientific findings are shocking as to how women are perceived culturally, in society and in science. To propose using degrading words that were corresponded to describe female reproductive systems to men’s, we will then truly see how language affects us like the author offers.

Martin, Emily. (1991). “Egg and the Sperm: How Science Has Constructed a Romance Based on Stereotypical Male-Female Roles.” Signs 16(3): 485-501.

Summary of #Ferguson: Digital protest, hashtag ethnography, and the racial politics of social media in the United States by Bonilla. Y and Rosa J.

The article summarized in this blog is called #Ferguson:Digital protest, hashtag ethnography, and the racial politics of social media in the United States by Yarimar Bonilla and Jonathan Rosa. The article chiefly talks about the usage of hashtags on Twitter and their influence on social movements such as #BlackLivesMatter and the differing perspectives on hashtag activism. It also opens up the discussion of ethnographic approaches to hashtag activism and Twitter. The main argument in the article is that social media, especially hashtag activism has  given voices to groups which have been racially profiled, subjected to victim blaming and stereotypes. Thus, social media gives voice to these marginalized groups to amplify their activism, and spread out their message.

The author supports her argument mainly by mentioning several incidents where African Americans were murdered in the wake of social media such as Twitter and how the masses reacted to their murders. They mention the killing of Michael Brown in Ferugson and how on Twitter, the protestors were able to participate in live protests. The hashtag #Ferugson also leads to other hashtags such as #HandsUpDontShoot, #IfTheyGunnedMeDown and #NoAngel. The author details all these tags in the light of Ferugson and even provides pictorial evidence of this hashtag “HandsUpDontShoot, to relate to how Michael Brown had his hands up yet the policeman shot him. The author supports the argument of victim blaming by mentioning the hashtag #NoAngel. They give an example of the NY Times articles which calls the victim no angel and states that he was involved in drugs and scuffles (8). Thus, many African Americnas started this hashtag to address the media shaming black men and defending police racial profiling. The article’s topic of hashtags’ role in social activism and BlackLivesMatter offers a new perspective on how linguistic  anthropologists need to be cognizant of the new age where sites like Twitter and hashtags can become new ethnographic sites. There can be a number of problems for ethnographers as they have to search and be vary of contexts of hashtags, their audiences and the users who tweeted. Hashtags can offer a new way for language to be explored as these provide a complex world with many ideas, users and interconnected ideas.

The author’s choice to write this article underscores the growing need for researchers to consider hashtags and their complicated world of myriad messages as the article paves the way for social media sites and new linguistic approaches like hashtags to be taken seriously. The author’s reason to write this article seems to stem from the rising social movements and awareness about the disregard of black lives and the important role of Twitter in amplifying their voices and bringing forth their struggles. As Caitlin Dewey writes in her article What Social Media did for Ferugson, the social media helped users do good like spread literacy, awareness and amplify voices and also helped recognize that “even in the world’s most powerful democracy, justice simply wasn’t being done.”

BONILLA, Y. and ROSA, J. (2015), #Ferguson: Digital protest, hashtag ethnography, and the racial politics of social media in the United States. American Ethnologist, 42: 4-17

Dewey, C, 2014 Nov 25, “What Social Media did for Ferugson,” Washington Post. Retrieved from https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/the-intersect/wp/2014/11/25/what-social-media-did-for-ferguson/

Summary of “‘To Give up on Words’: Silence in Western Apache Culture” by Keith H. Basso

