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This is a nation not a polyglot

boarding house. There is not

room in the country for any 50-50
American, nor can there be but
one loyalty to the Stars and
Theodore Roosevelt, May 27, 1918
We should replace bilingual
education with immersion in
English so people learn the
common language of the country
and so they learn the language of
prosperity, not the language of
living in a ghetto.
Newt Gingrich, March 31, 2007
ENGL 615
Language-based discrimination

John Turnbull
Graduate Department of English
Northern Illinois University
November 22, 2016
I am a lost identity / I am a
struggling soul / I am a shuttered
mind / I am a mumbling mouth / I
dont know who I am / I was born
with a voice but lost it / I am told
English is all that matters / I am
told my identity doesnt matter / I
am persuaded my voice is
Dainess Maganda, Who Am I? in Skutnabb-Kangas and Heugh, 2012
Language discrimination occurs
when a person is treated differently
because of her native language or
other characteristics of her
language skills.
Legal Aid Society, Employment Law Center
Language discrimination describes
how language is used to exclude
and draw boundaries between self
and other, and to justify such
Lippi-Green, 1997
Covert boundary-drawing
weed out illegal aliens
flood of legal and illegal immigrants streaming into the
Beaten-down INS agents, given only enough resources to
catch a third of their quarry.
ferret out illegal immigrants
women who come across the border and drop their babies
they speak in broken English (sometimes tortured English,
fragmented English, etc.)
J. Hill, The Everyday Language of White Racism,
quoted in Weber 2015, 98
Language racism refers to the
manifold ways in which language is
increasingly used as a proxy for
race in order to exclude people.
Jean-Jacques Weber, Language Racism (2015)
The shibboleth language test:
Judges 12:6

bl sbl
Language attitudes
The matched-guise test
or verbal-guise test

Subjects asked to rate speakers of

various languages, dialects, or
accents on traits such as social
class, intelligence, and friendliness.
OGrady et al. 2010, p. 520
Results of matched-guise studies
Divide between prestige and
solidarity. Standard speakers are
viewed as more competent and
smarter; nonstandard friendlier.
HR departments assign lower-
status jobs to AAE speakers &
Hispanic, Asian accents.
OGrady et al. 2010, p. 520
Results of matched-guise studies
Results demonstrate that
landlords discriminate against
prospective tenants on the basis
of the sound of their voice during
telephone conversations.
Purnell, Thomas, William Idsardi, and John Baugh, Perceptual and Phonetic
Experiments on American English Dialect Identification, Journal of Language and
Social Psychology (March 1999): 10-30
Results of matched-guise studies
Most studies of nonstandard
language varieties have shown an
acceptance by nonstandard
speakers of dominant negative
stereotypes of their groups.
Luhman, Reid, Appalachian English Stereotypes:
Language Attitudes in Kentucky, Language in Society 19 (1990): 331-48
Language and identity
Nature-identities (essential, not subject to change; e.g.,
being a twin, race)
Institution-identities (language, nation, religion, vocation)
Discourse-identities (self-identification through language,
e.g., Im a compassionate person)
Affinity-identities (Cubs fan!)

J. P. Gee, Identity as an Analytic Lens for Research in Education, 2001,

quoted in Weber 2015, 53
A new form of racism?
Discourses of
abnormality (in
language, religion, etc.)
repeated in media,
become normalized,
and then referenced as
common sense.
Weber 2015, 6-7
Issues in linguistic discrimination
Standard-language myth
Assumes that monolingualism is
natural and every human being
has one mother tongue. This is
the language of your thoughts and
Multilingualism is exceptional,
abnormal, deviant, dangerous
Weber 2015, 14-15
Mother-tongue fascism
As soon as the subjected peoples
began to raise themselves up and
probably approached the conqueror
in language, the sharp dividing wall
between master and servant fell.
[The Aryan] became submerged in
the racial mixture.
Adolf Hitler, Mein Kampf, quoted in Hutton 1999, 301
Chicano Spanish is a border
tongue which developed naturally.
Change, evolucin, enriquecimiento
de palabras nuevas por invencin o
adopcin have created variants of
Chicano Spanish, un nuevo
Gloria Anzalda, How to Tame a Wild Tongue,
Borderlands/La Frontera (1987)
Some of the languages we speak
are: Standard English
Working-class and slang English
Standard Spanish
Standard Mexican Spanish
North Mexican Spanish dialect
Chicano Spanish (Texas, New Mexico,
Arizona, and California have regional
Pachuco (called cal)
Gloria Anzalda, Borderlands/La Frontera (1987)
Defining multilingualism
Is a speaker of Chicano Spanish and
standard Spanish multilingual?

