Zora Neale Hurston and the Linguistic Documentation of Black America (by deandre miles-hercules)

Our guest blogger this week, deandre miles-hercules, M.A. (they/them), is a scholar of language who studies how social identification emerges through cultural and interactional phenomena, focusing especially on discourse(s) marking race, gender, and sexuality. Their past work includes publications on the semantic bleaching of intersectionality and virtue signaling, as well as expert consultation for such media outlets as CNN and Vox. deandre’s ongoing dissertation project examines contemporary discourses of controversy in the United States. They are currently a Ph.D. Candidate in the Department of Linguistics at the University of California, Santa Barbara.

This week’s blog post includes a linked audio file. Just click on the link below if you would like to hear the post read aloud. Scroll down to read the text.

There has been a contemporary and resurgent interest in the language of Black America. Reports involving African American (Vernacular) English1 (AAE) can be found today in globally syndicated media outlets. The Washington Post, for example, published an August 2022 article for which I and my colleague Jamaal Muwwakkil were interviewed, detailing contemporary appropriation of Black American language. Many are discovering for the first time that the linguistic features often heard in Hip-Hop music or in motion pictures are not simply “slang” or “broken English,” but rather belong to a complex and systematic language variety2. Scholars of language, particularly in linguistics, have published copious research on the linguistic variety of Black America throughout the past 50 or so years, including technical descriptions, histories, and social implications of its use in such domains as housing, law, education, employment, healthcare, and beyond. The 2015 Oxford Handbook of African American Language contains an encyclopedic account of research on AAE. Scores of individuals—scholars, writers, artists, and so on—have contributed to the representation and study of AAE. In this regard, some of my recent research has focused on one early figure who is towering in some respects, yet underexamined in others: Zora Neale Hurston.

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Reconciling what you believe in and what you have to do: English-only policies in language schools (by Grace Labreche)

This week’s guest blogger is Grace Labreche, a PhD Student at McGill University. She is interested in accent bias towards second language speakers, specifically in shifting the focus off of accent reduction practices and towards addressing accent bias among native speakers. In her research, Grace asks: How can we mitigate the bias in listeners instead of asking speakers to reduce their accent? How does a listener’s language attitudes and ideologies impact their listening bias? As an applied sociolinguist, she hopes to use her research to inform educational policy in language learning institutions. When she is not working or in school, Grace loves to paint and cross stitch. She also enjoys gardening while listening to horror podcasts, much to the dismay of her neighbours.

It is a little over a year today that I began the exciting new chapter in my life as a language school administrator in a private language school. This language school, like many others in Montreal, is a boutique language school, whose main clientele are wealthy international students and tourists looking to take some language courses while visiting abroad. The courses are costly compared to government funded language programs and the school’s main source of student recruitment is international language tourism agencies and advisors. 

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Being a Sociolinguist Who Teaches Grammar (by Kathleen Green)

I’ve been really interested in language since I was a teenager. I was fascinated, from a young age, by the power dynamics hidden behind linguistic interactions and the ways that some forms of a language come to be labelled as “correct” and others as “incorrect,” often in a thinly veiled effort to legitimize class-based or race-based power differences. That fascination is what motivated me to study linguistics and led me to become a language teacher. For a few years now, I have been teaching business English at a French-language university in Montreal. As a language teacher, I am usually expected to be the person who clearly defines for my students what is “correct” language use and what is “incorrect.” I’m amused by this irony.

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L’invasion linguistique des assistants vocaux, ou comment la langue anglaise s’est introduite au sein de mon foyer ? (by Florence Sedaminou Muratet)

New BILD member Florence Sedaminou Muratet was born and raised in France.  She studied history and ethnology at the University of Paris, taught French and History in the Parisian suburbs, and decided to travel the world and share her passion for education, living and working in several countries. While at the Hong Kong Baptist University, she developed a platform for teaching French as a foreign language. Her research interests focus on developing digital tools to improve language learning and studying cultural inference in oral exchanges between humans and artificial intelligence. Florence now teaches at McGill’s French Language Centre.

La période des fêtes a pris fin et mes petits monstres se complaisant dans leur routine découvrent petit à petit les jouets que le père Noël a gentiment déposés au pied du sapin. De ces innombrables joujoux, un d’entre eux se distingue parmi les autres. Sa présence est devenue indispensable au bon déroulement de notre quotidien. Un joujou féminin au nom d’Alexa a élu domicile dans notre belle demeure.

Alexa, c’est le nom de ce petit haut-parleur doté d’une intelligence artificielle, que la société Amazon a introduite au mois d’octobre dernier au public québécois soit un an après sa sortie officielle sur le territoire canadien. Mais attention, il est clair qu’Alexa ne correspond pas à la représentation que l’on a de l’intelligence artificielle.

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A Large Intimate Group: Teaching Social Interaction, 100 students at a time (by Jacqueline Peters)

I am a teacher and one of the few things I’m secure in is my ability to teach, regardless, or maybe because of, my love of research and learning. I’ve been a teacher since I came to Quebec over 25 years ago. I taught ESL to small groups or individual adults. My classes were intimate by nature, as many of the students were shy about speaking a foreign language in front of strangers, of losing their carefully constructed identities as confident, intelligent adults. In order to get those confident, intelligent adults and later often apprehensive, international students and diffident, unemployed youth to speak out loud, I learned that I had to create a safe space where they felt comfortable making the inevitable mistakes of language learners and  to continuously craft a secure place in which they could recover from banging their heads against the vagaries of the English language.  Continue reading