English with an Accent

language, ideology and discrimination in the united states


So finally, I’ve got around to this. Except now I can’t find the damn Audible certificates, so I’ll give away two copies of EWA. And the winners are:

Mary Ross


So please the two of you — email me your mailing addresses and I’ll get these out to you asap.

rosina (symbol) pobox (dot) com

Tue, March 20 2012 » publications » No Comments

NYT Newsflash: Young women aren’t necessarily immature and silly

Linguistic stereotypes of young women are abundant (Saturday Night Live is a good place to find them). And I confess, I laugh at this stuff myself, on occasion. But it is another example of the way language ideology works to trivialize and peripheralize young women. This seems to come as a surprise to many people, some of them at the New York Times.

An upward inflection swing at the end of a sentence may be far more complex in terms sociolinguistic marking than previously supposed.

Academic articles
  • Cukor-Avila, Patricia; (2002). She say, she go, she be like: Verbs of quotation over time in African American Vernacular English. American Speech, 77 (1), 3-31.
  • Dailey-O’Cain, Jennifer. (2000). The sociolinguistic distribution of and attitudes toward focuser like and quotative like. Journal of Sociolinguistics, 4, 60–80.




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Wed, March 7 2012 » Language ideology, Socially marked variation » No Comments

Twitter & Linguistics

I’m not a Tweeter, but I may have to change my mind on that. See the NYT article by Jennifer Schluessler:

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Wed, March 7 2012 » linguistics in the news » No Comments

Mocking for fun and profit: Hoekstra’s offensive ad campaign

Pete Hoekstra — a Republican running for the Senate in Michigan — has decided that mocking the Chinese and Chinese Americans is the way to beat incumbent Democrat Debbie Stabenow.  Have a look at his  anti-Stabenow pitch on his website. Hard to imagine a more complete collection of Asian stereotypes and cliches. Thanks to Don Davis for sending me the link.

Wed, February 8 2012 » Elections » No Comments

About English with an Accent’s new edition

An article that gets the details right… I am impressed.

Sat, January 28 2012 » publications » No Comments

the n-word: I’ll say it, out loud

The n-word is this: nonstandard. To use this word is to validate the idea of a dichotomy: on one side what is good and acceptable, and on the other side what is aberrant, and unacceptable. Everyone who has been trained in linguistics — and lots of people who haven’t, but who think clearly — will tell you that this way of talking about language is a misrepresentation. It is misleading, and it validates a lot of divisive and discriminatory ideas.

Every human language is suited to its community of speakers, and every language evolves as the needs of the community evolve. The idea that speakers of Language A are better able to express themselves than speakers of Language B is based on a lot of false assumptions about the way language works. As linguists we bemoan the general lack of open-mindedness when it comes to the way people think about language.

But we are ourselves to blame, at least in part, and we are to blame because we do not practice what we teach.

At the annual conference for sociolinguists this past October, I set out to count the number of times I heard academic linguists use the words ‘non-standard’ and ‘standard.’  When I raised the subject (why are we using these terms which feed into the very inequalities we are examining?) the expressions I saw in response were irritated or clueless. The excuse I’ve heard and read in any number of peer reviewed article goes like this: The ‘standard – nonstandard’ contrast, erroneous as it is, is too deeply ingrained to change.

To this I say: bullshit.

The usage is ingrained because the underlying ideology is rock solid.  It’s too ingrained, we can’t change it: this is a rationalization, and a lazy, self serving rationalization, at that. Of course it’s going to be hard to break the habit. A Google search for the string “non-standard English” nets 2,830,000 hits; “standard English” gets 2,960,000.

The idea that some languages are bad and some languages are good is perpetuated every day. By us. And here’s a simply solution: stop using the word. Stop using both words. Bann ‘standard’ and ‘non-standard’ from your mind; take the time to express the concept you’re reaching for in other terms.

