Language and Societies

ANT/LIN 5320 at Wayne State University

Language and Societies abstracts, vol. 5 (2013)

The abstracts below are summaries of papers by junior scholars from the 2013 edition of my course, Language and Societies. The authors are undergraduate and graduate students in anthropology and linguistics at Wayne State University. Over the next few weeks, some students will be posting links to PDF versions of their final papers below their abstracts. Comments and questions are extremely welcome, especially at this critical juncture over the next week, when the authors are making final revisions to their papers.

Heather Buza: An Analysis of Driving Contracts for Persons with Dementia

Darlene Pennington-Johnson: The Verbal Art of Bribery:  Going Further than Detroit’s Front Door

Stephen Teran: Aviation English and Communication Problems

Hind Ababtain: Saudi Arabic Diglossia and Code-Switching in Twitter: Education and Gender Effect

Kaitlin Muklewicz: Physician communication with women who have multiple sclerosis

Jennifer O’Hare: Irish or English? An Irish Parent’s Decision about a Child’s Education

Michael Thomas: Fixing and Fixing: Literal Language and Perceptual Relevance in High-Functioning Autism and the Less Wrong Community

Georgia Diamantopoulos: The Linguistic Expression of a Greek-American Identity

Kelsey Garason: Exploring Language and Gender through Blood and Combat

Brenna Moloney: The Dialectics of Pronoun Use in Modern Russia

Elspeth Geiger: Anishinaabemowin Animacy:  The Metalinguistic Beliefs in Language Revitalization Websites

Jeri L. Pajor: Can Sacred Spaces Reveal Clues to Wyandotte’s German Ethnic Heritage and Show Status?

C.A. Donnelly: I Want to Convince You to Believe: Discourse and Authority in the Moon Landing Hoax Conspiracy Theory

Kelly A. Johnston: The Invisible Majority: Language as a Means of Education in the Context of a German-American Historic House Museum

Talia Gordon: Beyond the Board: Metalinguistic Awareness and Language Beliefs Among Expert Scrabble Players

Leah Esslinger: Greeting Patterns in Midtown Detroit

Kimberly Anne Shay: Indigenous Language and Assimilation: Navajo and the Workplace

Sarah Carson: Black Nerds in the Media: A Linguistic Analysis

Monica Mieczkowski: “She may have wanted it”: Discourse of Consent in Online Accounts of the Steubenville, Ohio Rape

Julie Haase: Judging a Wine (Or Winery) by its Label

Kimberly A. Compton: A Community of Practice and Constructing Children’s Agency

Katherine Korth: AKC: Ravelry’s Impact on the Language of Knitters

April 15, 2013 Posted by | Editor | Leave a comment

An Analysis of Driving Contracts for Persons with Dementia

An Analysis of Driving Contracts for Persons with Dementia

Heather Buza

Cognition and independence are prioritized in American society. Individuals who exhibit reduced cognition or require assistance with activities of daily living are stigmatized. Persons with Alzheimer’s disease or dementia will become unable to drive or care for themselves. Conversations about driving cessation and future decision-making are an important first step toward planning for a future with dementia. There is a significant amount of literature on dementia, personhood and the self. However, there are no scholarly articles on the significance of conversational tools designed to facilitate conversations about driving cessation. Using content analysis, this paper will compare and contrast driving contracts from six agencies. The relationship of driving contracts to other legal documents and teen driving contracts is investigated. Cultural models of dementia and the genealogy of the driving contract are also explored. Using Thomas Kitwood’s perspective on personhood as well as Athena McLean’s definition of selves and identities, the driving contract is viewed as an agreement made by the current healthy cognitively intact self with the future cognitively diminished self. It is also argued that the intended audience of the driving contract is the future self. Conversational tools, specifically driving contracts, affect personhood differentially.

April 15, 2013 Posted by | abstract | 3 Comments

The Verbal Art of Bribery: Going Further than Detroit’s Front Door

The Verbal Art of Bribery:  Going Further than Detroit’s Front Door

Darlene Pennington-Johnson

The use of language describes and situates illicit activity, but it is also used to commit acts.  From that perspective we can look no further than our own city of Detroit or other cities surrounding Detroit to interrogate issues involving bribery.  However, bribery is greater than just a local concern. In fact, bribery and corruption are endemic corporate and public concerns globally.

