Re: Teaching about language

Ruby Rohrlich (rohrlich@GWIS2.CIRC.GWU.EDU)
Sat, 10 Feb 1996 20:26:47 -0500

Congratulations. You seem to be one of the few anthropologists on the
net who is concerned with contemporary linguistic issues. I requested a
repeat of your post because I think it is important. It was defnitely
not too long. Best wishes. Ruby Rohrlich

On Sat, 10 Feb 1996, Ronald Kephart wrote:

> In message <> Ruby
> Rohrlich writes:
> > Ronald: Since you are by way of becoming a linguistics expert, do you
> > teach the way language changes along with sociocultural change? Do you
> > bring in current linguistic problems, such as the changes in the words
> > for themselves that African-Americans have made, as their consciousness
> > about themselv es has changed, e.g., from Negro, to black, to
> > Afro-American, toAfrican-American, and now possibly back to "black." Or
> > the feminist attemptto eliminate excluding, androcentric words like "man"
> Ruby,
> I must confess that I haven't really dealt with the issue of terms like Black,
> Native American, etc., not because the issue isn't interesting but simply
> because this particular hasn't come up. Maybe I'll bring it up soon! The
> Black/Afro/African-American issue that I deal with most is the nature of "Black"
> English. I play hard on this because many of my students are teachers who will
> end up teaching children who are speakers of this variety of language.
> I do try to deal with the history of English, and one thing that always get
> students' attention is the issue of "generic" man and he. Many have been taught
> by English teachers that these are genuine generic terms; I teach that they are
> not. I encourage my students to write using plural they, since this pronoun
> carries no gender marking. I might add that in my dialect, at least, they can
> serve as a third person pronoun unmarked for number or gender. Of course, the
> "English teacher" types react strongly to this, but it's spreading and (I hope)
> will one day be a universal feature of English.
> Another aspect of English the students enjoy thinking about is the sex bias in
> pairs of words. Consider the meaning of the female term in contrast to the male
> term in pairs like master-mistress, lord-lady, warlock-witch, boy-girl, and so
> on. Not to the mention the history of "woman" (< wif-mann). I could go on, but
> this is probably too long already. QRon
> Ronald Kephart
> Department of Language & Literature
> University of North Florida
> Jacksonville, FL 32224
> ph: 904-646-2580
> e-mail: