Ethnography, Linguistics, Narrative Inequality: Toward an Understanding of Voice

Ethnography, Linguistics, Narrative Inequality: Toward an Understanding of Voice

Ethnography, Linguistics, Narrative Inequality: Toward an Understanding of Voice

Ethnography, Linguistics, Narrative Inequality: Toward an Understanding of Voice

Synopsis

This collection of work addresses the contribution that ethnography and linguistics make to education, and the contribution that research in education makes to anthropology and linguistics.; The first section of the book pinpoints characteristics of anthropology that most make a difference to research in education. The second section describes the perspective that is needed if the study of language is to contribute adequately to problems of education and inequality. Finally, the third section takes up discoveries about narrative, which show that young people's narratives may have a depth of form and skill that has gone largely unrecognized.

Excerpt

Dell Hymes’s work has changed the way that we view language and the social world. Ethnography, Linguistics, Narrative Inequality is a powerful collection of essays that addresses theoretical, methodological and political issues about the study of language in social context The contents are diverse, ranging from the critical discussion of American language planning and policy, to the study of the traditional narratives of Native Americans and stories written by African-American school children. At its heart is an analysis of the complex relationships between language, speech communities and social inequality.

This volume of essays spans the period from 1972 to the present. It begins from seminal discussions of the applications of ethnography and linguistics to education, with a focus on the contexts of American communities and schools. Given the current economic situations of many linguistic and cultural ‘minority’ communities in the US and elsewhere, it should not be surprising that Hymes’s commentary on ‘the origins and foundations of inequality among speakers’ continues to ring true. Hymes asks how we can use theory and research in ethnography, linguistics and education to understand how particular discourses, languages and ‘literacies’ count and act in particular cultures’ and communities’ interests.

We see these questions at work in Hymes’s ‘ethnopoetic’ analyses of the voices of Native American communities, school children, adolescents and university students. The section entitled ‘Narrative and Inequality’ includes discussions of work by Courtney Cazden, Amy Shuman, James Gee, Sarah Michaels, William Labov, and Nessa Wolfson. Many of these essays have been updated and revised, with additional theoretical comment and new text analyses. In addition to situating this work in relation to the broader histories . . .

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