Through a review of the scholarly literature, this paper examines corporate approaches to bribery, variation in the language used to commit bribery, and the verbal art used to characterize what constitutes a bribe globally.  Bribery is described in much of the world in different ways and within different contexts.  Verbal art provides the nuanced, cultural, linguistic and social competence for the performative act of bribery to take place.   Yet, equally important to the economic consideration of bribery is an analysis of when a gift is a bribe and when it is not. This paper is also an analysis of the linguistic and conceptual distinctions between gifts and bribes globally.  These notions of bribery and gift giving often overlap, shift and ultimately affect perceptions based on etic and emic interpretations.  The goal of this paper is not to simply discuss bribery as it is laid out in the scholarly literature; it is also a cross-linguistic analysis of the how gifts and bribes are distinguished from one another in several cultures.

April 15, 2013 Posted by | abstract | 3 Comments

Aviation English and Communication Problems

Aviation English and Communication Problems

Stephen Teran

With the continual growth of the aviation industry and the globalization of passenger airliners, safety has become a crucial issue, and communication is at the forefront of determining more acceptable systems. Taking into consideration aviation’s high-risk environment, communication issues such as ambiguity of selected terms, aviation English, conflicting linguistic features and non-native English instruction for commercial aviators and air traffic controllers are important to strengthening safety across the globe. The question raised is what steps authorities and pilots/controllers need to take in terms of necessary precautions, and what systems of communication should be altered. The role of having a standardized language also needs to be addressed. Examples from incidents in the air and on the ground will highlight these concerns. The result of many studies by linguists and aviation authorities has amounted to a number of viable options for solution to communication problems. The most interesting and complex of these solutions is the idea that computer interfaces could replace controller tower operation and potentially be used to process information from pilots and instruct in a way that allows little to no confusion or possible ambiguity. Evaluating and prioritizing features of communication most necessary for safer and more effective operations along with testing of new communication methods is certainly the next step for researchers.

April 15, 2013 Posted by | abstract | 2 Comments

Saudi Arabic Diglossia and Code-Switching in Twitter: Education and Gender Effect

Saudi Arabic Diglossia and Code-Switching in Twitter: Education and Gender Effect

Hind Ababtain

This study attempts to investigate the consequences of electronically-mediated communication, specifically the social network site Twitter, on Saudi Arabic diglossia. This paper examines 440 tweets and 220 replies to others’ tweets of the 22 most popular Saudi male and female users using methods from discourse analysis to formulate statistical results. Another 60 random tweets in two hashtags, one written in Modern Standard Arabic (MSA) and one in the Saudi Colloquial Arabic (SA), were selected to see how people respond to the hashtag written in MSA and the one written in SA in terms of code choice. Also, 10 different random tweets were linguistically analyzed to look for the relation between humorous effect and code choice. Fundamental questions are raised: What are the mechanisms of diglossic switching in Twitter? Can we generalize norms, rules and customs which explain how people switch between different varieties of Arabic and why they do so? What is the role of code-switching in humorous written texts in Twitter? Do different factors, like education and gender affect code choice? Diglossia research focuses entirely on the spoken language in a society, but limited research on diglossia in online communications has been made.   

It is found that the MSA is treated as a high variety of Arabic and used by elite and educated Saudi users when talking about poetic, scientific and religious topics; on the other hand, the SA is treated as a low variety of Arabic and used to discuss everyday experiences and in replies to one another. However, there are tweets about religion, science and folk poetry that are written in SA. Also, there are replies to others’ tweets in MSA.  As data shows, female users are more likely to use MSA than male users, and they are more likely to avoid code-switching within one tweet. So, education and gender variations are important factors that affect code choice. However, male and female users are both likely to switch between the MSA and SA just for humorous effect; it is found that frequent code-switching in Saudi tweets are for humorous effect.