The sentence ‘non-standard languages are stigmatized’ is a tautology.Any academic worth her salt should be able to see that, and find a way to express the idea hiding there. And if not, if we  can’t give up these terms, there’s little hope that we’ll ever be able to make people understand what’s wrong with them.  Or to stop using them. Or stop acting on them.

Fri, January 27 2012 » Language ideology, The subordination process » 4 Comments

Best laid plans and a free book

I have been absent for a while but here I am again to say that the revised second edition of English with an Accent is now on sale.

Textbooks are outrageously expensive. I wish there was something I could do about it, but as there is not, I’m giving away a copy of the softcover edition, which costs something like $45. If you leave a comment here in about a month’s time I’ll draw a name at random and send you the book. I’m leaving this open for a whole month because things are rather quiet here and I need to drum up some traffic.


Fri, January 27 2012 » publications » 27 Comments


Linguapax is an organization that promotes language diversity. There was a post earlier this month about discrimination against college professors with accents and steps taken to address the problem at a university in Iowa. You can read about it here.

Fri, January 27 2012 » universities » No Comments

Portland, Linguistics, and Papa Haydn’s

I finally bit the bullet and registered for the 2012 annual conferences for both the LSA  (Linguistic Society of America) and the ADS (American Dialect Society), which is in Portland this year. A five hour drive, about. Now I get to sort through all the abstracts and try to decide where I’m going to be and when.

Once thing that is true of all academic conferences: people look at your badge before they look at you. They want to know if (1) they’ll recognize your name and (2) what university you’re at. I admit it’s odd for me to be listed as an independent scholar, after so many years with big-name schools on my badge.

Small bonus: I adore Portland. It’s my favorite city on the west coast, and I would love to live there. Probably will never happen, but a girl can dream. While I’m there I will pay a visit to Papa Haydn‘s for some Boccone Dolce.


Wed, November 30 2011 » organizational, universities » No Comments

Looking for examples of language focused discrimination

… from everyday life, as in the examples below. If you come across something,  please contact me  (link) with the information and/or link, if one is available. I will not use what you send me without consulting you, and you will remain anonymous unless you specifically request not to be.

I’m especially interested in incidents on college campuses. Even if you are unsure of the details, I’d like to hear from you. I will always check and double check any information provided for accuracy by going to primary sources.

Examples (and these are all real-life)

Newspaper headlines:  “We likee Hirally! She best quality!”

One-off definitions (this one from the Urban Dictionary): Ching chong bing bong: The language of those born to the Asian countries. It is the root of all evil and when heard for an excessive amount of time, causes one to vomit uncontrollably. Excuse me, I can’t understand your ching chong bing bong, please try English when you are in America.

News stories (television, print media, internet, radio are all great):

Vincent Chin was beaten to death by two jobless auto workers because  they had mistaken  him for Japanese. According to the police report, a bystander heard one of the two men of say to Chin, “It’s because of you little motherfuckers that we’re out of work.”

San Jose, CA: A 58-year-old Latino speaking on his cell phone in Spanish was punched in the face by a 28-year-old Anglo male, who shouted “Speak English!”

Connecticut, 2010: A study of traffic tickets issued by the East Haven police department over an 8-month period established that while Latinos/as make up less than 6 percent of the population, they accounted for more than 50 percent of tickets issued. In addition, the study found that police officers routinely misrepresented the race of the person receiving the ticket in their reports.

Parodies (from the Princeton student newspaper, this fake letter): Hi Princeton! Remember me? I so good at math and science. Perfect 2400 SAT score. Ring bells? Just in case, let me refresh your memories. I the super smart Asian. Princeton the super dumb college, not accept me.

Rumors (which I will validate before using) Two students at (college) gather signatures to present to the administration with the goal of having a professor who graded too harshly fired. They cited his foreign accent as the biggest part of the problem.


Or anything else you come across. I would VERY MUCH appreciate any help that comes my way.  I’d like to set up a database, which will be made available to students and  researchers who are interested in language discrimination.

Sun, November 27 2011 » Looking for information, universities » 1 Comment