In “‘To Give up on Words’: Silence in Western Apache Culture” by Keith H. Basso, the author discusses his research of situations where silence is encouraged and used in Western Apache culture. Basso then attempts to defend his hypothesis that in situations where the Western Apaches use silence are in situations where there is uncertainty or unpredictability in social relations. He then goes on to compare the use of silence in Western Apache culture to other cultures, like the Navajo Indians in the American southwest. There were six situations where Western Apaches choose to remain silent. The first being when meeting someone for the first time. Silence is used then to essentially try to observe the other person and decide whether they seem trustworthy enough to form a friendship. The second situation is when two people are courting. The reluctance to speak typically stems from the couple being shy or self-conscious around each other since they are still unfamiliar with one another. The third situation is when children come home from boarding school or long stays outside the reservation. Parents stay silent when children come home in order to examine the changes their children may have gone through being away from home and see if their child feels happy being back home. The fourth situation is when a person is being cussed out. The person being cussed out remains silent in order not to provoke the angry person because when a person is enraged, the Western Apaches believed that they are “crazy” and not in their senses. The fifth situation is when being around people who are sad. Usually, most of the people on the reservation know of the circumstances that have taken place that has made the person mourn, so there isn’t a point in speaking about it to further make the person sad. The last situation where silence is encouraged is around a person who sings. The medicine man has to heal the sick patient, so silence is needed in order not to mess or distract the healing process. The evidence all show clear examples using stories and quotes from Western Apaches regarding silence within certain situations, defending the author’s hypothesis. In each situation, there is a level of uncertainty either for another individual or unpredictability of how a person might react. 

Often times literature has portrayed American Indians to be quite silent and that their lack of talking makes them appear cold to outsiders. Basso writes this article in an attempt to correct these misleading assumptions and stereotypes. What is interesting about the silent situation examples Basso brings up is that it shows how much Western Apaches and Navajos (whose silent situations are every similar to the Western Apaches) are careful when it comes to forming social relations or interacting with one another. I guess a question to bring up would be, knowing the brutal history American Indians have had with foreigners, have silence in certain situations always existed in many American Indian cultures, or did it come about after interactions with foreigners which could have made them very cautious and hesitant to form social relations and also learn how to control and handle themselves around certain people? Overall, the author did a good job shining a light on the linguistic choices of the Western Apaches and putting to rest many stereotypes of the quietness of American Indians.

Basso, K. H. (1970). ‘To Give Up on Words’: Silence in Western Apache Culture. Southwestern Journal of Anthropology26(3), 213–230.

Summary of “‘To Give up on Words’: Silence in Western Apache Culture” by Basso, K. H.

In the article “‘To Give up on Words’: Silence in Western Apache Culture”, written by Keith H. Basso. The article’s primary focus is on the Western Apaches’ customs that how they have a different culture from the rest of society. In different societies, people have different norms and cultures that they follow. A person who enters a community with a different culture tends to be alienated by these norms. The author relies on the fact that it is often difficult for people to grasp where to speak in different contexts presented to them in social settings. The paper’s main argument is to discuss, with examples, why people of Western Apache society refrain from a speech in different settings and why it is relevant to other communities. The article demonstrates several ethnographic examples found in the Western Apache culture. The author elaborates that the people of this culture are bound by kinship, and they are socially linked with each other. It makes society very interwoven. Different examples are given to support the hypothesis. These examples include the cases when the Western Apaches refrain from talking, such as a new couple during court, when someone is angry when Apaches meet strangers, when children come home after being at boarding school, and when an individual is angry sad. These examples are supported by pieces of evidence that are short scriptures taken from different Apache informants. The evidence that is provided by the author is very accurate and up to the mark. It paints a clear picture of a lack of speech in Western Apaches in different contexts. The examples clarify how Apaches are others from the rest of the world when they refrain from talking in different social situations. It also makes the reader sure that the author’s argument is valid, and the absence of speech is an integral part of Western Apache’s culture. According to the author, a person doesn’t have to make a speech to communicate. Language is a complex system that includes mutual understanding and shared culture. It makes us understand that language is subjective, and it changes according to different social contexts. The article is surprising for us, as people in other societies have different cultures. They usually tend to use speech to communicate. In Western Apaches’ culture, they follow a lack of speech that can be shocking for people who study it for the first time. So the author’s main point is to tell how refraining from the speech is different in all the social settings. It depends upon the social norms of the society rather than in the context of the social background, which might differ. He intended to educate the world that language is the mean of communication that does not always require speech. People can communicate by remaining silent, just like Western Apaches do. This form of communication can be healthy and can lead to many benefits in different social settings. In the article, the author was persistent about his argument, and he successfully portrayed what he wanted the audience to know and learn.