Keywords: Saudi Arabic diglossia, code-switching, online media, social media, Twitter, tweets, linguistics, sociolinguistics, CMC, EMC

April 15, 2013 Posted by | abstract | 6 Comments

Physician communication with women who have multiple sclerosis

Physician communication with women who have multiple sclerosis

Kaitlin Muklewicz

Multiple sclerosis (MS) is a chronic illness which affects the nervous system of an individual and can lead to a variety of symptoms including mobility issues.  MS is a very unpredictable disease and each patient affected by the disease experiences it differently.  This unpredictability has the potential to cause issues between patients and physicians when communicating about the disease. This paper looks at the communication between physicians and patients with chronic illness; specifically, young females who are newly diagnosed with multiple sclerosis are the patients of interest for this paper.  This paper examines articles already published about the communication between doctors and patients about MS.  Furthermore, the goal of this paper is to uncover the importance of communication, and how doctors communicate with their MS patients.  Four topics that often come up during a patient’s health experience with a new disease include the initial diagnosis, questions regarding reproduction, potential employment issues, and treatment options.  By looking at how physicians talk with their patients about these topics, this paper attempts to discover how communication is important for a patient with MS.  Once a solid foundation is created for communication between doctors and patients, many of the patient’s questions will be answered relating to this unpredictable disease.

Keywords: Multiple sclerosis, communication, physician, patient, women

April 15, 2013 Posted by | abstract | 3 Comments

Irish or English? An Irish Parent’s Decision about a Child’s Education

Irish or English? An Irish Parent’s Decision about a Child’s Education

Jennifer O’Hare

This essay investigates why the revitalization of a minority language, Irish, became such a priority of the new Irish government in 1922. The English conquered Ireland during the Middle Ages and by the nineteenth century, the English language had superseded Irish as the language in political and economic positions; Irish became a vernacular language associated with peasants and the countryside. Ireland gained independence from Great Britain in 1922 and the new Irish government made the revitalization of Irish a priority: Irish became a compulsory subject in school and prospective employees needed to pass an Irish test in order to secure a job. Despite the government’s efforts, the number of native Irish speakers continued to decline and English maintained its place as the dominant language. During the 1960s, there began to be a growth in Irish immersion schools, where all subjects were taught in Irish, and English was taught as a subject. Why would a parent choose to put his or her child in an Irish immersion school if Irish was not used in daily life? The literature reveals that the Irish language is strongly tied to an Irish person’s identity; being able to speak Irish connects one to the past, although this feeling is more strongly felt in the traditionally Irish speaking areas, known as the Gaeltacht. Putting young children into an immersion school has been shown to make it easier for the child to learn a third or fourth language later on, which is beneficial for their future. Future research directions may include more studies involving school students and how they view Irish education as well as how many of the children who go to Irish immersion schools go on to learn a third or fourth language.

Keywords: Irish; Minority Language; Revitalization; Education; Intergenerational

April 15, 2013 Posted by | abstract | 3 Comments

Fixing and Fixing: Literal Language and Perceptual Relevance in High-Functioning Autism and the Less Wrong Community

Fixing and Fixing: Literal Language and Perceptual Relevance in High-Functioning Autism and the Less Wrong Community

Michael Thomas

Implicit or explicit thoughts about language, or meta-language, can function to normalize cognitive dispositions and propensities in a given discursive community. This paper examines literalism as both a contested site of linguistic classification and diagnostic index of cognitive function through a discourse analysis of meta-language in LessWrong.com, an online community wherein deliberate, though as-of-yet undecidably justified, association with Autism Spectrum Disorder figures prominently. Through a review of psychological and philosophical literature on literalism it is found that, as a description of high functioning autistic language-use “literal” is insufficient where salience is preferred, yet as a heuristic for indexing a normative epistemological point of view, one form of relative literalism remains an operable concept. The properties of language generally associated with literalism indeed function as a mechanism for processing perceptual information as well as for securing aligned salience in inter-subjective communication. It is those latter pragmatic functions that are hypothesized to explain the consonance between high functioning autistic cognition and the meta-language of LessWrong.com, a web community whose theoretical constitution coheres around Bayesian rationalism, which contributes to the distinctive over-representation of ASD self-diagnosis among community members.

