Æ SR Ü X
FALL 2015 | ISSUE 16
MARGINAL LANGUAGE: RACE, POLITICS, AND AUSTIN SLANG
EQUAL EDUCATION OPPORTUNITY STARTS WITH ENGLISH
FRANCES MOLINA TACKLES CULTURAL ERASURE THROUGH THE LENS OF STREET NAMES AND ANGLICIZATION
CYNTHIA TURNER EXPLORES THE LANGUAGE GAP FOR STUDENTS, PROVIDING INSIGHT THROUGH ANECDOTE AND WRITTEN CHINESE
WORDS, GENDER, AND NOTIONS OF SUCCESS
SARAH LYNN NEAL COMPILES RESEARCH ON THE CONNECTION BETWEEN SPEECH AND GENDER DESCRIMINATION
CONTENTS New Discoveries on Old Languages: Revitalizing Nahuatl PG. 03
WRITTEN BY WILLIAM MOESSINGER
The Story of Us: The Stories We Tell PG. 04
WRITTEN BY DYLAN PRESTON
Marginal Language: Race, Politics, and Austin Slang PG. 05
WRITTEN BY FRANCES MOLINA
Learning a Language: A Shifting Worldview PG. 06
WRITTEN BY OLIVIA MIZELL
The Language of Logic
CONTRIBUTERS OF THIS ISSUE ANNYSTON PENNINGTON Editor-in-Chief AMANDA GARCIA Design Editor CYNTHIA TURNER Staff Writer DYLAN PRESTON Staff Writer FRANCES MOLINA Staff Writer
WRITTEN BY JOSEPH PHILLIPS
Equal Education Opportunity Starts with English PG. 08
WRITTEN BY CYNTHIA TURNER
¿Por Qué No Hablas Español?: Latinos Who Can’t Speak Spanish PG. 10
WRITTEN BY JULIÁN MUÑOZ VILLARREAL
Words, Gender, and Notions of Success PG. 11
JOSEPH PHILLIPS Staff Writer JULIÁN MUÑOZ VILLARREAL Staff Writer KRISTI KAMESCH Staff Writer OLIVIA MIZELL Staff Writer SARAH LYNN NEAL Staff Writer
WRITTEN BY SARAH LYNN NEAL
Freedom of Speech (And Other F-Words) PG. 12
WRITTEN BY ANNYSTON PENNINGTON
WILLIAM MOESSINGER Staff Writer
NEW DISCOVERIES ON OLD LANGUAGES Revitalizing Nahuatl written by William Moessinger
or millennia, Hispanic communities have preserved a large “In graduate school we would focus on colonial literature with books like variety of different indigenous cultures and languages, which have Visions of the Vanquished, and at a certain point I started asking what survived in the wake of centuries of legal prohibition by European happened after conquest. I think that what’s new in what I’m doing is colonists and cultural stigmatization by its studying the writing and documenting that went on well beyond the colonial own people. One of these languages, period. 25 years ago [academics] started to say ‘hey they were active in the the Nahuatl (pronounced “now-watt”), has colonial period,’ but after that there’s just been this radio silence.” been the subject of a decade of research “...the main question by assistant professor Kelly McDonough. Despite this resurgence in scholastic interest, the Nahuatl language Last year, McDonough published a was always ‘why is a non- has become increasingly endangered due to cultural stigmatization book titled The Learned Ones: Nahua in Mexico. In the The Learned Ones, McDonough writes about indigenous doing this kind of travelling to Mexico City and discovering that to many people the Intellectuals in Postcounquest Mexico, which documents the history of Nahua research?’ And my response idea of a Nahuatl intellectual, or even a Nahuatl written language, academia and her efforts to revitalize it. is inconceivable. Even though the Nahuatl language has been was always ‘I’m doing this to endangered since the colonization of the New World, McDonough bother you! I want you to has identified one particular trend that is especially detrimental to the One of the most fascinating qualities of the Nahuatl language is its sheer scope survival of the Nahuatl language. do this work.’” of written documentation. Academics have uncovered 20,000 documents written in “One of the more alarming trends that we see is that young children are not Nahua (that number is still growing), which cover speaking the language anymore. At this point it’s just old people and they’re everything from the colonial period to the present day. starting to die.” In addition, there are approximately 1.5 million speakers currently using the language today, including dozens of intellectuals who have assumed the The vast majority of Nahua academics have been of indigenous descent, task of preserving their language and culture. McDonough has recognized the most prolific being Mexican historian Miguel León-Portilla. With her the abundance of historical insight these documents could offer, and on short red hair and appreciable northern accent, McDonough is a somewhat her website voices a desire to “[repopulate] the history of Mexico with unlikely figure to indigenous perspectives.” When I asked McDonough if these documents lead the charge for could offer an alternative view of colonial history not present in European Nahua preservation. accounts, she seemed more interested in the level of diversity present within McDonough was the the Nahuatl community, as opposed to the dichotomy between European first to acknowledge and non-European narratives. t his cultural discrepancy and expressed that her “I think for me one of the most interesting things I’ve learned is that it’s ultimate goal isn’t impossible to categorize indigenous response to colonization,” she said. just to revitalize “Or to say this is how Nahuatl people are or this is how they were. They’re Nahua culture with just as complex as any other human being on the planet and so for me it’s her own linguistic been really exciting to find indigenous people who are like ‘Catholicism is studies, but to the best!’ Or ‘thank God these people came!’ Not just the ones that say ‘I’m create an academic willing to die for my old ways.’” She was also quick to emphasize how far environment where the Nahuatl language extends beyond the colonial period. indigenous people
see “New Discoveries” - page 13
THE STORY OF US The Stories We Tell written by Dylan Preston
remember stories of my grandmother roaming the high school halls with Buddy Holly and of the musician Joe Ely returning to Lubbock, Texas, with a guitar, tearing up the city, and drifting out again across the plains. I will never forget the story of my great grandfather being shot to death in the Cabana Club during the tornado in 1967. These stories left me with something--a sense of the place from which I came. Stories are also capable of connecting us to each other and our pasts, helping us face our demons, and bringing joy to life. To understand more about the role of stories in our world, I spoke with Dr. Anthony Webster, a lingual anthropologist, and with Dr. Samer Ali, a former professor at UT now at the University of Michigan and an expert in Arabic Literature.
