Free The Gap Essay Sample

Today we live in a world where different rules are made to define what various situations and concepts that are related to those situations ought to be. However, human beings sometimes do not necessarily behave according to those rules. From our linguistic lectures, we learned that language ideology is supposed to be about the way that a language is or should be. But today while discussing various languages or dialects, people are, in fact, expressing their opinions towards the groups of the speakers of those languages instead of the languages themselves. Linguistic profiling is another example, in which contradictions arise between what we believe to be right and our actual behaviors because living in an egalitarian society, people are not supposed to be profiled and treated differently based on their way of speaking while trying to rent an apartment. As we can see from above examples, the gaps between what is supposed to be and how we actually behave in those two situations have become a new form of racism - racism based on our languages.

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Princeton University (n.d.) defined language to be "a systematic means of communicating by the use of sounds or conventional symbols". It is one way by which people are characterized. For example, if a person is not fluent in the English language; he may be characterized as a person who is either a Chinese or an Indian. Furthermore, language is a specific human ability that differs from other creatures. Language is a very important tool that is not only a means of communicating ideas and messages, but a tool that forges friendships, cultural ties, and economic relationships. However, human language is highly complex. The world has created many languages. For every culture, there are one or more languages. This is why linguistics - the study of languages - was created.

As the world's languages become more and more complex, races and cultures can now be easily identified. Today, people associate languages to the speakers of the language. People focus more on the speakers of the language instead of the language itself. Moreover, people tend to judge you through the language you speak. People characterize you without even without thinking for a moment.

Language can contain and deliver multiple ideas at the same time for different cultures. It can contain ideas and be associated with those ideas. Language ideologies are "sets of beliefs about language articulated by users as a rationalization or justification of perceived language structure and use". Furthermore, it is also believed to be as "self-evident ideas and objectives a group holds concerning roles of language in the social experiences of members as they contribute to the expression of the group". Ideologies associate with a language and the speakers of that language. Woolan and Schieffelin (1994) discussed that ideologies of language offer a significant role not only in linguistic analysis but also in social analysis. This is because languages "envision and enact links of language to group and personal identity, to aesthetics, to morality, and to epistemology". Through the use of these linkages, understanding of the formation of the fundamental social institutions may be reached. Furthermore, "language varieties that are regularly associated with (and thus index) particular speakers are often revalorized or misrecognized not just symbols of group identity, but as emblems of political allegiance or of social, intellectual, or moral worth."

This symbolic reassessment allows discrimination within linguistic grounds but not ethnic or racial discrimination. Woolan and Schieffelin (1994) explained that communities not only evaluate linguistic resources of groups but may also appropriate some parts of it, refiguring and incorporating linguistic structures in ways that reveal linguistic and social ideologies. This linguistic borrowing may appear superficially to indicate the speaker's high regard for the donor language. However, Hill explained that "socially-grounded linguistic analysis of AngloAmerican borrowings and humorous 'misrenderings' of Spanish reveals them as racist distancing strategies that reduce complex Latino experience to a subordinated, commodity identity.". Furthermore, this commodification of ethno linguistic stereotypes is also seen in the use of foreign languages in the Japanese television advertising. Another manifestation of this gap is the misuse of Creole speech, music, and dress by white adolescents in South London is in tension with the black community views as part of their distinctive identity.

Existing beliefs on whether a language is real or not, and from these beliefs, the notion that there are "distinctly identifiable language" that can be isolated, named and counted, go into strategies of social domination. There are notions of better and worse speech that exists in every linguistic community. Ideological analysis tries to answer questions regarding the correctness or incorrectness of linguistic doctrines. For example, purist doctrines of linguistic correctness do not recognize non-native sources of innovation. They are very selective, usually targeting languages that pose as a threat. 

Another example would be that "English has entirely different significance to New York Puerto Ricans depending on whether they think of it as spoken by white Americans, by black Americans, or by Puerto Ricans". This shows that such national stances came from "struggles among different, competing ideological positions".

