Verticalization and African American Sociolinguistic Labor

Dr. Kelly Wright

Virginia Polytechnic University

Friday, September 8, 3:00 pm

About the talk

Metalinguistic awareness includes a language user’s knowledge about the relation of factors (like age, gender, or race) to linguistic usage, distribution, meaning, or context of occurrence variance. Such embodied knowledge is directly linked to the social meanings available to an individual across linguistic markets, and the ways in which individuals choose to maintain or shift away from the numerous styles, varieties, and languages they command, both in real time and over time. Wright will begin this presentation with a discussion of how embodied perception–stretched over time–interacts with institutions to create the conditions for linguistic oppression. This discussion will highlight points from African American history to quickly set these wider phenomena into a digestible perspective. Through these examples we will also consider Verticalization’s interaction with Standard language ideologies and the extent to which one’s capability of exploiting the range of variation available in a given context is constrained.

Wright will then present findings from an innovative methodology–the Metalinguistic Method of Sociolinguistic Interview–designed to elevate metalinguistic commentary and to introduce representative and equitable models of data collection and experimentation. In this light, we’ll consider the concept of sociolinguistic labor as Wright shares reflections from Black professionals about the ways in which they orient to their own language use. This presentation will end by priming a group discussion on a (user or listener’s) preference for assimilationist sociolinguistic labor and the ways in which we–as a community of experts–can find large and small ways to encourage the communities we enter to use their varieties safely and completely.

About the speaker

Dr. Kelly Elizabeth Wright is post-doctoral research fellow in the English Department of the College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences at the Virginia Polytechnic University. Visit here for more information.