How to Talk About the Way Others Talk

An aspect of my project that I value deeply is its accessibility to the general public. Since I am writing descriptive short fiction stories, I hope it will be easy for my readers to visualize and understand both what instances of linguistic discrimination look like and what the consequences of that discrimination are. Additionally, despite doing a deep dive into sociolinguistic biases and prejudices, a subfield of larger discriminatory practices, I believe my project is understandable and relatable to a general audience since discrimination occurs so frequently in all aspects of life. I merely require my audience to consider how languages and ways of speaking factor into this already-established framework of widespread prejudice. I hope it would be clearly evident to any person examining my research and stories as to why understanding and bringing awareness to these biases would help reduce their prevalence.

That being said, if confronted by someone outside of the field of linguistics who was inquiring about the research in my project, I would explain to them a few studies and real-world examples of linguistic discrimination impacting educational, legal, and familial spheres. I actually used this tactic when conducting my focus groups so that the participants would have a more comprehensive, real-world definition of what linguistic discrimination is. For example, I told my informants about linguist John Baugh’s 1999 study about unequal access to housing based on the variety of English one speaks. Baugh used three separate varieties of English — Standard American English (SAE), African American Vernacular English (AAVE), and Chicano English (CE) — when inquiring about available real estate over the phone, and found that those speaking AAVE and CE were often falsely told that the units they were asking about were no longer available, barring them from living in more upscale neighborhoods (Baugh, 1999, pp. 25-28).

In terms of my professional goals, I do hope to become a writer in some way, but ideally a fiction writer. I’d love to write a novel or a screenplay or a collection of short stories, yet I also currently do a lot of journalism for local Pittsburgh newspapers and national nonprofits and I would enjoy continuing to write research-informed articles like that as well. While there definitely can be overlap between linguistic studies and article topics, speaking to professionals from the writing community, both focused on fiction and nonfiction compositions, would be critical in reaching my future goals. One of the reasons I wanted to format my findings this summer as a series of fiction stories was so I could reach an audience in the writing community and gain some experience crafting outlines and drafts and edits on a self-paced deadline. So far, this process has been immensely rewarding and pleasantly challenging for me, cementing my commitment to a future career in creating literature.

Works Cited

Baugh, J., Purnell, T., & Idsardi, W. (1999). Perceptual and phonetic experiments on American English dialect identification. Journal of Language and Social Psychology, 18(1), 10-30.

2 Comments Add yours

  1. brettsay says:

    Great pictures!

    1. dionnadash says:

      Thank you!

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