The second gap identified is Linguistic Profiling. It is defined to be an activity that uses auditory cues "used to identify an individual or individuals as belonging to a linguistic subgroup within a given speech community, including a racial subgroup". Latta (2007) suggests that "Performative racial and ethnic identities acknowledge that there are social markers that signal to a culture one's race and heritage, just as such markers signal gender." Language as a performative act in itself provokes this kind of identity judgement. Furthermore, speakers of non-mainstream dialects are stereotyped in ways that can be obviously considered truism. There were attempts done by linguists and educators to appeal for the dignity of non-mainstream forms and to "push for more tolerance and sensitivity to race, ethnicity, and class markers", such as the Civil Rights Act. However, non-mainstream speakers still suffer from discrimination in their schools and workplaces. Uranga (2005) claimed that the number of employment discrimination that is language-based increased double from 1995 - 2006.

Baugh illustrated Linguistic Profiling through a series of studies to "determine the effect of language variety to the housing market". In the study, Baugh called different landlords that advertised an apartment for rent. He used different accents when he spoke with the landlords. Moreover, when he used non-mainstream dialects such as African-American English or Chicano English, the landlords would say that the apartments were already rented. Furthermore, when he used a Standard American English, the landlords would claim that the same apartments rented a while ago were available. These results were also dramatized in a series of public service announcements in television and radio to emphasize that language discrimination contributes to housing discrimination.

Another example would by the 1999 conviction of a Black man wherein the Kentucky Supreme Court judge used racial identification by speech. In this case, the police officer claimed that in his 13 years of service, he had had numerous conversations with Black males and that he would know when it was a Black man speaking. Also, in the case that NFHA filed charging Prudential against African-American community in Milwaukee, Richmond, Toledo, Washington, D.C. and Chester, Pa. In this case, African-American testers would repeatedly call to inquire for insurance but they were never called back. When the testers were white, they were given quotes and were encouraged to purchase the insurance. Moreover, when the insurance sales agent think that the caller is white, he will market a whole array of products that the African-Americans will not. Furthermore, Baugh reported that racial discrimination by speech takes place all the time.

Linguistic profiling is brought by misconceptions and lack of understanding and tolerance in accepting language diversity. Latta suggested that educators have the responsibility not only to assess whether they are aware of the tendencies to judge people according to the language that they speak, but also to help their students be aware of these tendencies as well. Many students, who did not experience other languages other than the traditional school grammar lessons, may not be aware of "the linguistic equality of all speech varieties". Considering the legal consequences of intentional or unintentional language discrimination, these misconceptions on language and diverse language practices will have a serious effect on the life and career of these students in the future. Today, many students are still resistant in accepting tolerance towards language diversity since they have been taught that there is only one "Standard English", which is the correct form.

The heart of language discrimination lies in the competing definitions of race. Furthermore, language discrimination is also related to the competing language notions and American identity. This intertwining of these assumptions makes decisions on what language or dialect to use. These resulting decisions are filled with "serious educational, economic, and social consequences if one miscalculates and violates the audience's expectations of "correct American English."".

Latta reported that one way of remedying this linguistic discrimination is to start from the basics. Teaching students respect and acceptance of non-mainstream languages is one way of possibly correcting such negative effects. Using student narratives and discussions regarding personal experiences would be a possible solution. To be able to make students empathize with those who experience that kind of discrimination. Furthermore, in this way, students can see "parallels between their observed experiences and the experiences of people who experience language discrimination." 

Sociolinguistic studies prove that language education is more than just grammar. The language we use, how we perceive and understand this language would have a very important effect in our lives, both professionally and personally. Furthermore, Baugh said that Americans who would try to use their ears to perform linguistic profiling should remember these two things: (1) "They should realize that by an accident of birth they have the privilege to speak Standard English."; and (2) "Standard English speakers, descended from non-English immigrants, should show respect for their own ancestors who were challenged to become fluent in English as their second language." People should extend empathy with patience and tolerance to those whose linguistic styles differ from their own use of the English language. In these ways, linguistic discrimination and linguistic profiling may be avoided. Thus, racism in our language will be corrected.


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