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Revitalizing Endangered Languages

Edited by Justyna Olko & Julia Sallabank

Revitalizing Endangered Languages "This guidebook provides ideas and strategies, as well as some background, to help with the effective revitalization of endangered languages. It covers a broad scope of themes including effective planning, benefits, wellbeing, economic aspects, attitudes and ideologies."

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Dissertation Information

Title: "Can Anyone Say What is Reasonable?": Promoting, accommodating to, and resisting elite rhetorical inquiry in a high-school classroom Add Dissertation
Author: John Clark Update Dissertation
Email: click here to access email
Institution: Georgetown University, Department of Linguistics
Completed in: 1998
Linguistic Subfield(s): Applied Linguistics; Sociolinguistics;
Subject Language(s): English
Director(s): Peter Patrick
Frederick Erickson
Jeffrey Connor-Linton

Abstract: This study presents a microethnographic linguistic analysis of how working-class African American high school students resist and accommodate to the efforts of a teacher to apprentice these students into using elite-aspiring rhetorical inquiry. The study: 1) describes two distinct inquiry styles used in the class, and proposes that the two styles are representative of larger social differences in rhetorical discourse; 2) analyzes how the social actors utilize these differences in discourse style to communicate class and ethnic alignments in face-to-face interaction.

The teacher, an African American law student, promoted an inquiry style that privileges the exchange of abstract, speculative, and vicarious information in which rhetors assume an objective stance in discussing situations in which concrete people are either absent or abstracted. The students, on the other hand, sought to conduct inquiry based on real world, concrete, empirically demonstrated and personally experienced instances of human behavior related, preferably, in anecdotal form.

The study shows how the local social actors' teaching practices, accommodations and resistances construct:

- the teacher's abstract/speculative inquiry style as outgroup ('White') and elite-aspiring;
- the tudents' concrete/empirical style as authentically African-American;
- and the teaching and learning of the abstract/speculative style as a hegemonic social process.

The significance of this study is threefold. First, it supports and expands earlier descriptive studies of ethnicity and class-based persuasive discourse. Second, it provides a linguistic and microethnographic focus to the macroethnographic notion of resistance, showing how social structures are instantiated and creatively reproduced in face-to-face interaction. Finally, the study supports and expands findings that suggest that, for speakers of the African American Vernacular, not learning elite-aspiring ways with words has much to do with students deliberately refusing to embrace a way of talking that puts one's own standing as an authentic African American into question.