Dr. Webster told me a story: According to the Romans, storytelling had three functions: to move, to teach, and to delight. These functions, as basic as they are, have driven one of the most important activities in human history. Storytelling, according to Webster, is something we do everyday. The way stories are told, however, varies from society to society.
“stories are used to make us think about the world, our place in the world; it’s a way of giving imagination to someone.” Another example of Navajo storytelling revolves around stories of The Long Walk, when the U.S. forced the Navajo people to walk from their homeland in Arizona to New Mexico in 1864, allowing them to return four years later. Stories of the Long Walk focus on atrocities witnessed and experienced on the march and the beauty of the Navajo people’s return. In fact, many Navajo poems, Webster said, describe ugliness around the reservation, in an attempt to bring light to the injustice against them. Puns are highly regarded, with Navajo often implying a double meaning to English words. For instance, the word “god” in Navajo means, “juniper tree”. When the missionaries would come around, Navajo would ask why they worshipped trees. It must have confused the missionaries greatly until Christmas. The Navajo use storytelling, and language itself, to reflect their condition, like many societies before it. Resistance is often the main purpose of storytelling—from occupation, oppression, violence, bad times or, perhaps most importantly, loneliness.
Resistance is often the main purpose of storytelling- from occupation, oppression, Storytelling evolved to “dispel the feeling of being violence, bad times or, alone,” said Dr. Ali an expert in Middle Eastern and Islamic literature. From this longing for togetherness, perhaps most importantly, stories emerged to bring people together. The stories of on Alf Leila wa Leila, or The One Thousand and loneliness.
For example, an American college student describes his day to a roommate. The story revolves around character named “I”, and is somewhat associated with the storyteller, but, according to Dr. Webster, is, “wiser, quicker, more thoughtful,”: there are a lot of things about this “I” and what he is doing or saying that might not be exactly truthful, yet exaggeration, to a point, is common in this type of narrative. In Navajo tradition, however, your actions, not your retelling of them, should speak to others. The way people tell stories and what is acceptable differs greatly from society to society, generation to generation.
Dr. Webster then discussed some of the most famous Navajo stories, those about Coyote, who is always making trouble. These Coyote tales are often funny, and laughing at Coyote is a way of acknowledging that one understands that his actions are wrong. According to Webster, these stories exist because rather than correcting someone, a story encourages self-reflection on part of the listener, and in hearing these, “an autonomous human being…can imagine it, and engage in proper behavior.” In this case,
One Nights, are some of the most famous in the world and some earliest to describe and critique urban life. Nights revolves around the story of newly married and crowned Scheherazade and her telling of one story a night to her husband, King Shahryar, to prevent him from killing her and many brides after her. “The Nights emerges from the urban centers of the medieval Middle East - cities like Fez, Cairo, Aleppo, Basra, Baghdad give us the Nights,” Dr. Ali said. The stories reflected the situation of these cities. In the stories, said Dr. Ali, “we find diverse people (religions, ethnicities, professions) living on top of each other and through the Nights, the residents of these cities not only learn to co-exist, they make a virtue out of it.” The language used in the Nights is as diverse as the stories themselves.
see “Stories” - page 13
MARGINAL LANGUAGE: Race, Politics, and Austin Slang written by Frances Molina
t took me two months living in Austin before I learned the lingo. “Guad” for Guadalupe Street. “San Jac” for San Jacinto. The colloquial shortenings were smart and hip, a slang designed for the seasoned student and naturalized Austinite. I soon realized that this slang was a campus and city-wide phenomenon and one could even receive an aggressive side-eye for addressing any of these streets by their proper names. I’ve lived in Austin for three years now, but it wasn’t until some weeks ago that I began to question where these nicknames came from and what sort of cultural and political implications they might have for the city of Austin.
It’s not dramatic mental leap. Language is a human creation, a tool that we’ve fashioned to construct our identities and suit our particular needs. According to Stanford psychology professor Lera Boroditsky, language influences not only how we talk but how we think about and process the world. In an article for the Wall Street Journal, Boroditsky explains how research has shown that “the language we speak not only reflects or expresses our thoughts, but also shapes the very thoughts we wish to express.” With regards to the city of Austin, these findings could suggest that these colloquial nicknames inform the way students and Austinites alike understand the cultural map of Austin, its history, and its burgeoning future. In a poll conducted using 100 randomly selected University of Texas students, I attempted to gauge how frequently these nicknames are used to refer to various popular streets on campus and in the city. For Guadalupe St., 43% referred to it simply as “Guad”, 36% as “the Drag”, 12% as “Guadalupe”, and 9% as Guadalupe (Guadaloop). For San Jacinto St., 79% referred to it as “San Jac” and 21% as “San Jacinto”. In a question aimed specifically to address issues of pronunciation and meaning, I polled students about César Chavez Street. I gave the students three options: Caesar Chavez, César Chaves, and another option marked “Other” that included a text box for typed responses. A nearly identical percentage of students picked either of the first options, with 50% for Caesar Chavez and 46% for César Chavez. About 3% submitted some interesting “Other” responses. One poll taker replied with
“César Chavez. Accents are important. Indicate this on your poll” and another “It depends on whether I’m speaking Spanish or English”. These poll taker responses illustrate a key argument: that these nicknames are not just nicknames, but indicators of a growing tide of distressing cultural change that is sweeping Austin. The names of city streets like Guadalupe, San Jacinto, and César Chavez carry historical significance for the Hispanic communities of Austin. They recall the nearly forgotten multi-cultural heritage of the city and the state. Colloquial shortenings like “Guad” and “San Jac” and mispronunciations like “Caesar Chavez”, while seemingly innocuous, are
“[Austin] has a cultural environment that lacks dedication to social justice. It’s not right for a city that is the seat of the government of the state.” -Dr. Mercedes de Uriarte