Relevant to the article’s main argument, this image  portrays that speech is not a necessary concept to communicate. Silence is another form of communication. This image depicts that a person does not need to speak to communicate with others. There are the benefits of a lack of speech on certain occasions of life. The image explores that silence can be an advantageous mode of communication. It is about conveying a message, and sometimes silence can do better than words.

Basso, K. H. (1970). ‘To Give up on Words’: Silence in Western Apache Culture. Southwestern Journal of Anthropology26(3), 213-230.

Summary of “Language, Asylum and the National Order” by Jan Blommaert

In the reading, Language, Asylum and the National Order, Jan Blommaert discusses the modernist views on postmodern realities, “the globalized phenomenon of international refugees from crisis regions to the West” (424), in the case of Joseph Mutingira, a refugee from Rwanda. He uses documents from Joseph’s interviews with Home Office immigration when he was seeking asylum and his written testimony to show how Joseph’s language repertoire didn’t match up with his experience. 

In the documents Blommaert used, it talks about Joseph’s childhood. He lived a rough life starting from his childhood. He grew up speaking English to his parents and siblings. His father made him and his siblings live a restricted life. His mother died of an unknown reason when he was young. During a home invasion, his father and his siblings died while he survived by escaping from a window. He then moved in with his uncle who transported weapons and he got caught. He was sent to prison where he was beaten and raped because he wasn’t able to answer their questions. He finally escaped prison and went to the United Kingdom to seek asylum. He was denied several times because he was at various levels of proficiency in English, Runyankole, and Kinyarwanda. This rose a lot of suspicions and caused many problems for him in the Home Office immigration. 

Joseph’s language repertoire rose a lot of problems for him because he wasn’t fluent in any of them. He learned Runyankole and Kinyarwanda from being around different people, be able to pick it while being around them, and reading books that his uncle provided to him. He only went to school for a short amount of time and was able to learn English. After his family was killed in the invasion, he didn’t go to school anymore so it caused him to be able to understand English to a certain extent. This caused his asylum in the United Kingdom to be denied because they were “assessing the truth of their claims of origin”(427). 

Blommaert helps us understand that language is very important because it makes it more difficult for people who are migrating from a different country. Joseph wasn’t able to answer the questions that the Home Office immigration asked because he didn’t speak any of the languages fluently, which lead to his denial of asylum. The language repertoire “reflects a life, not just birth, a life that is lived in a real sociocultural, historical, and political space” (424). Joseph not being to speak any of the languages fluently showed that he wasn’t living a normal in Rwanda and needed to flee from the violence that was occurring. Many people have been trying to seek asylum from all over the world. For example, when the Syrian civil war happened, many were seeking asylum in neighboring countries and even the United States but because they’re from the Middle East, many people would assume that they’re terrorists and deny them access to the country. 

In conclusion, Blommaert uses Joseph Mutingira’s case to discuss modernist views on postmodern realities. He helps us understand how language is very important because it helps tell your life story and be able to show others that they’ve lived in a sociocultural life. Language reflects on their lives as it did for Joseph Mutingira.

Summary of “Language and the Structure of Thought” by Leanne Hinton

                To understand the relationship between language and thought, a person needs first to understand the two aspects individually. Therefore, language is communication between human beings to pass information from one person to another. Language consists of the use of words either in written or spoken form. The primary benefit of speech is, therefore, communication. There are different languages around the world in different countries to ensure that people talk and understand each other. During the 1900s, especially during the barter trade, the language barrier was one of the challenges of the trade. To make trade easy at the time, there was the presence of interpreters who helped in making communication easy between the buyers and the sellers. The words used in language can either be conventional or structural (Hinton, P. 62). The main aim of the comprehensive text is to examine the aspects of the Native American languages in California. These language maintenances, historical perspectives, language domains, men and women language, and finally, daily usage.   