Keywords: autism, Asperger syndrome, graded salience, LessWrong.com, literal language, literalism, meta-language

April 15, 2013 Posted by | abstract | 3 Comments

The Linguistic Expression of a Greek-American Identity

The Linguistic Expression of a Greek-American Identity

Georgia Diamantopoulos

This article examines the bilingual speech of Greek Americans living in the Detroit metro area. It is argued that Greek American bilinguals, in displaying an identity which is constructed by, yet is different from the two cultures, will exhibit a form of speech which is based in the two languages but is exclusive to their identity. An original set of Greek-English code switching data is analyzed through the lens of previous research and literature concerning code switching, hybrid constructions and loan words. The analysis shows that certain forms of speech have entered the Greek American vocabulary. It also finds that some switches are symbolic of cultural affiliations. In addition, a questionnaire is administered to the participants in order to gain an understanding of their awareness and their reasons behind code switching.

Read full paper (PDF)

April 15, 2013 Posted by | abstract | 1 Comment

Exploring Language and Gender through Blood and Combat

Exploring Language and Gender through Blood and Combat

Kelsey Garason

Video game research has been an area of study that has grown significantly over the years, with scholars from a variety of disciplines, including anthropology, cultural studies, linguistics, psychology, sociology, etc.  Much of the research conducted on video games revolves around the types of games that are available, the effects of gaming on behavior, the content within video games and positive and/or negative outcomes of gaming.  However, not much research has been conducted about the specific genre of first-person shooter (FPS) games and about the gamers who play them.

This paper explores the use of linguistic behavior between younger American men and women while in engaged in FPS games.  FPS games are typically thought of as games for boys and men, yet many females play this genre of game as well.  This paper examines the linguistic differences between men and women who play FPS games, gender discrimination while playing and how this video game genre can provide insight into the relationships between younger men and women living in the United States.  A literature review of both general and FPS gaming was used, as well as an online survey of nine people who play FPS games.  As FPS games have not been studied in much detail, there is a need for more research on this genre of game, in addition to how it works in conjunction with language and gender.  An ethnography of FPS gamers would prove especially beneficial to further studies of this subject.

Read full essay (PDF)

April 15, 2013 Posted by | abstract | 5 Comments

The Dialectics of Pronoun Use in Modern Russia

The Dialectics of Pronoun Use in Modern Russia

Brenna Moloney

The use of the formal and informal you pronoun in Russian has changed significantly over the course of the twentieth century. This change reflects the dynamic alterations in Russian social life over the same period. Further, variations in pronominal address continue to be a mode by which contemporary social antagonisms and tensions are expressed. This paper traces the development of pronominal address in the Revolutionary, Stalinist, and post-Perestroika periods. It builds on the work of Paul Friedrich who studied 19th century Russian pronoun use and class relations in the 1970s. In his now classic investigation, Friedrich outlined ten social components of pronoun use. These components serve as a starting point for the present paper and allow some measure with which to trace diachronic change and interpret embedded metalinguistic beliefs in a variety of social settings and usages. Examination of novels, personal letters, television transcripts and essays written on pronoun use form the basis of the analysis and reveal three primary usage shifts. First, the current universal use of the formal vy in addressing strangers regardless of class; second, the rapidity with which younger Russians switch from the formal to informal and third, the loss of ty/vy switching as intimate relationship boundary maintenance. Each of these shifts reflects not only material changes in Russian society but also contain an ideological component, i.e. how Russian speakers view social divisions and conceptualize their place within them. This analysis can serve as a basis for future investigation or comparative analysis on the nature of language change and its relationship to societal changes.

Keywords: language change, ty, vy, pronouns, metalinguistic beliefs, Russian Revolution, Stalin, Trotsky, perestroika, Vladimir Putin, class

Read full essay (PDF)

April 15, 2013 Posted by | abstract | 2 Comments

Anishinaabemowin Animacy: The Metalinguistic Beliefs in Language Revitalization Websites

Anishinaabemowin Animacy:  The Metalinguistic Beliefs in Language Revitalization Websites