linguistic representations of the slow but steady Anglicization of a city that is responsible for the exclusion and erasure of its substantial Hispanic/ Latino population. Anglicization is the process of converting something to an English or, in this case, American norm. This type of cultural change is a by-product of the larger issue of gentrification, a problem that has plagued Austin and disrupted both Hispanic and African-American communities for more than a decade. In the last seven years the problem of
gentrification has worsened and resulted in dissatisfaction and outrage from residents of the Eastside. The historic embodiment of racial segregation, East Austin began as a neighborhood largely populated, fostered, and celebrated by the Black and Latino working class. The arrival of new money and new entrepreneur business as well as the expansion of UT campus has rebuilt and revitalized deteriorating neighborhoods. Hordes of (mostly white) newcomers have streamed into the city, attracted by this newness and curious about what eclectic weirdness Austin has to offer. This same offer is not made for the old residents of the East side, however, whose businesses and communities have been destabilized by gentrification and the continuing racial and class segregation. Dr. Mercedes de Uriarte, associate professor emeritus in the School of Journalism, was awarded the Kellogg grant in 2010 to investigate and develop inter-community solutions for the epidemic of gentrification on Austin’s Eastside. Five years later, despite some small scale progress, Dr. Uriarte insists that gentrification remains a problem familiar only to those experiencing its detrimental consequences. Most everyone else, she says, is distracted by the city’s numerous “diversions”: the music scene, the burgeoning technological industry, the University’s football fame. “(Austin) has a cultural environment that lacks dedication to social justice,” Dr. Uriarte says, “It’s not right for a city that is the seat of the government of the state. It’s not right for a city that has a flagship university.” She remarks sadly that, “the city is only liberal for some people”. Of course the use of nicknames for popular streets does not directly contribute to gentrification, an obviously much more complex and multi-faceted issue. I’m not suggesting that the next time you casually direct your friend to turn right on “San Jac” that you are single-handedly contributing to the economic and social exclusion of ethnic populations in Austin. This slang is only a microaggression, a daily unintentional slight aimed at the marginalized minority. Nevertheless, this kind of language operates like gentrification on minute scale. It claims and it modifies. It takes and it converts itself into something that the majority
see “Marginal Language” - page 13
LEARNING A LANGUAGE: A Shifting Worldview written by Olivia Mizell
n most cases, students who are looking to study other cultures are interested in regions of the world where English is not the dominant language. Americans are placed at a disadvantage due to the fact that English is spoken across the globe, leading us to believe that learning another language is unnecessary. The University of Texas offers many languages for students to choose from.
I had the opportunity to talk to three students, all with different cultural experiences and different languages. These students demonstrated that learning a language is not solely about drilling vocabulary and sentence structure into one’s head; it completely transforms the way they view the world and the people in it.
she understands the world and the current events that change it daily. As for junior Madison Manoushagian, her motivation for learning French traces back to a childhood dream. At 12 years old, she had a friend whose sister had recently moved to Paris, spurring an image in Manoushagian’s head “albeit cheesy and stereotypical, of myself in a cafe admiring the Eiffel Tower with an accordion in the background.” She was able to recreate this image this previous summer when she spent 8 weeks in Paris studying abroad. Her initial ideas about the French prior to traveling there followed the popular stereotype of the French being brusque and rude. However, she believes that this is due to the personality of Americans that travel there, expecting everyone to adhere to our every wish and make a little USA in each country. Manoushagian joked that “My experience with the French was 99% positive which is probably a better rating than I would give to New Yorkers had I spent 8 weeks there.” As for being an American in Europe, she had her view on travel completely transformed. Geographically, it is very difficult for Americans to have weekend trips traveling abroad. This does not hold true in Europe, where all that is necessary to travel from country to country is to walk onto a [Olivia]: train. Traveling, to Manoushagian, “shouldn’t be a one time a year vacation, it should be an integral part of the way we live by hearing the stories of others.” If you have the privilege and resources to be avid traveler, there is always more to see, more to discover, and more to understand.
“[Traveling] shouldn’t be a one time a year vacation, it should be an integral part of the way we live...hearing the Sophomore Ariel Crane had no stories of others.” particular reason for choosing to study Italian, yet she has -Madison Manoushagian completely fallen in love with the language. Prior to starting Italian, Crane recalls that “all I really knew about Italy was the food, the love Italians have for soccer and their mothers, and what I’d learned from the Lizzie McGuire movie.”
Through her study of the culture, she has been able to look past the stereotypical, surface-level perception of Italy, and begin to understand the complexities of their politics, history, and culture. Studying another language has made Crane more in tune with international news, as she is planning on studying abroad in Rome this upcoming summer. To her, the Syrian Refugee Crisis has become “less distant and more relevant to me, since Italy receives many refugees.” Through studying another culture, Crane is inspired to be more globally aware, a skill that many people lack. Her advice for people who are just beginning a language is to know that “learning a language can be embarrassing sometimes,” recalling an instance when she stated in Italian that she’d lived in Disney World as a child, when she had intended to say she had visited it. However, learning Italian has given her a new outlook on how
see “Learning” - page 14
THE LANGUAGE OF LOGIC written by Joseph Phillips t is unusual for free will to be first denied and then affirmed by a professor in the same class period or for that same professor to offer a ten dollar bill to whomever can swindle him out of it. Yet these occurrences are by no means rare in Logic 313Q, a Philosophy course taught to Freshmen and Sophomores at the University of Texas by associate Professor Josh Dever. Logic 313Q is an unusual class for a number of reasons, the most visible of which is that the great majority of students enrolled in it are not even Philosophy majors. Dever was approached by the Plan II Honors program a few years back and asked to design a symbolic reasoning course for underclassmen. Dever says his goal was to create “a course that made clear to people across a wide range of humanity disciplines what was interesting and profitable about doing reasoning.”