On the other hand, thought can be defined as the opinion or an idea an individual comes up with after a lot of thinking. A thought can take time as a person can be taking time consulting him/herself, but it can also occur suddenly from the mind. Thought can also be defined as the processor, rather, the action of thinking (Hinton, P. 69). Whenever people are conversing in a group, each and every person is involved in the action of thinking before saying anything. This process of thinking helps a person in staying on the right track during a conversation to ensure they give relevant ideas. Therefore, thinking offers human beings a chance to interpret and present information. Thinking is also essential since it gives a person the opportunity to make sense before saying anything in a conversation. In order to make adequate plans and realistic objectives about anything, a person first needs to take time into thinking before reaching a specific decision.

The language of thought theories relies on the belief that mental representation that has a linguistic structure. Thoughts refer to the sentences in the head. People from different backgrounds, mutual differences, and customs have different ways of thinking and forming their thoughts. Therefore, it is inevitable that language and thought are interconnected and depend on one another. For language to be useful, then thought must be present. After thinking of something and composing a sentence in the head, then one uses language to pass the information.

Hinton, L. (1994). “Language and the Structure of Thought.” In Flutes of Fire: Essays on California Indian Languages, 61-70. Berkeley: Heyday Books.

Summary of “‘Nah, We Straight’: Black Language and America’s First Black President” by H. Samy Alim and Geneva Smitherman

In “‘Nah, We Straight’: Black Language and America’s First Black President” by Alim, H. Samy, & Smitherman, Geneva (2012), the reading explains the meaning and use of language in America. As the authors specifically look at the background of different races to see and understand their own set of language. One of the arguments I see is that based on your race or culture you part of, it impacts the way you speak your language. Depending on what situation, you are in, you would change your use of language into a different and more manner way of speaking. In other words, race or culture impacts your way of speaking to other people, as it would change when you are in a different setting or speaking to someone. An example of this would be Obama’s language and race, in the article it was claimed that Obama was elected because he had a good and formal way of speaking English in America. However, it was stated that Obama was at a restaurant and while ordering food, he was using slang and African American English. Obama reported to say “Nah” then saying no, and it a big deal since it was a bad look and ungrammatical in the black language system. The authors explain Obama may have changed his way of speaking English, so it can help him be elected as president. As many people of America look for a president who has proper English, but Obama had to focus on his grammar as a lot of people had expectations of his use of language. During Obama’s campaign, he was in a difficult situation, as he had to balance the way he was speaking as a black person but also a white person. It is claimed by the authors that based on the way we use language, it identifies us and shows people who we are as a person to talk to and how formal we are. The authors explain they had to sound educated in order to win his elections as he would fail if, he didn’t fix his way of speaking or use of language. It was surprising former president Obama was using slangs but more surprising as he was able to practice and establishes himself as an American. I realize the reason why the authors were writing the article was to inform people and this generation to realize our use of language. As many people and cultures in America recognize the slangs and the different languages we speak, is not formal. As a result, we must take notice of how we use language, as it defines us and shows who we are. That is why Obama had to change his language as he needed a better image and presentation of himself.

Alim, H. Samy, and Geneva Smitherman. 2012. “‘Nah, We Straight’: Black Language and America’s First Black President.” In Articulate While Black: Barack Obama, Language, and Race in the U.S., 1–30. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Summary of “‘Nah, We Straight’: Black Language and America’s First Black President” by H. Samy Alim and Geneva Smitherman

