Ethnolinguistic Repertoires in American English

Elaine Chun – University of South Carolina
Course time: Monday/Wednesday 1:30-3:20 pm
2347 Mason Hall

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This course explores the relationship between the English language and ethnicity in the United States by merging anthropological understandings of race and ethnicity with sociolinguistic methods of description and analysis. In doing so, it introduces students to both traditional and current models of language and ethno-racial identity. Specifically, the course explores sociolinguistic assumptions that may equate “race/ethnicity” with “non-whiteness,” that overlook the inherent relationships between racial categories, and that treat race as isolatable dimension. It will also question conceptions of ethno-racial language as an objective set of features by considering how language is a sociocultural set of practices and resources that produce meanings, identities, and ideologies.

The course will introduce students to a range of ethnolectal models that have been traditionally adopted as well as the problems and politics inherent in them. In particular, it will explore sites across the United States that complicate traditional models, including communities in which groups defy easy categorization in a black-white racial paradigm, cases in which speakers use features associated with racial outgroups, and speakers who simultaneously index gendered, classed, and racialized meanings. The course will additionally emphasize the real-world relevance of studying language and race, namely be considering racist and anti-racist language practices in institutional and media contexts.

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lsa2013@umich.edu