For those who are not familiar with the Philosophy of Logic, the science can best be described as applying mechanical tools to complex issues in order to determine whether arguments and claims are valid or false. Dever, who received his PhD from Berkeley in 1998, is a leading member in the field of the Philosophy of Language.
dire real world consequences. Arguments that are structurally unsound often are based on false premises or result in invalid conclusions. Right now congress is locked in an intense battle over the Iran deal. However, as Bryce pointed out in one of his discussion sections, both sides of the arguments are relying on fallacious claims to leverage their point of view. That’s where logic comes into play. As freshman Rhetoric and Writing major Sarah Grace Forbes puts it “[logic] forces me to think about the world around me in a different light at all times.” At the core of logic, Dever uses mathematical symbols to model English mechanically. This is his tool kit. Although the complexities of English are too varied for logic to duplicate exactly, Dever believes he can form a language capable of computing truths. However, there are those in the philosophy community who are not convinced. As Bryce puts it: “A lot of philosophy graduate students are skeptical of logic and whether or not it is useful, but they make a ton of fallacious arguments all the time.” In fact, Bryce thinks that the tools taught in Logic 313Q are missing in some of the graduate community, the same tools Dever calls “fundamental for establishing rational arguments.” Bryce not only thinks all philosophy majors should take Logic, but that “everyone should be required to take a logic course in their undergraduate career.” Dever takes this argument one step further: “If it were up to me, logic would be taught in high school’s already.” His claim might seem surprising at first, but if logic could be analogized to elementary mathematical operations, then it would make total sense for everyone to have a basic understanding of it. Knowing multiplication and division is a necessary skill for all walks of life, as is basic grammatical fluency. These two examples are just models of language, and logic is no different. As freshman Plan II student Pranav Nair said “really all logic is, is the marriage of math and English.”
“[Almost everyday] you are invited to make educated, rational decisions and, unfortunately, we have a fundamental misunderstanding of how to do that.” -Professor Josh Dever
Graduate student Bryce Dalbey, who is the Teaching Assistant for the course, says of Professor Dever. “Josh is one of those philosophers who is locally famous, he’s just like the smartest professor we have. If Josh says P, then P.” What Bryce means by this last bit, is that if Dever states a claim just about everyone in the department accepts it at face value. Bryce majored in Philosophy here at Texas, and quickly fell in love with the subject. However, he stands firm that philosophy courses are widely applicable for any major, especially logic courses. “Everybody uses logic, you don’t realize it but you do it everyday.”
The problem, in both Dever’s and Bryce’s minds, is that humans as a species are bad at certain kinds of logic. In Dever’s view, “It’s very unlikely you will find yourself in a situation where you’re escaping the tiger anymore” but almost everyday “you are invited to make educated, rational decisions and, unfortunately, we have a fundamental misunderstanding of how to do that.” This misunderstanding Dever is referring to is one that can potentially have
Consider a world in which everyone was taught from a young age how to spot poor arguments as well as forming good ones. If logic really were a language, as Professor Dever believes it to be, then it would only make sense that students learn it at a young age while the plasticity of their brains is still
see “Logic” - page 13
平等的机会地开始用英文语法 许新迪 我小的时侯我没个星期六参加了中文学校。 我二年级 的时侯我的外婆跟我们家住在美国。她英文就知道说 “你 好” 和 “谢谢”。第一次我去了中国，我回来的时侯我妈妈 带回来了很多中文卡通给我和我弟弟看在美国。 那个时侯 我的中文说的很好。 到了中学一后，我的中文开始糟糕 了。在家我跟我家人说英文还有停去了中文学校。我的妈 妈经常告诉我，我的好好学习英文生词。我的多读先进的 英文小说。我想去个好的大学我的考试SAT考得好。我没 用我的中文所以我忘记了很多。 上个夏天我回去学学中文。我找到了一本中文语言然 后我开始自己读。开始的时候我想会很容易。但是我作练 习的时候，我很快认出来比我第一次想的难。我的中文在 二年级的程度。是很泄气因为我的思想是十八岁的。我想 写这个文章得时候我想先写中文然后翻译英文。你读我写 得句子你大概看出来我用得生词和句子都是很简单得 我很快认出来语言教育是很重要得。不管你多聪明， 你不知道英文语法，别人不会知道你这么聪明。学校在美 国都要求学生传达他们得思想用英文。但是很多公办学校 不用心得教英文语法在小学。还有他们当然不教英文语法 在中学。那个时候他们假设学生已经都知道基础语法。 很多学生会没有问题成功在学校用英文。在家他们跟 他们的家人说英文。像我的妈妈，他们的父母会告诉他们 的孩子多读书。就是现在美国有很多学生他们得父母是移 民。父母的英文还是不太好还是他们不说英文。长大的时 候这些孩子就说别的语言在家里不会说英文。两个研究者 在堪萨州大学， Betty Hart 和 Todd R. Risely, 发现孩子 从富裕的家庭比孩子从穷苦得家庭暴露于三十二百万生词 多他们四岁的时候。 在二令一三，Anne Ferneld, 找到这个语言差距开始早 一点。到十八个月，孩子从穷没有教育地家庭比孩子从富 裕，有教育地家庭认出来画片用英文字多。很多移民得家
庭是穷苦得先到美国的时候。没有公办得学校他们不会有 财力给孩子学习英文。 学生想成功在学校，他的英文得很好。学生从家庭父 母不说英文还是英文不标准在学校会很快认出来要成功是 很男。 有些老师不会认学生不是不知道他教得课考试得时 候，他就不知道这么表达他的思想。现在很多公办学校有 英文第二语言课（ESL）就是有的时候不够。美国的索尼 娅·索托马约尔写在他得书里，他是从不富有得家庭。 他 参加普林斯顿大学， 他写得语法不是标准的。一个老师告 诉她她的问题， 所以她认真得学习英文法语。就是很少学 生会在个学校像普林斯顿大学， 在那儿有老师可以帮助。 很多这些学生会在大城市进出公办得学校，从小学很快就 被留下来。 很多父母想给他们的孩子这个“美国梦想”就是没有他 们的同学的语言能力。他们不会有相同的机会成功。美国 的公办学校应该用心的给英文语法课从小学开始。也到夏 天的时候，学校继续给课所以学生不会忘记他们学的。美 国想我们的“美国梦想” 是好神驰，就是没有同样的机会学 英文，大家不会有同样的机会得到这个“美国梦想”。
To read Cynthia Turner’s follow up article “UT Students Volunteer to Combat Illiteracy in Austin Area,” scan here or go to our website. http://q-r.to/mr-willibf
EQUAL EDUCATION OPPORTUNITY STARTS WITH THE ENGLISH LANGUAGE written by Cynthia Turner tarting in preschool, I spent every Saturday morning at Chinese school. I took tests, practiced grammar and vocabulary, and recited Chinese poetry. In the second grade, my mother’s mother came to live with our family in the United States. She only knew how to say “hello” and “thank you” in English, meaning communication was restricted to Chinese. Returning from my first visit to China, we brought back several Chinese cartoons to watch at home. During that time, my spoken Chinese was as proficient as my spoken English.