Elspeth Geiger

Language revitalization programs seek to increase the number of fluent speakers of indigenous languages.  Languages that were once widely spoken are now in danger of disappearing.  However, within the last twenty years, organizations have worked to re-build and strengthen the number of native speakers. Anishinaabemowin (Anishinaabe language) is an example of an Algonquian language that has become the focus of language revitalization efforts. While a number of language revitalization programs for Anishinaabemowin target children or offer language immersion programs, many speakers of Anishinaabemowin are learning it as a second language.  Should adults not have access to classes, internet resources could be one of the only options for learning the language.  However, the difference between animate and inanimate nouns is difficult for students to learn without access to a native speaker.  Unfortunately, animacy is rarely taught through online sources.  Websites claim that it is important to work with elders for assistance with the use of animate or inanimate nouns.  Sources also highlight the spiritual and cultural importance of the language.  However, in the online sources that do discuss animacy, the ways that animacy is presented for each site differ greatly in message and theme.  This paper seeks to understand what types of metalanguage exist within the ways animacy is taught through online Anishinaabemowin language revitalization websites. 

April 15, 2013 Posted by | abstract | 7 Comments

Can Sacred Spaces Reveal Clues to Wyandotte’s German Ethnic Heritage and Show Status?

Can Sacred Spaces Reveal Clues to Wyandotte’s German Ethnic Heritage and Show Status?

Jeri L. Pajor

Wyandotte, Michigan was a destination for many German immigrants during the 1800s as settlers from New York and the New England states moved westward.  Many new immigrants came seeking the American dream and found them in Michigan, working in the Wyandotte area iron factories and other businesses, such as ship building and the chemical industry.  The immigrants lived in nearby communities and neighborhoods, often arranged by their ethnicities, bringing with them their cultural traditions, foods, and instituting their own fraternal organizations. They often attended local area churches, schools, and frequented local businesses. They grew up, raised families, and then eventually died in these new communities.  Immigration to this area came in waves; the Germans first followed by the Polish, the Irish, and a wide range of other ethnic groups searching for more opportunities for themselves and their descendants.

The focus of this paper is to explore some of the local Wyandotte cemeteries, specifically the Oakwood and Mount Carmel; which are non-denominational and catholic, respectively for ethnic evidence.  Can grave markers, headstones, and tombstones reveal German ethnicity merely by the language and iconography that they employ?  What sorts of evidence can be found?  And is there any way to denote status and how would that evidence present itself?  I will employ photographic representations of many different grave makers, headstones, etc. to show evidence of German origins mostly through use of the German language in the names, dates, and epitaphs, but also occasionally artwork like the Edelweiss flower.  After immigrating to Wyandotte, many Germans Americanized their names, and I will show some samples of this.   I will support my research using academic journals articles, historic documentation, local cemetery records, photographic records of my own and several online sources, such as “Find a Grave,” as well as other resources like conversations between myself and cemetery personnel and local historical societies to uncover and support the idea of German ethnic heritage revealed in local sacred spaces in the City of Wyandotte.

Keywords:  German, Wyandotte, Michigan, cemeteries, grave markers, plots

April 15, 2013 Posted by | abstract | 1 Comment

I Want to Convince You to Believe: Discourse and Authority in the Moon Landing Hoax Conspiracy Theory

I Want to Convince You to Believe: Discourse and Authority in the Moon Landing Hoax Conspiracy Theory

C.A. Donnelly

Much ink has been spilled in the last few decades examining the credibility of the Moon landing hoax conspiracy theory and debunking the evidence the proponents of the theory put forward;  very little has been spent examining the discourse of the theory itself. Has the discourse, and the question of who has the authority, changed significantly from 1974, when the first book on the conspiracy was written, to today, when much of the debate over the conspiracy takes place online?

This paper analyzes the discursive methods of many conspiracy theorists who believe that the Apollo Moon landings were a hoax before the advent of the internet and those after, through books, websites, Youtube videos and interviews. It finds that the methods have changed away from empowering the lay-believer who has little technical expertise to giving discursive power to those perceived experts who adopt technical understanding and jargon and academic writing styles.

