Languages and cultures of America

Linguist Max Weinreich wrote, “A Language is a Dialect with an Army and a Navy.” What he was getting at is that the distinction between a dialect in a language is often more political than anything intrinsic to the language itself. A case in point was the Ebonics controversy of the mid-1990s when the Oakland, California school board attempted to use Ebonics or African American English as a tool to help children learn standard English. When the Oakland school Board found itself the target of anger and abuse, many linguists tried to explain that Ebonics was not a substandard or debased form of English, but a full-fledged dialect, with its own internal structure and logic.

UC San Diego professor Eric Bakovic talks about African American English and other dialects/languages of the United States in his course Languages and Cultures of America (feed).

Course tidbit: our language comprehension combines what we see along with what we hear. A great example is the McGurk effect. Check out this video. First listen to it with your eyes closed, and you will hear “Ba ba ba ba ba ba.” Now watch the video and you will hear something different.

Note: UCSD courses usually disappear at the end of the quarter.  To check current offerings go to the UCSD course podcast website.

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