Code-Switching

  1. How is language used as an instrument to show social, racial, and class differences in various texts?
This video centers its topic fully on code-switching, especially with the register of African-Americans against the register of White Americans.
Language here is used to show social, racial, and class differences. Since the two speakers in the video are biracial (White and African American), they express these two races with a humorous approach. They’re normal register sounds more like the White Americans. However since they are usually considered as African Americans, they say that they are able to “adjust their blackness”. As a social status, they code-switch to the African American register when trying to empower their identities, trying to  “terrify white people”. People who have two or more different cultural background will often be able to code-switch, finding the best language style for  certain situations. In addition, this video conveys how language is used in identifying race. Different races have different dialects and registers. Along with this we can also say that the language we use is a part of our culture; the way we think is based on the language we speak. Both of the speakers in the video show how they code-switch to the African American dialect, and this certainly does change the way they react to each other, or changes their attitudes. Since African Americans have stereotypes of gangsters, rappers, or other figures that are much more casual than the stereotypes of the white. Sometimes they happen to be portrayed as an evil  character or a lower class, due to the history America has between races. However time has past from then, and people are accepting different cultures as globalization becomes the norm. The two speakers in the video take a comical approach to this slight discrimination; accepting, and seeking acceptance by turning it into humor.

How Can Language Empower or Disempower People?

As we are living in a modern world filled with cultural diversity, technological advancement, and many other factors that can impact our perspectives, the language we use can also change the way we communicate with others. How can language empower or disempower people? This can be answered by exploring the two texts, “Body Ritual Among the Nacirema“, a study of anthropology written by Horace Miner (Text A) and “The Clash of Communicative Strategies in Australia“, (Text B) a blog post by Olivia.

When we read a certain text, the way we perceive the information given is different within each and one of us. The main purpose to Text A would be to have the readers question the logical understandings or set in stone rules we always had. Miner describes the Nacirema (or just ‘Americans’ backwards) as these “North American group”, in order to have the readers view themselves from a third person perspective. Readers do not notice that the crude culture or actions by the “Nacirema” is just describing Americans with a negative tone. On the other hand, Text B is a blog post with its aim to the point. The writer discusses the clash of language and culture between the Standard Australians (SAE) and the Aboriginal Australians (AbE). The purpose of this text is to introduce this ongoing issue or segregation (hence the website name) to the readers. In addition, the target audience for this post would be any readers who are interested in the topic of cultural diversity, or cultural bias. Likewise, the target audience for Text A would be readers who are interested in culture differences. It would mainly be targeted for students, teachers, or educators who are studying the topic of anthropology, or social sciences.

Text A and Text B share many common topics. One of them is how they express ethnocentric views. The main cause of having different views on some cultures can be due to ethnocentricity. When a person is thinking in a ethnocentric way, it means that the reader is basing its own culture as the center of logic. Ethnocentrism is the evaluation of other cultures according to the standards of your own culture. Text A takes a reverse view of the Americans, studying the behaviours or rules they’ve always had and unquestioned. One of the most disempowering idea Miner brings up is how hospitals are used in modern society. “No matter how ill the supplicant or how grave the emergency, the guardians of many temples will not admit a client if he cannot give a rich gift to the custodian.” (¶ 14) In our world today, this rule is a logical rule; we pay doctors and hospitals to cure our illness. However, when taking out our logic or ethnocentricity, we start to see the inhumane act hidden. If hospitals are a place to save lives, wealth should not matter when accepting patients. In addition, the way Miner describes American culture has an extremely negative tone, disempowering the readers. “The use of these objects in the exorcism of the evils of the mouth involves almost unbelievable ritual torture of the client.” (¶ 11) Miner describes how a patient is cured at the dentist, using words such as “evil”, “torture”, or “exorcism”, which gives off a cruel image of Western culture. 

On the other hand, Text B compares the SAE and AbE, as well as tackling the difference between these two cultures. Text B empowers the SAE, while disempowering AbE. This can be seen by how the blog post comments on the lack of power of the AbE; “Aborigines have found that the easiest method to deal with White people is to agree with whatever it is that the Anglo- Australians want and then to continue on with their own business. ” (Liberman249). Here, it shows how the AbEs have given up on trying to communicate with the SAEs, which means that the language currency of the AbEs are decreasing. It is also said that the AbEs have used code-switching in order to suit the SAEs way of speaking english. The post also describes how such misunderstandings can cause an AbE speaker to admit a crime they were not responsible of, at a court of law. This means that even a small difference between the two can be the cause of an unintended crime.

Both of these texts describes the pros and cons of our usage in Language. Text A focuses on cultural bias, ethnocentricity, and how language determinism can alter or persuade the readers mind in discriminating a certain culture. Text B also shows what cultural bias can cause, and how one language can be disempowered by the other. Throughout the two texts, we can see how language can be a very significant factor in communication. If we reduce cultural bias and over ethnocentrism, we would be able to accept other cultures and languages, just as they are. The first step to this would be to actually get to know the diverse cultures around the world.