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Review of  The Language, Ethnicity and Race Reader

Reviewer: Laura Michele Callahan
Book Title: The Language, Ethnicity and Race Reader
Book Author: Roxy Harris Ben Rampton
Publisher: Routledge (Taylor and Francis)
Linguistic Field(s): Sociolinguistics
Anthropological Linguistics
Issue Number: 16.24

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Date: Thu, 23 Dec 2004 17:55:11 -0500
From: Laura Callahan
Subject: The Language, Ethnicity and Race Reader

EDITORS: Harris, Roxy; Rampton, Ben
TITLE: The Language, Ethnicity and Race Reader
PUBLISHER: Routledge (Taylor & Francis)
YEAR: 2003

Laura Callahan, The City College of New York


This volume contains twenty-five papers first published between 1921 and
2003; the majority were written within the last twenty years. All treat
some aspect of the relationship between language and ethnicity and/or
race, some from opposing positions. The book is divided into three
sections, each with its own introduction. In addition, there is an
introduction to the collection as a whole, which includes tables situating
the papers according to stance as well as geographic and institutional
focus. Original notes and references are placed at the end of each paper;
cross references between the papers appear in footnotes. There are author
and subject indices for the entire collection. The editors have shortened
some of the articles and added footnotes with explanations of terminology;
in some cases sentences from the original text have been reworded. More
specialized readers are directed to the articles' primary sources.


Section One: Colonialism, Imperialism and Global Process

1. Otto Jespersen (1922) The origin of speech. Jespersen presents
primitive vs. evolved forms of language as offering a series of
oppositions between song and speech, the concrete vs. the abstract and
pure emotion vs. rational thought.

2. Edward Sapir (1921) Language, race and culture. Sapir outlines a
rejection of causal connections between race, culture and language, at the
same time tackling the difficult task of defining what is covered under
the first two terms.

3. Bill Ashcroft (2001) Language and race. Ashcroft traces the links made
over the course of the 18th and 19th centuries between language and race,
especially in philological theory. He examines the use of language to
locate race in color terms.

4. Mervyn Alleyne (1989) Language in Jamaican culture. Alleyne discusses
the origins of current language varieties in Jamaica from an African
substrate stance, with particular attention to the sociolinguistic factors
in their formation.

5. Ngugi wa Thiong'o (1986) The language of African literature. Thiong'o
makes a case for African literature to be written in African languages,
arguing that language is a carrier of culture. He points out that the use
of European languages automatically excludes the majority of the
population from many spheres of influence.

6. Alumin Mazrui (1997) The World Bank, the language question and the
future of African education. Mazrui discusses the World Bank's
conflicting statements and practices affecting indigenous language
education. He concludes that World Bank and IMF policies are designed to
perpetuate former colonial powers' economic dominance in Africa.

7. Randolph Quirk (1990) Language varieties and standard language. Quirk
notes ESL teaching situations worldwide in which Standard English has lost
its supreme status. He argues against this trend on the grounds that
Standard as opposed to other varieties of English is indispensable for
social and economic advancement.

8. Ben Rampton (1990) Displacing the 'native speaker': expertise,
affiliation and inheritance. Rampton discusses the difficulties of
defining native speakerhood, and proposes a set of criteria with
distinctions between competence and sociolinguistic identities.

Section Two: Nation-states and Minorities

9. Joshua Fishman (1972) The impact of nationalism on language planning.
Fishman pinpoints modernization, authentification and uniformation as
conflicting forces in language planning in the service of nationalism,
using Turkey and France as examples.

10. Michael Billig (1995) Banal nationalism. Billig examines signs of
routine, banal nationalism and flagged nationalism. The latter type
surfaces on national holidays and in response to extraordinary events. He
discusses nationalism vs. patriotism; the first is associated with
national agression and the second with national self-love.

11. Ray Honeyford (1988) The language issue in multi-ethnic English
schools. Honeyford questions whether all dialects of English are suitable
for complex tasks, and whether a failure to acquire Standard English is
responsible for West Indian and other ethnic minority children's low
achievement scores in British schools.

12. John Rickford (1997) Suite for ebony and phonics. Rickford presents a
brief exposition, accessible to non-linguists, of the features and
possible origins of African American Vernacular English, and clarifies the
1997 Oakland, California school board decision regarding the use of
contrastive analysis between AAVE and Standard American English.

13. Wendy Bokhorst-Heng. Singapore's Speak Mandarin campaign: Language
ideological debates and the imagining of the nation. Bokhorst-Heng
examines governmental efforts to shape national identity through language
prescription. Mandarin is promoted over other Chinese dialects, to foster
unity and to preserve culture, and to prevent English from becoming the
only lingua franca among the Chinese community in Singapore.

