Date: Mon, 6 May 1996 14:32:38 -0400 From: "Bethany K. Dumas, U of Tennessee" Subject: Re: Linguistic bio assignment On Mon, 6 May 1996, mai kuha asked: > Could you say a little more about how you handle the issue of student > privacy in giving this assignment? Of course the students can complete > the assignment without discussing every double negative and nonstandard > subject-verb agreement ever uttered in their families, but isn't there > some possibility that some individuals may somehow feel compelled to say > more about their stigmatized linguistic behaviors than they wanted to? > Clearly, these are important stories for the other students to > hear, but what's a positive way to handle this so that nobody becomes > too vulnerable? > Thanks for your comment. Of course privacy is an important issue. I address it both directly and indirectly. First, I use the assignment late in the semester. By then, we know each other a bit (I have students work in groups on some exercises), and they have heard some of my Shirley stories, deliberately told to suggest my working-class origins. I have talked about what it is like to be the first generation to be university-educated. I have also brought in examples and small exercises from "real" life (for those of you who reall it, for two years, now I have used the "Barney Fag" question in class). Finally, I make it clear that the student may choose what to present in the five-minute report. I never ask questions about topics the student chooses not to report. And in the papers themselves, students often reveal more than they do in the oral reports, sometimes by inserting a "Like you, I .." (ex: "I, like you, also referred to a wash cloth as a wash rag.") But they also delight in referring to themselves as, for instance, "the king of infixing." I suspect that such matters are slightly less volatile here than on some campuses. I was very surprised to learn recently of the reaction to the original version of the film "American Tongues" on such campuses as Duke, where apparently showing the version containing the n-word guarantees a ruckus. I have shown the original version of that film to classes here for all the years it has been in existence. The only strong reaction to it I have ever had was by a woman from Newport (Cocke County), who took exception to the story about the West Virginian and his "you all stuff." (And, by the way, I always show the film early in the semester to L200 students.) We laugh at ourselves a lot in Linguistics 200 throughout the semester, and I think that helps a lot. In this section, there were about 6 true "hillbillies," about 6 true "Yankees," and about 6 deep Georgia Southerners (I was the only Texas) -- we all laughted about all the linguistic differences. Remember: I live and teach within about two miles of sites where I can hear native speakers of "dope" meaning "coke," double modals, a-prefixing, "don't care to" meaning "don't mind," monophthongized /ai/, etc. I try to capitalize on that fact. In our oral evaluation exercise at the end of the semester, the students insisted I must add field trips to the course. They would not take very long! Bethany Bethany K. Dumas, J.D., Ph.D. | Applied Linguistics, Language & Law Dep't of English, UT, Knoxville | EMAIL: dumasb[AT SYMBOL GOES HERE] 415 McClung Tower | (423) 974-6965 | FAX (423) 974-6926 Knoxville, TN 37996-0430 | See Webpage at