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Subtitled Dreams

Updated: May 8, 2021

Society for Linguistic Anthropology Blog Post on linguistic discrimination in higher education.

"I dream about the day when I am no longer praised for my “well-articulated” thoughts.

The week before the Reading Week in the fall of 2018 was a typical week for the final review at the University of Colorado, Boulder. In the last recitation for a large undergraduate introductory course on Language in US Society that I am TAing for, I asked one of the review questions, “What does establishing agendain the interviews mean?” During the semester, we had learned the discursive structure of political interviews: how an interviewer sets up an agenda for the interview with presuppositions and preferences and how a politician might evade or resist the agenda. A student asked, “What is agenda?” I clarified, “How do we set up an agenda in our conversations?” More than one student chimed in; they did not understand my question. Out of frustration, I repeated, “agenda, agenda! You don’t remember?” At one point, students exclaimed, “Oh, you mean agenda!” They continued to explain to me how the word “agenda” is supposed to be “pronounced like the word Canada.” As a non-native English speaker, I had produced a “hypercorrected” version of the word “agenda” [əˈd͡ʒʌdɑ:ɹ] with the long vowel and an added approximant at the syllable-final position instead of the common American pronunciation [əˈd͡ʒʌdə]. The class dwelled on my pronunciation for a while instead of reviewing its theoretical meaning...."

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