April 15, 2013 Posted by | abstract | 4 Comments

The Invisible Majority: Language as a Means of Education in the Context of a German-American Historic House Museum

The Invisible Majority: Language as a Means of Education in the Context of a German-American Historic House Museum

Kelly A. Johnston

German-Americans have very little representation within the museum industry. On the other hand, many smaller groups such as the Lithuanians, Poles, Swedes, Jews, and African Americans have museums, archives, and exhibit halls dedicated to their immigrant ancestors. Why is there so little German-American ethnicity in the slipstream of public consciousness? The Great War damaged German ethnic, linguistic, and cultural institutions almost beyond repair. The few smoldering embers of 19th century German culture and language were extinguished completely by World War II. One of the main themes of interpretation at the Kempf House Museum in Ann Arbor, Michigan is the Kempf family’s ethnic traditions. Currently, visitors to the museum are exposed to a limited amount of German language, and very little is mentioned of the family’s German heritage.  This paper asks, “How can presentation of German-language material in the context of the Kempf House Museum in Ann Arbor, Michigan, enhance knowledge of German-American history in Michigan?” 

This paper uses a review of history to establish the current state of German language and its usage within the United States and on a more local level within Michigan. It then reviews literature of the effectiveness of using a museum as a means to deliver interpretation to attain education goals. Finally, the author interviews several volunteers who attended docent training and then were taken on a tour of the house. They were asked to evaluate the level of “German-ness,” either through language or collections, they were exposed to. Respondents felt that while they understood the family was German, they didn’t gain knowledge of German language or culture either on a local or national level.

Several steps could be taken to improve the overall interpretation and education of the Kempf House Museum. First, the museum should create an interpretive plan that focuses on the German-American heritage that is mentioned in the docent-training guide. Secondly, the museum should revise their docent training guides to better emphasize the German collections and traditions. Thirdly, the museum should further train its docents to become familiar with German vocabulary and use them on the tours. And lastly, the simple yet effective method of placing labels with German vocabulary would further punctuate the German-ness of the house. By increasing the amount of German language and collections items within the museum, Kempf House could stand to be one of the foremost symbols of German-American history.

April 15, 2013 Posted by | abstract | 1 Comment

Beyond the Board: Metalinguistic Awareness and Language Beliefs Among Expert Scrabble Players

Beyond the Board: Metalinguistic Awareness and Language Beliefs Among Expert Scrabble Players

Talia Gordon

Metalinguistic awareness refers to the ability to think about and reflect upon the nature, structure and functions of language and is connected to the development of linguistic competence. Proficiency in word-based games, such as Scrabble, is often associated with language ability and general intelligence, particularly in North American culture. Despite its popular association with vocabulary and language use, however, competitive Scrabble play has been given relatively little attention in sociolinguistic or anthropological research. This paper explores metalinguistic awareness and language beliefs among English-speaking expert (tournament-rated) Scrabble players with regard to the relationship between proficiency in play and perceived linguistic competence. Based on ethnographic interviews with expert members of a North American Scrabble Players Association club in Michigan, the paper examines the association between word acquisition for game play, lexical knowledge and self-perceptions of facility with language, including verbal ability, reading comprehension and writing skills. Further, it examines the beliefs held by expert Scrabble players with regard to proficiency in play and general intelligence. In contrast to cognition-based studies that have emphasized a disjuncture between word acquisition and lexical knowledge for many highly proficient Scrabble players, this paper suggests that metalinguistic awareness and linguistic competence among experts is both highly developed and continuously enhanced through competitive Scrabble play. 

Keywords: metalinguistic awareness, language beliefs, linguistic competence, word acquisition, expert performance, Scrabble

April 15, 2013 Posted by | abstract | 4 Comments

Greeting Patterns in Midtown Detroit

Greeting Patterns in Midtown Detroit

Leah Esslinger

What is the impact of formulaic greetings in interracial social intercourse? This paper attempts to explore this question by recording observed patterns in Midtown/Cass Corridor area of Detroit, Michigan. 53 different social interactions were recorded and analyzed. Black, white, and interracial greetings were observed. Verbal patterns as well as non-verbal, or gestured, communication are also considered within the scope of the paper. It seems that greetings, especially formulaic greetings, are of great social import. Violating them seems to lead to great discomfort within a social interaction. Perhaps this contributes to self-imposed social boundaries that exist within this region.  While this work studies a small sample size, it seems that making these small communication differences explicit may go some way towards explaining social tension in the area. More studies should be done to fully understand the impact of this work.