Technically, no, if multilingualism

is proficiency in two or more
Weber 2015, 29-31
Defining multilingualism
Multilingualism should not be
seen as a collection of languages
that a speaker controls, but rather
as a complex of concrete accents,
language varieties, registers,
genres, [and] modalities such as
J. Blommaert, The Sociolinguistics of Globalization, quoted in Weber 2015, 31
Defining multilingualism
Which is the greater liability
multilingualism or monolingualism
in establishing a nations
cohesion, shared identity, and
participation in international
Multilingual or
monolingual education?
[L]anguage learning is a process
marked by unequal power
Weber 2015, 47-48
Multilingual/monolingual education
[T]he woman gave her a hard
spanking. Then she stopped to say
something. Judwin said it was this:
Are you going to obey my word the
next time? Thowin answered again
with the only word at her command,
Zitkala-a, The Snow Episode,
American Indian Stories, Legends, and Other Writings
My mother and brother could
speak our language and my father
could speak his. I cant speak my
language. Aboriginal people werent
allowed to speak their language
while white people were around.
They had to go out into the bush or
talk their lingoes on their own.
Confidential submission 110, Queensland: woman removed in the 1940s,
quoted in Bringing Them Home: National Inquiry into the Separation of Aboriginal
and Torres Strait Islander Children from Their Families
Multilingual/monolingual education
The teacher needs to build upon the
childrens home linguistic resources
as the best way of furthering their
acquisition of a new language. If the
teacher insists on them using only
the new target language, many
children will just go silent
Weber 2015, 80
Multilingual/monolingual education
[T]eachers whose first language is
Spanish may be able to teach English
to Spanish-speaking students better
than teachers who dont know
University of Arizona Faculty of Linguistics,
Teachers English Fluency Initiative in Arizona, May 26, 2010
Language dominance & diversity
Most endangered languages are not
languages of power, but minority
languages, often spoken by
oppressed groups in society.
Weber 2015, 35
Source: Sharing a
World of Difference:
The Earths
Linguistic, Cultural,
and Biological
Diversity (UNESCO,
2003), 26
Language dominance & diversity
[C]ases such as those of the Native
American languages are about much
more than languages disappearing;
they are also about whole peoples
being subjected to oppression or
even genocide.
Weber 2015, 36
Final questions
Should we save people over
languages or is this a false
Can there be real equality among
languages, or their varieties, in a
world in which language is human
capital? Or is this a utopian
Key sources
Anzalda, Gloria. Borderlands/La Frontera: The New Mestiza. San
Francisco : Spinsters/Aunt Lute, 1987.
Hutton, Christopher M. Linguistics and the Third Reich: Mother-
Tongue Fascism, Race, and the Science of Language. Routledge
Studies in the History of Linguistics. London: Routledge, 1999.
Lippi-Green, Rosina. English with an Accent: Language, Ideology,
and Discrimination in the United States. London: Routledge, 1997.
Sharing a World of Difference: The Earths Linguistic, Cultural, and
Biological Diversity. Paris: UNESCO, 2003.
Skutnabb-Kangas, Tove, and Kathleen Heugh, eds. Multilingual
Education and Sustainable Diversity Work: From Periphery to
Center. New York: Routledge, 2012.
Weber, Jean-Jacques. Language Racism. New York: Palgrave
Macmillan, 2015.
Its just words, folks. It is just
President-elect Donald J. Trump, October 9, 2016