When I reached high school, I spent substantially less time using my Chinese. Instead I was preparing for college, and my weekends were filled with other extracurricular activities that conflicted with Chinese school. My mom frequently emphasized the importance of building my English vocabulary and analytical reading abilities so I would perform well on the SAT. Inevitably, Chinese fell to the wayside. This past summer, I decided to pick it up again and test out of the university’s language requirements. I picked out a language book and proceeded to study on my own. I tried practicing with my mother by speaking to her only in Chinese, but it was awful. I always would reach a point when my shortage of vocabulary made it impossible to communicate the extent of my ideas, so I’d resignedly return to using English. My ideas were as complex as my nineteen-year old self, but I frustratingly had the Chinese vocabulary of a first grader. When first writing this article, I decided to write it first in Chinese before roughly translating into English. The Chinese version took me about four times as long to write. The grammar is shaky, the syntax is incredibly simplistic, and there are likely several instances when I likely used the wrong
vocabulary. The poor writing inevitably made my ideas come across as clunky and childish. I realized how valuable language education is. I remembered the experience of a close friend of mine who was very intelligent and one of the most diligent workers I have ever met. She had recently shared with me her struggle to communicate her ideas effectively in standard, written English. Her parents had emigrated from Mexico to the United States right before she had reached middle school. At home, they spoke almost entirely Spanish except the occasional English between siblings. Her access to English was incredibly
“...children from poorer, less educated families were exposed to 32 million fewer English words than those from wealthy, more educated families by the age of four.”
limited in comparison to the majority of her peers. She attended public middle school and high school where very little time is devoted to grammar lessons. The standards were low and her proficiency ignored. Now that she is in college, she struggles to achieve the grades she believes she is capable of attaining because of her limited access to language. She explained it as playing a game of catch-up with her peers. She is an example of one of many who suffer an educational disadvantage due to the fact that they are from an immigrant family.
Much of the education system in the United States requires students to analytically comprehend concepts presented in English and then effectively communicate those ideas in English. However, most public schools haphazardly teach English grammar in elementary school. By middle and high school, grammar lessons tend to be restricted to the basic use of punctuation because at that point it is assumed that students already know what they need to know. For most students, schools do not require intensive English grammar classes. At home, they speak English with their family. Like my mother, many educated, English speaking parents encourage their kids to read and emphasize reading comprehension. By simply being exposed to the spoken English language since birth, they already have an advantage in English communication. For the children of immigrant families, they often don’t encounter much English until they enroll in public school. If efforts are not made to overcome this language gap, it translates into a drastic gap in educational performance. In 2003, two researchers from the University of Kansas, Betty Hart and Todd R. Risely, found that children from poorer, less educated families were exposed to 32 million fewer English words than those from wealthy, more educated families by the age of four. When Hart and Risely followed up with their study a few years later, the difference in school performance was glaring. Those of lower socio-economic statuses with parents of less education were exposed to less English and performed substantially poorer than their peers from higher socio-economic with highly educated parents. A follow-up study by Anne Ferneld, a psychologist at Stanford University, found in 2013 that the language gap starts much earlier. She
see “Equal Education” - page 14
¿POR QUÉ NO HABLAS ESPAÑOL?: Latinos who can’t speak Spanish written by Julián Muñoz Villarreal peaking Spanish for an American Latino is not a simple fact. The Latino relationship to language is complex in a country that has made Spanish illegal in schools in the past, underfunds and overloads ESL programs, and socially prioritizes English as the national language. Language soon becomes a proxy war waged to determine identity for many Latino Americans.
Caught in this crossfire are Latinos, like myself, who can’t speak Spanish. Some of us were never taught Spanish, some of use lost our Spanish in the hard walls built around American school, and some of our families never spoke Spanish at all. Because many believe Spanish is a key to who we are, our identity is constantly being challenged, mostly by Latinos themselves. Once at work, a Latina told me it was sad that I don’t speak Spanish but have a Spanish name, in a tone that sounded more like a hiss then sympathetic. She then proceeded to tell me to practice with another coworker, even though I have studied Spanish for years and told her as such. When I eventually mentioned it to the coworker I was meant to “practice” with, I found she could barely say a handful of words.
The way Spanish operates in Latino identity is multifaceted; it is used as an in-group marker of identification and it provides a line of communication that crosses national, generational, and historical lines that has united the Latino community. Because of this, many Latinos choose to ignore the deeper roots of what give us our common identity: a common culture, shared American experience, and a devotion to Selena. Instead of recognizing these commonalities, these traits are replaced with a language that a significant portion of the populations cannot speak; hence, their place in the Latino community is called into question. Authenticity is then based of an arbitrary trait that many Latinos do not have, which is a dangerous precedent considering the Latino community continues to face such issues like systematic racism and lacking economic opportunities.
Language soon becomes a proxy war waged to determine identity for many Latino Americans.
40% of United States born teenagers speak English exclusively and another 29% of the total US born Latino population only speak English, according the Pew Research Forum. In addition, the percentage of foreign-born Latinos who speak Spanish either exclusively or extensively rose from 47% in 2000 to 70%. While foreign-born adults have remained constant, around 32%, meaning there could be many parents who speak to their children in a language they struggle to understand themselves. When prominent Latinos, such as the Castro brothers, Jessica Alba, or Selena, come out as not speaking Spanish, the conversation immediately turns to identity and authenticity. The revelation of their lack of Spanish speaking skills is often coupled with antidotes of wanting to learn the language, taking Spanish classes, buying Rosetta Stone, and actively trying
to learn to shake off pretenses that come with being a Latino that doesn’t speak Spanish. When it comes out that their Spanish falters, there is always a discussion on their authenticity as Latinos, such as the flurry of articles devoted to the Castro brother’s lack of fluent Spanish in 2012 and sporadically since. These situations remind Latinos who don’t speak Spanish that you must strive to speak Spanish, even if you are running a million person city, otherwise your identity is subject to be taken away.