In the article “‘Nah, We Straight’: Black Language and America’s First Black President,” Samy Alim and Geneva Smitherman discuss the use of language in American society, specifically in the context of race. The authors use Barack Obama and his election win as a case study in discussing language and race. The authors begin to explain that Barack Obama is an excellent speaker and communicator, noting his ability to styleshifts his language depending on the context. In the reading one main argument I noticed is the type of style you speak has an effect on your race. What I mean by this is sometimes based on your race certain people may have a  stereotype on the way you may speak. An example being Latinos speaking “proper english” is something latinos can’t do just speak broken english just because spanish is  the principal language. It’s one out many stereotypes being made, The relationship between race, language and racism plays such a key role in reflecting and defining the way human societies are structured that it deserves study as a separate field, which he calls raciolinguistics. Raciolinguistics examines how language shapes race and how race shapes language. It’s a field that grew out of a need to understand that there is a close relationship between race, racism and language and how these processes impact our lives across domains like politics and education. An example based on the article, a formal political event, Obama spoke  American Standard English. But, when ordering food at a casual establishment, surrounded by  African-Americans, he will instead use slang and African-American Vernacular English. It has been noted by several African-Americans that he “sounds Black”, in such a way that his words are “White”, but if one listens to him speak, he would “sound Black”. Furthermore, the way he speaks is very similar to a Black preacher and is compared to Martin Luther King Jr. This helped establish Obama in the minds of Americans (subconsciously) as an “American”, “Christian”, and most of all, “Not too Black/Not too White”. This is crucial for his election because in reality, Obama had a difficult job to do (at least in terms of language); Obama had to establish himself in the minds of Americans as an American, as well as find a balance to include everyone racially. He must sound like the previous White presidents to put the White people at ease, yet still sound Black enough so that Blacks would feel included in the political dialogue. He had to sound like an American Christian boy, because of all the rumors of his family line and his name sounding “Muslim”. Essentially, he had to humanize himself, and connect with Americans to silence those rumors. If he failed to do so, he would not have been elected President, talk about language and how it connects to race. These  are some examples that demonstrate language playing a role and stereotypes based on race. The author argument helps us understand how language works because language is something used in daily life and as of right now in today’s society, if you have a degree the way you present yourself language wise is very important. We are so judged if not speaking probably especially if latino or African American race. Something surprising about the argument is that this has been an issue for a long period of time about how slang is considered unprofessional and informal because it is not the language that we hear in books or that is taught to us in school. Overall the way the author speaks about race and language is something I personally appreciate because it’s important for readers to be aware of how race plays a role in language. Language is important in which everyone should feel free to express themselves and not feel judged by the way they speak. Language shouldn’t be judged just because you’re a certain race but instead everyone sticking  together and being able to express your tone in an appropriate way.

Alim, H. Samy, and Geneva Smitherman. 2012. “‘Nah, We Straight’: Black Language and America’s First Black President.” In Articulate While Black: Barack Obama, Language, and Race in the U.S., 1–30. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

The Struggles of Being a Bilingual Immigrant Child

If there is one phenomenon nearly all bilingual immigrant children know, it is the role of being a translator for your parents. This is not a new phenomenon in the slightest. There have been many stories to videos describing how children will translate for their families, for better or for worse; Children trying to get a video game out of their age rating, being annoyed to help their parents talk to Customer Service, to even just language brokering between the waiter and their parents. However, in Jennifer F. Reynolds’ article, “In the Service of Surveillance: Immigrant Child Language Brokers in Parent-Teacher Conferences”, a specific case study is done; How do bilingual children cope with being an interpreter between two authoritative figures, their parents and their teachers? According to Reynolds, the act of being a translator between parents and teachers subjects children to multiple layers of surveillance, as well as how these children are both empowered and restricted in this unique position they hold. Reynolds then moves forward on how children in these positions are essentially unpaid labor, who’s knowledge of both languages and cultures are utilized to help their parents learn and navigate their new environment. In this way, parents are dependent on children, despite the parent typically being the authoritative figure in most cultures. In this case, we can see how language provides authority, when one is dependent on another for communication. However, in the case of parent-teacher conferences, teachers are talking about children. This means, in this specific scenario, teachers, an authoritative figure, is talking about the child, and asking the child to tell their parents what they said.  This means that the child on question has the power to honestly (or dishonestly) translate language between the two authority figures, giving children the power in this scenario, despite in a normal mono-language social situation, children would not have any power. Furthermore, an interesting finding is that in these situations, teachers have (generally) three different models: Talking to the parents (and having the children passively translate), talking to the child directly (and have the child translate to their parents) or expecting the child to translate word-for-word in real time as they were speaking. This meant that the children had to determine the model the teacher is using. This also shifts the power positions each participant has, with the secondary power figure being either the child or the parent depending on the model used. This is an interesting (in anthropology, at least) situation, because this is a specific paradoxical situation; One is talking about a child, to a child, to tell their parents. This puts children in the position of speaking to and for both their parents and their teachers, while putting pressure on them to be honest, and accurate. However, this fails to consider the fact that some words do not translate exactly between languages. It is a very difficult position if one looks a little deeper beyond the surface. But, this study has revealed the necessity to address the pressures put on bilingual children, and work to ease these societal pressures.