14. Roger Hewitt (1992) Language, youth and the destabilisation of
ethnicity. Hewitt discusses young people's language uses that are driven
by desires to announce both internal and external cultural identities--
identities that do not always coincide with the user's ethnicity. 15.
Jane H. Hill (1995) Mock Spanish, covert racism and the (leaky) boundary
between public and private spheres. Hill demonstrates how the use of
Spanish loan words or English words inflected with Spanish affixes are
used to make racist references to Hispanics under the cover of humor.

16. Jacqueline Urla (1995) Outlaw language: Creating alternative public
spheres in Basque free radio. Urla reports on the free radio movement in
the Basque Country, in which young Basques air locally relevant programs.
The tension between Basque and Castilian gives rise to the practice Hill
(essay 15) describes, except in this case it is the minority language
speakers who parody the dominant language speakers. 17. Monica Heller
(1999) Alternative ideologies and la Francophonie. Using the case of a
French-language minority high school in Ontario, Heller examines who has
the power to decide and define the legitimate language of international
communication and which local languages are valued as commodities.

Section Three: Language, Discourse and Ethnic Style

18. Benjamin Lee Whorf (c. 1936) An American Indian model of the
universe. Whorf translates the Hopi conceptualization of what in European
languages is known as time and space into terms of what is manifest and
objective vs. unmanifest and subjective.

19. Susan U. Philips (1972) Participant structures and communicative
competence: Warm Springs children in community and classroom. Philips
highlights differences between Native American and non-Indian communities'
rules for verbal interaction, for the demonstration of achievement and for
the way individuals are accorded authority, and discusses ways to keep
such differences from negatively affecting Indian children's progress in

20. John Gumperz (1979) Cross-cultural communication. In an interview
during the filming of Crosstalk, a cross-cultural communication training
film, Gumperz explains the need for awareness of differences in the use of
tone of voice, directness and politeness formulas by British, Asian and
West Indians using English.

21. R. P. McDermott and Kenneth Gospodinoff (1979) Social contexts for
ethnic borders and school failure. McDermott and Gospodinoff argue that
differences in communicative styles are not the cause of school failure,
but rather that these differences are emphasized by children as a reaction
to organizational problems. They offer an analysis of one incident in a
New York City classroom to illustrate their thesis.

22. John Gumperz and Eduardo Hernandez-Chavez (1972) Bilingual code-
switching. Gumperz and Hernandez-Chavez maintain that the use of more
than one language or dialect within a conversation or conversational turn
communicates meaning that is dependent on a complex set of social factors.

23. John Taggart Clark (2003) Abstract inquiry and the patrolling of
Black/White borders through linguistic stylization. Clark describes
African American high school students' marking, via satirical imitation,
of their African American teacher's pronunciation and rhetorical style as
being a white and outgroup style.

24. Cecilia Cutler (1999) Yorkville crossing: White teens, hip hop and
African American English. Cutler presents a longitudinal study of a white
teenager who uses features of AAVE pronunciation and hip hop vocabulary.

25. Les Back (1995) X amount of sat siri akal!: Apache Indian, reggae
music and intermezzo culture. Back postulates the formation of a culture
in which boundaries are transcended, represented by a fusion of South
Asian and African Caribbean linguistic elements in music.


The Language, Ethnicity and Race Reader is a highly versatile resource
that will be useful to scholars in education, sociolinguistics, the
sociology of language and ethnic studies. The presentation in one source
of this many essays, including earlier works for a diachronic perspective
and contrasting viewpoints, is especially appreciated.

In the general introduction, Harris and Rampton give the rationale for
their ordering of the papers, which are divided into three
sections, "moving from phenomena and processes that are longer and larger
down into ones that are smaller and briefer" (p. 2). This arrangement is
successful, as the reader does indeed come away with a sense of having
gone from the macro to the micro. Some of the major themes treated are, in
Section One, "the links between language, race, culture and development"
(p. 15); in Section Two, language and national identity and language and
the creation of nations; and in Section Three, racial, cultural and ethnic
authenticity; the maintenance of group boundaries and the appropriation of
speech forms developed by and/or associated with another group.

The editorial modifications mentioned in the Overview section of this
review are meant to make the book accessible to a wider audience. The
footnotes explaining linguistic terms will be particularly welcome in
interdisciplinary courses. However, a proliferation of the brackets used
to indicate where there has been abbreviation and re-wording is a
distraction in some of the papers that makes for uneven reading. This is a
small criticism however, and the inclusion of so wide a range of articles,
which might not have been possible otherwise, more than compensates for
any inconvenience.

The book's title points to an important issue: though race and ethnicity
are often treated as synonymous, from the perspective of the individuals
in question they may be quite separate. Language introduces another factor
to the equation, especially when an incongruence arises between the
languages spoken or not spoken by a person and his or her ethnicity or


Laura Callahan is Assistant Professor of Spanish Linguistics at the City
College, City University of New York (CUNY), and Research Fellow at the
Research Institute for the Study of Language in an Urban Society at the
Graduate Center, CUNY. Her current work focuses on language choice in
interethnic communication.

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