Language and Culture: Snowy Late-Night Edition
Jay here again for with the last featured AN105 post of the block! This week we discussed gender, sexuality, dialects, language families, and code-switching.
On Tuesday, we watched a lecture by Professor Deborah Tannen of Georgetown University where she summarizes her work analyzing the differences between discourse systems among boys and girls from a young age, including behaviors such as eye contact, body language, and politeness patterns. She’s also published numerous books about how communication patterns affect relationships, and the ways that the discourse systems we use can affect the way we interpret language, which brings us to the concept of dialects:
“An accent is not a measure of intelligence.” – Trevor Noah
Thursday and Friday, we examined the evolution of languages and dialects. Dialects arise during periods of separation between speakers of the same language, often through geographic isolation. This is the most common form of linguistic evolution in the United States, where different English dialects can be heard in cities like New York, Boston, and Los Angeles. It also occurs during periods of segregation such as the evolution of African American Vernacular English (AAVE) also known as Ebonics in earlier studies. Dialects like AAVE are unfortunately discouraged from use because of their statuses as non-standard dialects of English despite carrying legitimacy among their speakers. The use of multiple dialects or languages occurs in a process known as code-switching, which will be discussed below.
Code-switching is the process where speakers switch between different languages or dialects depending on the situation, often a form of involvement politeness (emphasizing speakers’ similarities). Code-switching between American English and AAVE as well as South African English (my mother is South African) is a daily occurrence when speaking with my family and in different communities, so it was interesting to study dialects and code-switching more in-depth this week in class!
Keeping with the holiday season, this past Friday also marked Hillel’s annual latke cook-off leading up to Hanukkah, marking the final Shabbat service of the year!
Wrapping up this post, here are some photos from NASU’s Christmas party at Sacred Grounds on Sunday! We ate tamales and candy while making little corn husk angels!
Anyway, I’d like to end this series of posts with a reflection on the block as a whole. I’ve only taken four blocks so far at CC, but this is my favorite one so far! Cyndi does an excellent job teaching us under the block plan, and getting to study linguistics in a classroom setting is something that I’ve been waiting to do for a long time! Looking forward to taking more linguistics classes in the future!
P.S. – For those of you interested in anthropology and/or language, Cyndi will be teaching another class during Block 6, AN311: Language in Culture and Mind: Cognitive Anthropology!