Instead of acknowledging our similarities, Latinos hear our awkward Spanish or our unaccented English and leer, staring at us for a few more seconds then feels comfortable. Racing through their head is sometimes confusion or distrust, often disappointment, a lamentation of a lost sense of heritage. It is a stare that pulls out your tongue and rubs your skin to see if the brown washes away.
WORDS, GENDER, & NOTIONS OF SUCCESS written by Sarah Lynn Neal unction words are classified as “the most common and forgettable words” in our speech, according to Dr. James Pennebaker of UT’s Department of Psychology. Function words are the articles, prepositions, pronouns, and auxiliary verbs that have a tendency to get bogged down by the ideas they’re expressing. Despite their small significance in everyday conversation, these words can say a lot about the person using them. Dr. Pennebaker studies function words and their relation to gender. With surprising accuracy, Pennebaker’s research was able to identify the gender identity of a person purely on the basis of the function words they utilize in their written and spoken language. It is worth noting that Pennebaker’s research focused on self-identifying men and women, so the data collected is working within the gender binary. According to the study, women tend to speak with “I words, such as I, me, my,” third person pronouns, auxiliary verbs—“am, is, was, have, had”—and cognitive words that express more analytical thoughts. In contrast, the men studied typically use more articles and prepositions. The study exemplifies the differences between the internal thought processes of men and women. The findings suggest that men and women are simply talking about different things. According to Pennebaker, “women tend to be more interested in human relationships and other people,” hence their emphasis on cognitive and analytical words, such as “realize, know, believe, think.” Male speech tends to place emphasis on “objects and things” which requires a more definite and “specific” speech that does not rely on analysis. Because the study is inherently categorical, one might be interested to find whether the words one uses, and thus their gender identity, has any correlation with intelligence. This question, however, is not as easily answered. Dr. Pennebaker commented that there is a bit of a discrepancy in the study of function words and their
relation to intellectual success: “In other research, I’ve found that people who write admissions essays in a more ‘male’ like way…do much better in college over the next four years. However, females, on average, make higher grades than males in this large (25,000) sample.” This analysis leads to a larger
With surprising accuracy, Pennebaker’s research was able to identify the gender identity of a person purely on the basis of the function words they utilize in their written and spoken language.
blueprint for language use across socioeconomic backgrounds, as it may not be advantageous to draw assumptions about the intelligence or capability of a group of people purely on the basis of how they express their thoughts. Despite this newfound knowledge about language and speech patterns, society retains a tendency to deem one side of the gender binary—the feminine— as less capable, less authoritative than their masculine counterparts. We’ve seen this through the recent outspokenness in the media with regard to vocal fry. Vocal fry is a speech pattern that creates a vibrating, low register sounding voice, paying particular interest to the drawing out of words at the end of a sentence. Women in pop culture are often the most vulnerable to this kind of criticism, as they are in the spotlight and thus videos of them using
vocal fry are easy to find. However, recent findings suggest that working women are being passed up for jobs and opportunities on the basis of their speech as well. According to a national study produced by Duke University in May 2014, vocal fry is generally viewed negatively. The findings conclude “young adult female voices exhibiting vocal fry are perceived as less competent, less educated, less trustworthy, less attractive and less hirable.” These assertions stand in contrast to the authoritative, declarative speech used by the men in Dr. Pennebaker’s study, a factor that could tie in to explaining why malecharacterized written speech in college admissions essays is linked with greater success over a college career. One particularly interesting factor in the Duke vocal fry study uncovered that the female listeners who participated had “a more negative perception of vocal fry than male listeners for all five judgments” (as outlined above). This particularity might point to a greater, self-depreciating tendency among women as a response to the criticisms of our maledominated society. Women’s strong negative view of other women using vocal fry reflects the competitive nature that has been drawn out of women with the rise of women in the workforce. In an effort to be successful, to prove their worthiness in the field, women are scornful of what might stand in the way of their success. What is most disconcerting, however, about the assumptions placed on women who use vocal fry is the ways in which it mirrors previous gender-based biases. When women began entering the workforce more frequently in the early 1960s, it was mandatory for women in most office environments to wear panty hose. Wearing pantyhose in the workplace was an effort to retain modesty, a standard that still pervades our modern society in varying forms, and it was intended to appease the patriarchal underpinnings of the workplace. Much like pantyhose, the concentrated effort to eliminate vocal fry, upspeak, and other forms of feminine-
see “Gender” - page 13
FREEDOM OF SPEECH (& OTHER F-WORDS) written by Annyston Pennington ay one of class opens on the distinct and catchy rhythm of Cee Lo Green’s hit “Forget You” blares from the lecture hall’s speakers. As students settle into their seats, the professor, smiling at the front of the room, introduces the class to the course by transitioning from the radio-edited version of the pop song to the original version “F*** You.” The humor and awkwardness that comes with hearing obscenity in class segues to the professor’s question: “Now, class, what was the affect?”
As the mind behind the “Vampires in Slavic Culture” course, UT’s Dr. Thomas Garza is no stranger to how present provocative material in an academic setting. Until Spring of 2012, Garza taught a popular class called “Male Dicta”—or “bad language” for readers a bit rusty on their Latin. The class was inspired not only by the linguistic history of foul words but primarily how, when, and why we use them. In his other courses on language and literature, Garza excels in incorporating contemporary discussion on race, gender, class, and other social structures into his syllabi. For “Male Dicta,” however, Garza dealt with the unique pressure that comes with teaching something as controversial as foul language and its cultural context. Despite pre-class nerves, according to Garza, the class “gelled” from day one and was largely successful. The class ended with the final “Revision Project” wherein small groups were expected to make clean versions of explicit texts (e.g. literature, film, music, etc.) while maintaining the same affect, or response, as the original version.
