Published online by Cambridge University Press: 05 June 2012
This chapter is about an issue that has occupied Americans for centuries – and especially since the Civil Rights era of the 1960s. It is about prejudice (adverse pre-judgment) against people based on specific traits, like ethnicity or religion. The trait on which the chapter focuses is language, a discriminatory trait about which we are much less conscious and much less concerned. The chapter begins with a list of nine examples where people's intelligence, job effectiveness, or other personal and professional characteristics are unfairly evaluated on the basis of the varieties of English they speak.
In this chapter, Rosina Lippi-Green concentrates on the existence of a “standard language ideology” in the USA – “a bias toward an abstracted, idealized, non-varying spoken language” – and the various institutions (schools, the media, the courts) that promote it. She exposes some of the fallacies in this ideology (non-mainstream accents can be difficult if not impossible to change and they often do not impede communication per se) and the uneven, discriminatory ways in which it is used to effect language domination (not all ethnic or foreign groups are asked to change). But she also documents the different responses such domination elicits from the dominated (resistance versus acquiescence). The author also constructs a model of the language subordination process (including the uses it makes of authority, mystification, and misinformation) in order to expose and undermine it.
Although all linguists are to some extent aware of and critical of language prejudice, this chapter takes the radical position (like Sledd 1972) that the burden of change should rest on the discriminators alone.