  1. Funny All You Need “Jesus Garcia Translating Phone Calls For Mexcian Mom 😁#MrChuy”. Youtube video, 1:52. Februrary 23, 2019. https://youtu.be/KjPomoWEdz4
  2. Reynolds, J, M Orellana, and I García-Sánchez (2015). “In the Service of Surveillance: Immigrant Child Language Brokers in Parent-Teacher Conferences.” Langage et société 153(3): 91-108.

Summary of “Variation in Sign Language” by Barbara LeMaster and Leila Monaghan

In the chapter “Variation in Sign Language” by Barbara LeMaster and Leila Monaghan, the authors argue how sign language is not universal. Sign language differs based on many different factors. Sign language is not universal because “Geographical, national, and social boundaries can separate people by the sign languages they use” (142). There are other variations that cause sign language to not be universal as well. The authors mention how families use ‘home signs’ which are created by the families of those who are deaf. Many children who are born deaf are usually born into families that are not deaf, so being first time learners, parents will adapt their own home signs that they can use to communicate with their child. These home signs are found everywhere and are not limited to just one city or country. They are unique.

Another variation on sign language consists of specific languages according to the region, age, sex/gender, and register. The authors include information on how younger women used sign to discuss with others about being on their periods. They did not want the older adults to know what they were discussing in sign. This age variation “associated with youthfulness” (149) allows for younger people to communicate with one another in a way that that only people their age can understand. In addition to age variations there are also regional variations on sign. This chapter discusses how sign language is not an equivalent language to spoke language, it contains its own grammar. For instance, in the United States, England, and the Republic of Ireland are different from one another. The authors remark that sign language does not develop in relation to spoken language. However, they do “have their own complex morphology, phonology, syntax, and semantic rules” (143). It would be nearly impossible for sign language to be universal if each country contains their own sign rules in accordance to those who use it. The authors demonstrate how the word “birthday” is signed different in several states in America. There are even sign variations in relation to gender. The text illustrates how the sign for “night” was portrayed differently for men and women signers. Not only this, but it also depends on when the person was born. Sign differs by age because sign changes constantly over time. Older individuals who use sign for common everyday words will not be the same sign used by modern individuals. Many signs that were done with two hands have become one-handed signs.

With variations in sign, the authors argue that it would be impossible for sign language to be universal. There are ways in which deaf people in certain countries can communicate with deaf people of other countries. There may not be an international sign language, yet there is the American Sign Language (ASL). ASL heavily influences many countries that adapt it. This is what made the ASL present in countries that are not America. If you’re interested in witnessing how deaf individuals use sign language here is a video by Rikki Poynter, a deaf blogger, who explains the different sign languages and why sign is not universal. This video is significant because it is done by someone in the deaf community. There are subtitles attached for those who cannot understand sign language.

LeMaster, B and L Monaghan. (2004). “Variation in Sign Language.” In A Companion to Linguistic Anthropology. Pp. 141-165. Malden, MA: Blackwell.

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