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[Xmca-l] Re: Ruqaiya Hasan



Gente,
Perhaps Labov was being demagogic in his criticism of Bernstein. It’s also true that his contributions to the dialog on race in the U.S. have been fundamental, so that one of the reasons we can talk now about Black English as rich and rule-governed, rather than an impoverished and degenerate form of Standard English, is thanks to him. (Sapir, served much the same role in describing indigenous languages of the U.S. Take Navajo ) So, how is it that Labov can be fighting racism while being ethnocentric? Posturing for a good cause? And where do we draw the line between friends and enemies? Compared to Vygotsky we academics live in very safe times. When he was alive, it was mortally unsafe to say some things. And who knew then how fast the weather was changing, and in which direction? Who believes that Vygotsky would have lived, if T.B. hadn’t killed him? I say it’s safe now, but I understand that Black people don’t see it the same way. In fact, being an academic isn’t always safe, is it? Depends on what you mean by “safe”, I guess.  

Henry

P.S. David, you said you were “too easy on Obama’s speech and that “grace” is not earned. So Obama was being imprecise about the meaning of “grace", but it wasn't Obama who was being “stupid” and “heartless”, right? Sorry if I don’t get what you mean, except that it seems to be an important issue and relevant to the things said by Labov about Bernstein. And it is about the larger issue of this thread: Grammar. I guess I am saying that while linguists can do their best to describe language structure, but it always falls short of the richness of the object. Meaning is always lost. In that sense, scientific concepts (for example, those of linguistics) are really an impoverished and degenerate version of true concepts. I exagerrate here, but I think I am echoing some of the problems of interpreting Vygotsky on concepts (true concepts and scientific concepts, especially) expressed by you, Paula Towsey and Mike Cole on the Vimeo link you provided a few posts back. And here’s the broken record: Raquaiya is right: We need and theory of grammar for CHAT, to do justice to language in a Vygotskian framework. Don’t get me started.  

 <https://vimeo.com/13550409>    
 <https://vimeo.com/13550409> <https://vimeo.com/13550409>
> On Jun 29, 2015, at 4:52 PM, David Kellogg <dkellogg60@gmail.com> wrote:
> 
> Martin:
> 
> A good example! Labov says:
> 
> 'Some educational psychologists first draw from the writings of the British
> social psychologist Basil Bernstein the idea that "much of lower-class
> language consists of a kind of incidental 'emotional accompaniment' to
> action here and now." Bernstein's views are filtered through a strong bias
> against all forms of working-class behavior, so that he sees middle-class
> language as superior in every respect--as "more abstract, and necessarily
> somewhat more flexible, detailed and subtle."'
> 
> Bernstein is making an empirical statement about a specific corpus of
> data--similar to the kinds of statements that Labov himself makes later in
> the article when he re-examines Bereiter's data. The same thing is true of
> Bernstein's comment on language which is "more abstract and necessarily
> somewhat more flexible, detailed, and subtle". These are all empirical
> facts, based on data.  Ruqaiya's contribution (with Clare Cloran) was to
> provide a LOT more data--and also to provide grammatical categorires that
> made it clear exaclty what "flexible", "detailed" and "subtle" referred to.
> 
> But to take these empirical statements about specific corpora--and then to
> say that "Bernstein's views are filtered through a strong bias against all
> forms of working class behavior" is about as fair as to take the statement
> that middle class language is "more abstract" and then to conclude that
> Bernstein "sees middle class language as superior in every respect". This
> proves one thing and one thing only: Labov is being ill-tempered and
> demagogic.
> 
> Of course, any fair linguistic comparison will reveal that the rules of
> black English are more complex than the rules of white English, and they
> are just as binding. But that's trivial: there are African languages that
> have more than a hundred and seventy case endings. Even if this were not
> largely a matter of how you define case, it would prove nothing about how
> language is implicated in distributing information, much less in
> distrubting material goods and reproducing class differences.
> 
> There's something much worse going on here, Martin. American culture has
> appropriated a lot from black English--and yes, a lot of it has necessarily
> been the appropriation of emotional responses to tragic and harrowing
> material processes. Somehow, when black people try to turn the tables and
> appropriate some of the really powerful abstract thinking that is, for
> historical reasons--because of slavery and murderous, genocidal repression,
> not to put to fine a point on it--concentrated in an academic discourse
> dominated by whites, we are told that this is not necessary or even
> desirable. Somehow, when black church leaders like Jesse Jackson say that
> blacks are now "African Americans" on a par with Irish-Americans or
> Italian-Americans, nobody even bothers to point out that a continent is not
> a country, and this kind of relabelling is a kind of rewriting history,
> just as the claim that the slavery was not the key issue in the Civil War
> is. And somehow, when Obama makes speeches to black people, he gets to say
> things like "we express God's grace", even though this implies that grace
> is something man gives rather than God, and nobody sees the contradiction.
> 
> (I was too easy on Obama's speech: what he really said was not that grace
> was unasked for, but rather that it was undeserved, and unmerited. Yes--the
> kind of grace that God delivers through the barrel of a racist's gun is
> utterly undeserved and unmerited. But how can anyone say such stupid and
> heartless things, much less believe them? Only by assuming that what you
> say and even what you believe doesn't matter so long as you feel right.)
> 
> David Kellogg
> 
> On Tue, Jun 30, 2015 at 7:15 AM, Martin John Packer <mpacker@uniandes.edu.co
>> wrote:
> 
>> 
>> On Jun 29, 2015, at 4:51 PM, David Kellogg <dkellogg60@gmail.com> wrote:
>> 
>>> But
>>> Ruqaiya and her student Clare Cloran were the ones who really provided
>>> empirical evidence that class dialects were not simply matters of
>> phonology
>>> and phonetics. There were differences in lexical choice, and difference
>> in
>>> grammatical patterns as well. So class "dialects" were not simply
>> dialects.
>>> In fact, they were NOT dialects at all.
>> 
>> David, where does this leave Labov's analysis of the negative in Black
>> vernacular English, in which he seems to see "radically different kinds of
>> grammatical operations"?  And here's his rebuttal of the notion that
>> African American kids are intellectually deficient; he writes that "All
>> linguists agree that nonstandard dialects are highly structured systems";
>> evidently not just different in phonology and phonetics.
>> 
>> <http://www.theatlantic.com/past/docs/issues/95sep/ets/labo.htm>
>> 
>> Martin
>>