In Bootstraps, written by Victor Villanueva, he presents the idea of the fluidity of language through different accounts of Black English and Spanglish. He claims that those forms of language are still valid, and are not to be deemed completely illogical. Villanueva states, “Since the question is always ‘what’s wrong with them,’ the answer gets repeated too: bad language equals insufficient cognitive development. Academic ignorance.”(12). He argues that many of the academics cannot see the shape shifting nature of English and how the voice of anyone, no matter how grammatically incorrect, still holds truth and intelligence.
Chapter ten of What Writing Does and How It Does it addresses the art of rhetoric. The act of contextual analysis addresses the differences in communities and embraces communication as anything but tame. The text states, “Contextualists understand each communication as a response to other communications (and to other social practices), they appreciate how communications (and social practices more generally) reflect the attitudes and values of the communities that sustain them…”(292). Contextualists acknowledge that not all language will be the same. The text goes on to explain a metaphor, presented by Kenneth Burke. The metaphor explains how if one enters a room in which people are entangled in a heated argument, and no one is able to explain to you what is going on, eventually you’ll pick up what the people are arguing about through engaging in listening. This, as the book explains, can be applied to different communities in order to analyze the rhetoric that they use.
Do You Speak American? written by Robert MacNeil argues that American English is ever changing and growing in power. MacNeil states, “...if our language stopped changing it would mean that American society had ceased to be dynamic, innovative, pulsing with life…”(1). MacNeil goes on to explain the origin of American English and the struggle that lies within our society of what is the “proper” way of speaking. There are also many different dialects that MacNeil begins to dissect in the chapter “Changing Dialects: Dingbatters Versus Hoi-Toiders”. These dialects are unique to different regions in the United States. He specifically talks about the dialects of the east coast that have more variety than the west. These variations on the English show how fluid the language can be, and how dynamic the American conversation is.
Rhetorical Listening: Identification, Gender, Whiteness by Krista Ratcliffe explains how all of the factors that make us who we are, contribute to our communication. In her text she states, the “...tropological function of language is both representative and generative. It is representative in that language represents that which already exists; it is generative in that language generates that which does not exist or is not yet named.”(8). In different communities language takes on different forms. It is representative of the people that speak it, and takes on its own form. Tropes like gender and race help to influence the language that people speak, even if it is just variations of English.
Documents, like language, are constantly changing as new generations emerge in America. This is shown in the first chapter of Scrolling Forward. David Levy states, “Each document genre, too, has a uniform that signals something about the role it’s meant to play.”(28). This idea can be applicable to spoken language as well. Documents like receipts, or the slave contract that was read earlier in the course tell different stories and use different language. There are infinite ways to express oneself in the English language, and this can be seen through the numerous amounts of documents that we have created. The book explains the many different forms of documents such as film, videotapes, and spreadsheets.
The #MeToo movement has also taken on a language of its own. In the article by Brittany Bronson, she describes the struggles of women of the lower class following the #MeToo movement. Since they do not have the same status or celebrity of others using the movement, it is hard for them to come out and accuse powerful figures of sexual harassment. The article states, “Socioeconomic status plays a significant role in their ability to say, ‘Me too.’”. In this, we find a fundamental flaw with the movement: it does not work for everyone. With this, these lower wage workers must find a different language in order to stake their claim against “powerful men” like Steve Wynn (1).
How does the language used in our community shape us? As citizens, as human beings, as participants in American culture?
Is there a superior English? If so, then what is it? Why do we as a society place so much importance on grammatical correctness if that is not a factor in intelligence?
Does the English you speak determine where you end up?
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