April 15, 2013 Posted by | abstract | 5 Comments

Indigenous Language and Assimilation: Navajo and the Workplace

Indigenous Language and Assimilation: Navajo and the Workplace

Kimberly Anne Shay

This paper examines the relationship between the Navajo language and English-only policies in the workplace in the southwestern United States. While much has been discussed on the national stage about immigration issues and assimilation of immigrant populations, little has been addressed about the indigenous populations and workplace language policies. This subject is examined from both a historic and a contemporary perspective. Historically, Native American languages and the Navajo language specifically have been the subject of repressive language policies. In contemporary society, one of the manifestations of this course of action is English-only policies in the workplace in regard to the Navajo language.  The policies of language restriction in the United States are historically documented and English–only policies are currently legal case law in many states. The leads to the question of how English-only policies are being enforced in the workplace in relation to the Navajo language and what are the legal and social ramifications of such policies for both the Navajo population and the English-only advocates.  The methods used include providing an overview of current federal laws concerning English-only policies in the workplace and documented employer rational for these laws. This issue is then examined using specific cases, provided by newspapers and other sources, of Navajo language usage in the workplace resulting in loss of employment, as well as subsequent Navajo and employer reactions to these specific cases. The result of this examination is that oppressive English-only language policies are found to be detrimental to Navajo language users and the Navajo population in general in relation to the workplace.

Keywords: indigenous language policy, Navajo language, English-only policies, language restriction

April 15, 2013 Posted by | abstract | 2 Comments

Black Nerds in the Media: A Linguistic Analysis

Black Nerds in the Media: A Linguistic Analysis

Sarah Carson

This paper describes and analyzes the linguistic features used by fictional African American characters in movies and television who are portrayed as “nerds”.  The specific focus of the research is the extent to which the characters employ African American Vernacular English and “Nerd Speech,” a linguistic style employed in media to evoke a stereotypically nerdy image that is associated with “whiteness,” according to Mary Bucholtz’ research on nerds in a California high school.  Bucholtz’ work provides much of the theoretical framework regarding the intersection of nerdiness and race.  Barbra Meek’s investigation of fictional American Indian speech in media provided a framework for the research methodology.  Fourteen different films and television shows from the last three decades featuring black nerd characters were analyzed.  Much diversity was observed within the characters’ language, but African American Vernacular English characteristics were present in the majority of cases, calling into question Bucholtz’ findings of nerdiness as necessitating whiteness.  The paper also relates the black nerds’ language use to the changing opinions on African American Vernacular English in America and discusses the possible significance of black nerd characters regarding racial inequality in America and the legitimation and empowerment of black intelligence.

April 15, 2013 Posted by | abstract | 2 Comments

“She may have wanted it”: Discourse of Consent in Online Accounts of the Steubenville, Ohio Rape

“She may have wanted it”: Discourse of Consent in Online Accounts of the Steubenville, Ohio Rape

Monica Mieczkowski

Many women are victims of rape every year in America. In many cases the rapist is someone the victim knew. Yet, there seems to be a culturally accepted widespread idea about real rape and an idea that date rape or acquaintance rape is not rape. Real rape involves a stranger, a dark alley, and the use of force or weapons; date rape involves someone the victim knew, does not necessarily involve weapons and force may be less physical, and can involve alcohol.

This article examines the use of the Internet and social media to create discourse about consent regarding the Steubenville, Ohio rape case in 2012. This case became public after teens tweeted and posted information about the attack online which was then found by bloggers and re-posted. While this case gained a great deal of media attention, it is not a unique case; similar cases occur across the United States.  Social media was used to research what was being said about consent. The paper begins with a review of relevant literature, including work by Susan Ehrlich, Lois Pineau, and Eduardo Boniva-Silva and Tyrone A. Forman. The research looked at over three hundred tweets, the comments sections after five news articles, three screenshots of various data posted on Tumblr, and the comments after one YouTube video. The comments analyzed in the paper function to take away the victim’s right to consent and explain the attack as not rape. The discourse shows evidence that a culturally accepted view of real rape still exists across portions of the population. Future research could compare this case with similar cases to see how consent is discussed, such as the case in Italy where courts ruled that consent was given because the woman took off her tight jeans; or the case in Eastpointe, Michigan in 2011 where a young girl was gang raped.

Keywords: Date Rape, Consent, Language, Twitter  

April 15, 2013 Posted by | abstract | 1 Comment