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[Xmca-l] Re: All Stars and Beyond



"Code" is precisely the right word, although I am not sure about the the
word "switch". Here's the problem the way Gramsci sees it (and I think
almost everybody will immediately see the links with the criticisms made of
Luria after the Uzbekistan expeditions).

“(59) If it is true that any language contains the elements of a conception
of the world and of a culture, it will also be true that the greater or
lesser complexity of a person’s (60) conception of the world can be judged
from his language. A person who only speaks a dialect or who understands
the national language in varying degrees necessarily enjoys a more or less
restricted and provincial, fossilized and anachronistic perception of the
world in comparison with the great currents of thought which dominate world
history. His interests will be restricted, more or less corporative and
economic, and not universal. If it is not always possible to learn foreign
languages so as to put oneself in touch with different cultures, one must
at least learn the national tongue. One great culture can be translated
into the language of another great culture that is, one great national
language which is historically rich and complex can translate any other
great culture, i.e. can be a world expression. But a dialect cannot do the
same thing.”

Gramsci, A. (1957). The Modern Prince and Other Writings. New York:
International. pp. 59-60

Ironically, Gramsci is really talking about his own native tongue, Sardu,
which isn't a dialect of Italian at all but rather (a bit like Cantonese in
relation to the Chinese of the Tang Dynasty) an earlier and purer offshoot
of a more ancient language, namely Latin. In contrast, black English really
is a dialect, and what Gramsci is saying here simply isn't true, either of
black English or dialects generally.

A dialect is a variety of language defined by the user. It's not defined by
the region as we usually think: that's why black people speak (more or
less) the same dialect in Compton and in Queens, and why white English in
America is not confined to any particular region. But dialects tend to
mutual intelligibility, particularly in big cities. So contrary to what
Gramsci says, even after the national homogenizations of the eighteenth
century there was absolutely no reason why any dialect of any language
could not express everything that the language (the dialect-complex) had to
express. In fact, that's how speakers of minority dialects, including black
people, became bidialectal, and it is also why the distinctions of dialect
tend to be phonological rather than lexicogrammatical or semantic.

There are ALSO systematic differences in language which are defined by the
USE. These are also not peculiar to any particular region: Academese is not
restricted to Ivy Leagues, and air controller English is spoken in every
cockpit on earth. These varieties are called registers (if you are a
Hallidayan) and because they do involve variation in the lexicogrammar (the
morphology, vocabulary, and syntax, viewed as a cline from open class to
closed class words) what Gramsci says and what Luria believed about their
variation is probably true: they can only translate certain meanings and
not others.

Bernstein has ANOTHER term for the systematic varieties of meanings that
are the result of this variation in lexicogrammar: code. I don't
think black English is a register or that it gives rise to a special code.
Black mathematicians working for NASA are perfectly able to do their work
in their own dialect, and Neil deGrasse Tyson will understand everything
they do. I have certainly heard Chinese linguists do linguistics in a wide
variety of dialects. I have never heard Andy speak any dialect but
Australian, and I have heard him on a wide variety of topics,
from household matters to Heglian ones.

We may be monodialectical but we are all multi-registerial, because child
development (and even national development) invariably involves learning
new registers and codes. So I think the real problem that has to be tackled
in Carrie's article is the development (not switching) of the semantic
code. The problem, for me, is that I think black kids need the semantic
code of bankers about as much as bankers need the code of black kids:  like
a fish needs a bicycle. Maybe some registers and their codes just need to
be abolished.

David Kellogg







On Wed, Sep 27, 2017 at 3:16 AM, mike cole <mcole@ucsd.edu> wrote:

> I am not certain when the conversation of Carrie's description of the All
> Starts program is to begin.
> But David noted the article coming up in a recent message, so maybe we
> could start?
>
> I guess my first impression is that the scope of the effort is staggering.
> Apropos of the discussion of social movements in relation to the sorts of
> activities that dominate xmca empirical work, and Yrjo's ISCAR
> address, what is being described here is an institution that raised 10
> million dollars in 2015 and involves
> a lot of teenagers/young adults.
>
> The "teaching kids to code switch" from black<-->white as a framing seemed
> like a way to address Delpit-style
> critiques of the schooling of kids of color. Linking this to an imagined
> future of fluid identities seems like an optimistic way to think about the
> processes set in motion. Linking it to Vygotsky's point about the need to
> think about how newness comes into the world.
>
> I wonder how the strategies used in this work do/do not line up with the
> cases that Yrjo talked about.
>
> mike
>