Though foul words are not always used to inflict specific harm—in fact, many expletives are used more as “linguistic throwaways” in daily speech— there is still a reason behind this particular kind of speech, whether to demonstrate familiarity or aggression. Some of the usage depends on the type of word we’re resorting to. According to the Male Dicta course, foul words fall into two basic categories: profanity (words that provoke belief systems) and obscenity (the generally nasty). Beyond these categories, words are filtered into areas of use based on the community and cultural context. For example, words used in the context of hip hop music would be seen as offensive if used in an interpersonal context, such as slurs for women or Black people. Though there is still a specific response, the audience will not only tolerate the use of “bad language” but may view it as necessary for the artistic medium. The affect of male dicta relies on who performs the speech, who receives the speech, and the medium of communication between the two (e.g. music, film, conversation, etc.).
Though foul words are not always used to inflict specific harm, there is still a reason behind this particular kind of speech, whether to demonstrate familiarity or Though Dr. Garza’s class facilitates open, agression. professional discussion on bad language, the
For this project, Garza recalled, three boys once tackled a scene from Quentin Tarantino’s cult classic, Pulp Fiction. According to many students, recreating violent and profane texts into “radio edit” versions was fun but harder than a final research paper. Some students resorted to more PG language in their projects, but Garza said, “Euphemisms only get you so far.” The difficulty of this assignment could be attributed to the special reactions expletives incite in audiences, reactions Garza sought to explore in depth. We tend to use “male dicta when we know there is an audience,” Garza stated in my interview with him. The desire for a reaction, motivates the use of foul language, especially, he went on, when we “want to inflict harm.” Though a more intellectual argument, devoid of expletives, may carry the
same message, the affect would not be the same. Neither tactic of inflicting verbal harm is a positive one, but foul words at least are direct, abrupt, and crisp. “Like a knife,” Garza said. The monosyllabic words, often beginning and ending with consonants, are sharp and penetrating—speech as a weapon.
coursework does reflect on the relationship between the First Amendment and censorship and just how successful the legislating of speech actually is. In academic settings, the contention concerning inappropriate or controversial language/ topics has culminated in such headlines as “I’m a liberal professor, and my students terrify me” by an anonymous professor on Vox. This article laments the way social justice culture has infiltrated the academic playing field, limiting what topics professors feel comfortable to discuss and, in effect, limit what students can learn. The opposing argument is that academic spaces should be safe spaces for all students, not just those who benefit from being part of the majority demographic or who have not experienced trauma. Though this discourse has been heavily split, Dr. Garza argues that the responsibility of safe academic spaces fall on effective communication between professors and
CONTINUED ARTICLES NEW DISCOVERIES: feel comfortable studying their own heritage. “I think what’s been neat about this project is the way it’s started conversations in Mexico. I spent a good amount of time in the summer working with intellectuals and then a couple of weeks ago in Mexico and the main question was always ‘why is a non-indigenous doing this kind of research?’ And my response was always ‘I’m doing this to bother you! I want you to do this work.’ I really want younger Nahua to see that this is something that they could do. A lot of times I do what I do to bother people and hopefully this will move people to think differently and act differently.” McDonough’s research exemplifies a new phase in academia where indigenous people are seen as human beings, rather than abstract subjects we observe from our own detached place in history. This realization is especially hard to ignore when the Nahua language has such a large community, despite its waning use. If scholars engage with this active community, it has a better chance of remaining alive and vibrant. If they treat Nahua as a historical artifact, it may eventually succumb to history. STORIES: According to Ali, “[The language] reflects the colloquial of the urban centers, so you have a mix of colloquial [dialects]…which constructs a vision of community built on diversity/divergence on the linguistic level. It’s brilliant.” The stories in the Nights also have important lessons for readers. Ali said that, “The Nights teaches us that diverse (especially non-normative ‘flaws’) and diverging perspectives can’t be ignored…without tragic consequences. More than anything, the Nights has taught me that if/when perspectives diverge, that’s a beautiful thing and that’s when great stories begin.” Storytelling has been an essential part of every culture. Passed on by oral traditions, etched and painted onto stone, or scribed onto paper, stories tell of great legends and the rise of great heroes and civilizations. They tell of the triumph of good over evil and cautionary tales of people gone astray. From The One Thousand and One Nights in the Middle East or Navajo poetry, to others told around fires and living rooms that have fallen on too few ears, stories and the art of storytelling play profound roles in human experience. Storytelling uses language to transcend time and space and impart to the listener insight into her own humanity, grounding her in this world no matter how fantastic the tale.
MARGINAL LANGUAGE: unanimously deems useful and acceptable. In order to continue using language effectively and thoughtfully, the way it was meant to be used, we must take it upon ourselves to interrogate our intentions. We must look critically at the kinds of language we use and toward what end, no matter how harmless or meaningless it may seem. And ultimately, if we insist on using certain kinds of language, we must also strive to understand the consequences of the world we have built with our words.
LOGIC: malleable. For those who are interested in learning this
language, Professor Dever has been writing a textbook specifically to teach logic to any level for the past few years. A true believer in the free dissemination of information, Dever has posted his unfinished work on his website. Every week he adds to it and then posts his updates. The name of his textbook: Get Rational With these Four Weird Tricks. Perhaps it is time we do. students, rather than an individual party. In his classes, Garza implements trigger warnings. These warnings are cues to students prior to discussing or showing material that what they’re about to see may be triggering, uncomfortable, or offensive. Rather than derailing discussion, trigger warnings let students know what to expect while providing a space for open discussion on the material. Although he takes measures to acknowledge the sensitivity of certain subjects, Garza does stress that there must be openness of communication between students and professors to establish a “shame free zone.” This establishment of communication, however, cannot always be professor initiated. Dr. Garza said that he absolutely values the freedom of expression but also values the “imperative of higher education to create courses and an atmosphere in which vigorous discussion occurs on subjects we do not always agree on.” Students must understand that they will encounter different points of views, while professors must be willing to engage in conversation on what Garza calls the “human factor” in teaching—the fact that every student brings different life experiences, not immune to trauma, to the classroom. Garza added that “we as human beings have the right to say ‘no’ to discussing a subject,” but in an academic setting, there must be proactivity regarding alternatives to material. One perk to teaching in the humanities is that while humanistic studies inherently include difficult subject matter, these courses are also inherently adjustable. According to Garza, the purpose of these studies is to “talk about who we are,” and that sets the tone for an inclusionary environment. Dr. Garza appears to advocate communication and empathy over limitations on difficult subjects, whether that communication is among students or between students and professors. On the last day of class, Garza had his Male Dicta students take a quiz, which asked, “Will you think more before your use [bad language]?” According to Garza, the answer was unanimous: “Absolutely.” “If nothing else,” Garza said, “they would think twice [about using Male Dicta] after discussing these [words] in an academic context.” Ultimately, courses on controversial subjects, such as bad language, are valuable for this reason: to push students to think critically about the way they behave in and respond to the world around them.
