On Language Informing Writing

Hi everyone! I’m Dionna and I’m super excited to be part of the Brackenridge community of scholars this summer. I’m a rising senior double majoring in Communication Rhetoric and Linguistics with a minor in French. I’m very passionate about writing, and have previously worked as a journalist for a local Pittsburgh newspaper, won contests for poetry and personal essays, and composed a short film screenplay. I love all types of writing, and I really do believe the power of words is unparalleled. 

This belief guides my Brackenridge project, which combines my interests in linguistics and creative writing. I plan to conduct focus groups and individual interviews to hear college students’ experiences with language discrimination in their quotidian lives. Language attitudes are preconceived notions we hold about speakers of other languages, and language discrimination is the conscious or unconscious way in which we act on those attitudes. Often, language biases can prevent people from gaining employment, housing, or access to health services.

Based on these conversations, I will write four creative fiction short stories to illuminate the students’ experiences. These stories will be united under the theme of “The Power of Language,” and will be amalgamations of multiple informant’s experiences from the focus groups and interviews, bolstered by my own imaginative story details. Dr. Abdesalam Soudi of the linguistics department will serve as my mentor on this project. He is an expert in the field of sociolinguistics and has a wealth of knowledge about the detrimental effects of language biases.

My stories will communicate the dangers of language attitudes and discrimination and their impacts on students’ daily lives through subtle, nuanced exemplification. Explaining concepts in a way that shows instead of tells, that lets the audience feel the hurt and pain and frustration of those experiencing barriers because they speak non-dominant varieties of a language, is infinitely more powerful than defining terms or simply describing them to someone. Fiction writing is an impactful way to impart difficult truths. Hopefully, when people read my stories, they will be more aware of the power, both positive and negative, of language, and will more mindfully act on their inherent language attitudes, reducing discrimination and fostering a healthier environment for everyone.

Currently, I’d like my future career to involve some form of writing. Ideally, I’d like to author a few novels or short story collections, but I may also wind up doing some more journalism. I’ve had much experience writing news and features stories, as well as opinion pieces and personal essays, for nonprofits and local newspapers, and I feel my journalism portfolio is strong. On the contrary, I’ve also written many creative pieces, yet they remain unshared, and I’m eager for an opportunity to write something creative that is informed by meaningful journalistic research, share this work publicly, and expand my fiction portfolio.

Leave a Reply