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LINGUIST List 24.28

Mon Jan 07 2013

Diss: Discourse Analysis/ General Ling/ Lang Acq/ Socioling: Hallett: 'African American English in Urban Education...'

Editor for this issue: Lili Xia <lxialinguistlist.org>

Date: 27-Dec-2012
From: Jill Hallett <jillhillinois.edu>
Subject: African American English in Urban Education: A multimethodological approach to understanding classroom discourse strategies
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Institution: University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Program: Department of Linguistics
Dissertation Status: Completed
Degree Date: 2012

Author: Jill M. Hallett

Dissertation Title: African American English in Urban Education: A multimethodological approach to understanding classroom discourse strategies

Dissertation URL: http://www.academia.edu/2332454/AFRICAN_AMERICAN_ENGLISH_IN_URBAN_EDUCATION

Linguistic Field(s): Discourse Analysis
                            General Linguistics
                            Language Acquisition

Dissertation Director:
Dennis Baron

Dissertation Abstract:

Discrepancies between “home English” and “school English” for urban students
have been addressed for decades by a number of scholars in the fields of
linguistics, education, and sociology (Baratz 1969, Baugh 1995, Charity et al
2004, Alim 2009, Edwards 2010). Those students who speak prestige varieties
of English tend to do better in school settings, in which the teacher’s language is
that of the mainstream middle class.

Charity Hudley and Mallinson (2011: 77) note, “[e]ducators and students who
come from different racial, ethnic, and cultural backgrounds may be unaware of,
confused by, or ill equipped to understand each other’s linguistic and cultural
behaviors.” Some researchers have examined teachers’ contrastive analysis of
non-prestige varieties of English with that of the prestige variety (Pandey 2000,
Wheeler and Swords 2006), but rarely has the teachers’ acquisition of non-
prestige forms been examined in any form (a notable exception is Fogel and Ehri
2006). Furthermore, no study to date has taken a multimethodological approach
to understanding both student and teacher discourse strategies in the urban

This study presents the linguistic situation in one Chicago high school. An
ethnographic assessment situates language use among students and teachers
in the classroom. A written translation task assesses teachers’ knowledge of
non-prestige dialects (Siegel 1999) at the beginning of the school year, and is
compared to recorded language use in authentic classroom interaction, including
student and teacher use of African American English. Interviews add depth to
the study by connecting teacher-to-student discourse to rapport-building
strategies. Student questionnaires round out the study by providing feedback on
teachers’ language strategies and their rapport-building effects.

Through this micro- and macro-level methodology, a multifaceted picture of
teachers’ and students’ language strategies is presented. The teachers’ ability to
accommodate to students’ dialects is reflected in the written task, while actual
accommodation and rapport-building is examined through discourse analysis
and interviews. The teacher who accommodates to students’ language has
potential to defuse the linguistic tension apparent in the mainstream urban
American classroom, with the further possibility for discussion, demystification,
and deconstruction of language ideologies and linguistic identities inherent in the
makeup of urban societies.

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