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7/09 Anne Charity Hudley: “Linguistics and Community Engagement: Keeping it Real”

Anne Charity Hudley, College of William and Mary
Tuesday, July 9, 2013 7 pm
Askwith Auditorium, Lorch Hall

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Linguists have contributed greatly to understanding the role of language in the social stratification of people in marginalized communities. Nevertheless, there remains a significant need for linguists to disseminate the findings of their research and to develop realistic, practical, and easy-to-implement materials that are both linguistically and socially informed. In doing so, the relevance and intellectual contributions of linguistics as a discipline expand, the walls of the academy become more porous, and the work becomes more real.

            In order to build an integrated model of linguistic and social justice, Charity Hudley shares findings from her work with Christine Mallinson that combines sociolinguistic praxis with education policy. Their research focuses on making information about linguistics more accessible to educators and working with them to critically develop their own linguistic ideologies in order to better inform their educational praxis. She draws from their collaborations with the Virginia Senior English Academy and College to Career Initiative, The Middle Grades Partnership, and her National Science Foundation sponsored research: “Collaborative Research: Assessing the Results of Sociolinguistic Engagement with K-12 STEM Education in Maryland and Virginia Public and Independent Schools.”

The Virginia Capstone English/College and Career Readiness Initiative has been in existence for three years and provides for secondary English seminars to be piloted in five schools and each year for 50 teachers to participate in workshops with a language variation focus with follow up professional development on how to use linguistic insights in their classrooms. Teachers from seven regions in Virginia (34 school divisions) are selected to participate each year.

The Middle Grades Partnership brings together educators from 18 independent and public schools to provide learning opportunities for Baltimore City public middle school students. The last three years of professional development for the educators have focused on the theme of language variation in the classroom and educators created materials for use with students in summer enrichment programs on the theme.

The National Science Foundation grant “Collaborative Research: Assessing the Results of Sociolinguistic Engagement with K-12 STEM Education in Maryland and Virginia Public and Independent Schools” is an investigation of 60 K-12 STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) educators’ understandings of social, cultural, and linguistic standards in schools. Charity Hudley and Mallinson are working toward a fuller understanding of how language variation and change affects K-12 STEM teachers’ judgments about language differences, pedagogical practices, and student assessments with a particular focus on the language of African-American students.

Such work provides explicit information about some of linguistics’ most critical questions – from the nature of language acquisition and patterning to the exploration of language ideology – in contexts that are of wide interest to researchers in linguistics and related fields as well as in areas that have not traditionally been as aligned with linguistics.

Charity Hudley will also share the vision for using the new sections of Language: Teaching Linguistics and Language and Public Policy as venues for such work. These initiatives reveal how researchers, educators, students, and policy makers can dedicate themselves to creating a framework for the state-by-state, city-by-city, and block-by-block sharing of linguistic information so that it is created by and reaches those who need it most.


7/11 Noam Chomsky: “What is Language, and Why does it Matter”

Noam Chomsky, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)
Thursday, July 11, 2013 7 pm
Rackham Auditorium

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There are many questions one can ask about human language, among them, about its distinctive properties, neural representation, characteristic uses, variation, growth in the individual, origins.  Every such inquiry is guided by some concept of what language is, just as in the case of every other biological system – and I will assume that we can take language to be one of these.  In the long history of the study of language, the core question has been dealt with rather casually, but even vague formulations lead to different modes of inquiry.  Thus a traditional view holds that language is primarily a means of constructing thought, contrasting with a modern consensus that it is a primarily a means of communication.  Such contrasting general viewpoints shape inquiry about the whole range of questions in particular ways, and the same is true of other formulations.  Sharpening the core question, and close attention to core properties of the language faculty, can cast a great deal of light on specific topics of linguistic inquiry, as well as concerns over a broader range.