GENDER: centric speech reflects the continued obstacles women face
in a world structured to favor male-characterized speech. Rather than criticizing people for the ways they express their ideas, furthering a bias that suggests there is a ‘correct’ way to speak, we should listen to what people are actually saying.
CONTINUED ARTICLES LEARNING:
Always take the plunge when presented with the
opportunity to travel. An issue that would not be apparent to transient visitors to France would be the problem of integrating immigrants. This could possibly be attributed to the recent Charlie Hebdo shooting. Manoushagian recalls “from the time I landed at Charles de Gualle airport, I would frequently see armed security. Every time it would be three people walking shoulder to shoulder emotionless and ready to react to any threat.” In relation to the Syrian Refugee Crisis, she is just left with questions as to how the French could respond to the influx of people, stating that, “I understood this issue less as I became more conscious of the integration issue, and how hard it is to solve” due to the complexities of how it is affecting the economy and political environment of France. No “right” answer has presented itself in the wake of the Syrian Refugees looking for safety. Manoushagian’s recommendations for students who are looking into traveling abroad, especially in France, is to not only learn the general culture and etiquette, but “to go beyond that; in France, the French identity is an important construct that influences every aspect of society.” She implores others to take the time to evaluate how the culture affects the day-to-day. Learning another language and studying abroad for Manoushagian shaped her view on how different countries and cultures react to the world surrounding them. In the case of UT junior Austin Reynolds, he chose to study Spanish because his father had done mission work in Guatemala, sparking his interest in the culture that surrounds the language. In addition to this, Texas is a state where Spanish is highly used. Reynolds states that “being able to understand something altogether foreign has been one of my favorite experiences of my college education,” exemplifying the fact that learning a new language helps one to connect with others on a deeper level than what would’ve been achievable before. Through instances when he has felt lost amidst a Spanish conversation, Austin made the realization that “your native language makes you feel at home.” With this new understanding of how language affects one’s sense of security, he now has a newfound appreciation for becoming bilingual. People tend to become closest to others that share similar backgrounds, experiences, and interests. Learning Spanish, especially here in Texas where it is so commonly spoken, allows for Reynolds to broaden his experiences and background. Therefore, his opportunities to connect with new and different people become far greater. As for students that are coming into a new language, Reynolds recommends to not be afraid of mispronouncing something, referencing that “when we were children, we commonly mispronounced words” and that “we were shameless and fearless about saying something incorrectly.” The only way to know if you are doing something incorrectly is to be brazen about talking about it. Trial and error is pivotal while learning a language. People mispronounce English words daily, even if they are native speakers. With his experience of learning Spanish, Reynolds now has a newfound appreciation for studying other cultures; he now has another outlet
for others to connect with him, which he can carry with him throughout his career and life. Through hearing about these student’s experiences, it is hard to deny that learning another language is something that should be explored by everyone, not just Liberal Arts students who are required to do so. Connecting with people and being globally aware are skills that cannot be taught; they are accumulated through experiences. In this day and age, social media allows us to reach across national lines without ever leaving our seats. However, this cannot replace the necessity of immersing oneself in the study of another culture and language. Actively analyzing and learning about another culture is diminishing in priority, but these students’ stories illustrate how beneficial it is for people to continue to learn about the world surrounding them.
EQUAL EDUCATION: found that 18 month olds from
wealthy, educated families could identify pictures in English much faster than those of poorer, less educated families. Immigrant parents are simply unable themselves to expose their children to English because they themselves have little to no proficiency and they do not have the financial resources to provide external sources of English education. If students want to succeed in school, they have to have good English, but public schools often take for granted a student’s ability to speak English. For the children of immigrants, this means that success in school requires much more work. It is sometimes difficult for teachers to recognize that a student struggles because of a language barrier rather than a simple inability to comprehend the concepts taught in class. Consequently, these students slip through the cracks and find themselves placed in lower and lower level classes. Currently, certain public schools in Texas offer English Second Language (ESL) classes, but often times it is not enough to make up for the delayed start time. Each parent, especially immigrants, wants to give their kids the American Dream, but without the same English language abilities as their peers, they do not have the same educational opportunities to succeed. Ensuring equal economic opportunity requires securing equal educational opportunities. For some children of immigrants, to reach the American Dream will have to start with better access to English education.
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BONUS CONTENT The Art of Words a photo essay by Cynthia Turner “The idea of graffiti as art or desecration is a debate I remember noticing at a very young age. I still do not have a clear stance on the issue. However, I do believe that every human needs selfexpression. We need words to last through a permanent medium to know that our thoughts are deserving of a permanence beyond ourselves.”
Haiku: a short poem that uses language to convey the essence of an experience. the world is in flames I will never recover my grade: eighty nine -Keonnie Parrilla Slowly crawling ant: I wish I possessed as much Direction as you. -Anonymous
For the continued photo essay scan here to go to the full online article.
“I don’t actually support Donald Trump. I wrote him a letter. I don’t even know if he read it, but he sent a package with all this campaign stuff. At least I’d like to think Trump sent it himself and not just some campaign staff. I wear it because it’s funny. Sometimes people really think I support Donald Trump. I’m definitely conservative, but I haven’t decided on which candidate I want to support yet.” -Varun Upneja
under Emphasize Overempathizing lies Hyperbole hurts -Maggie Morris The most noble thing— To remember life as worth Living. Then dying. -Anonymous Young, foolish puppy You cannot eat from the bowl When there is no food -Jay O’Bryant Crashing waves, sky blue, Being real, breathing it in, Falling. I am here. -Anonymous