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Writing Guide with Handbook

2.7 Spotlight on … Variations of English

Writing Guide with Handbook2.7 Spotlight on … Variations of English

Table of contents
  1. Preface
  2. The Things We Carry: Experience, Culture, and Language
    1. 1 Unit Introduction
    2. 1 The Digital World: Building on What You Already Know to Respond Critically
      1. Introduction
      2. 1.1 "Reading" to Understand and Respond
      3. 1.2 Social Media Trailblazer: Selena Gomez
      4. 1.3 Glance at Critical Response: Rhetoric and Critical Thinking
      5. 1.4 Annotated Student Sample: Social Media Post and Responses on Voter Suppression
      6. 1.5 Writing Process: Thinking Critically About a “Text”
      7. 1.6 Evaluation: Intention vs. Execution
      8. 1.7 Spotlight on … Academia
      9. 1.8 Portfolio: Tracing Writing Development
      10. Further Reading
      11. Works Cited
    3. 2 Language, Identity, and Culture: Exploring, Employing, Embracing
      1. Introduction
      2. 2.1 Seeds of Self
      3. 2.2 Identity Trailblazer: Cathy Park Hong
      4. 2.3 Glance at the Issues: Oppression and Reclamation
      5. 2.4 Annotated Sample Reading from The Souls of Black Folk by W. E. B. Du Bois
      6. 2.5 Writing Process: Thinking Critically about How Identity Is Constructed Through Writing
      7. 2.6 Evaluation: Antiracism and Inclusivity
      8. 2.7 Spotlight on … Variations of English
      9. 2.8 Portfolio: Decolonizing Self
      10. Further Reading
      11. Works Cited
    4. 3 Literacy Narrative: Building Bridges, Bridging Gaps
      1. Introduction
      2. 3.1 Identity and Expression
      3. 3.2 Literacy Narrative Trailblazer: Tara Westover
      4. 3.3 Glance at Genre: The Literacy Narrative
      5. 3.4 Annotated Sample Reading: from Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass by Frederick Douglass
      6. 3.5 Writing Process: Tracing the Beginnings of Literacy
      7. 3.6 Editing Focus: Sentence Structure
      8. 3.7 Evaluation: Self-Evaluating
      9. 3.8 Spotlight on … The Digital Archive of Literacy Narratives (DALN)
      10. 3.9 Portfolio: A Literacy Artifact
      11. Further Reading
      12. Works Cited
      13. Works Consulted
  3. Bridging the Divide Between Personal Identity and Academia
    1. 2 Unit Introduction
    2. 4 Memoir or Personal Narrative: Learning Lessons from the Personal
      1. Introduction
      2. 4.1 Exploring the Past to Understand the Present
      3. 4.2 Memoir Trailblazer: Ta-Nehisi Coates
      4. 4.3 Glance at Genre: Conflict, Detail, and Revelation
      5. 4.4 Annotated Sample Reading: from Life on the Mississippi by Mark Twain
      6. 4.5 Writing Process: Making the Personal Public
      7. 4.6 Editing Focus: More on Characterization and Point of View
      8. 4.7 Evaluation: Structure and Organization
      9. 4.8 Spotlight on … Multilingual Writers
      10. 4.9 Portfolio: Filtered Memories
      11. Further Reading
      12. Works Cited
    3. 5 Profile: Telling a Rich and Compelling Story
      1. Introduction
      2. 5.1 Profiles as Inspiration
      3. 5.2 Profile Trailblazer: Veronica Chambers
      4. 5.3 Glance at Genre: Subject, Angle, Background, and Description
      5. 5.4 Annotated Sample Reading: “Remembering John Lewis” by Carla D. Hayden
      6. 5.5 Writing Process: Focusing on the Angle of Your Subject
      7. 5.6 Editing Focus: Verb Tense Consistency
      8. 5.7 Evaluation: Text as Personal Introduction
      9. 5.8 Spotlight on … Profiling a Cultural Artifact
      10. 5.9 Portfolio: Subject as a Reflection of Self
      11. Works Cited
    4. 6 Proposal: Writing About Problems and Solutions
      1. Introduction
      2. 6.1 Proposing Change: Thinking Critically About Problems and Solutions
      3. 6.2 Proposal Trailblazer: Atul Gawande
      4. 6.3 Glance at Genre: Features of Proposals
      5. 6.4 Annotated Student Sample: “Slowing Climate Change” by Shawn Krukowski
      6. 6.5 Writing Process: Creating a Proposal
      7. 6.6 Editing Focus: Subject-Verb Agreement
      8. 6.7 Evaluation: Conventions, Clarity, and Coherence
      9. 6.8 Spotlight on … Technical Writing as a Career
      10. 6.9 Portfolio: Reflecting on Problems and Solutions
      11. Further Reading
      12. Works Cited
    5. 7 Evaluation or Review: Would You Recommend It?
      1. Introduction
      2. 7.1 Thumbs Up or Down?
      3. 7.2 Review Trailblazer: Michiko Kakutani
      4. 7.3 Glance at Genre: Criteria, Evidence, Evaluation
      5. 7.4 Annotated Student Sample: "Black Representation in Film" by Caelia Marshall
      6. 7.5 Writing Process: Thinking Critically About Entertainment
      7. 7.6 Editing Focus: Quotations
      8. 7.7 Evaluation: Effect on Audience
      9. 7.8 Spotlight on … Language and Culture
      10. 7.9 Portfolio: What the Arts Say About You
      11. Further Reading
      12. Works Cited
    6. 8 Analytical Report: Writing from Facts
      1. Introduction
      2. 8.1 Information and Critical Thinking
      3. 8.2 Analytical Report Trailblazer: Barbara Ehrenreich
      4. 8.3 Glance at Genre: Informal and Formal Analytical Reports
      5. 8.4 Annotated Student Sample: "U.S. Response to COVID-19" by Trevor Garcia
      6. 8.5 Writing Process: Creating an Analytical Report
      7. 8.6 Editing Focus: Commas with Nonessential and Essential Information
      8. 8.7 Evaluation: Reviewing the Final Draft
      9. 8.8 Spotlight on … Discipline-Specific and Technical Language
      10. 8.9 Portfolio: Evidence and Objectivity
      11. Further Reading
      12. Works Cited
    7. 9 Rhetorical Analysis: Interpreting the Art of Rhetoric
      1. Introduction
      2. 9.1 Breaking the Whole into Its Parts
      3. 9.2 Rhetorical Analysis Trailblazer: Jamil Smith
      4. 9.3 Glance at Genre: Rhetorical Strategies
      5. 9.4 Annotated Student Sample: “Rhetorical Analysis: Evicted by Matthew Desmond” by Eliana Evans
      6. 9.5 Writing Process: Thinking Critically about Rhetoric
      7. 9.6 Editing Focus: Mixed Sentence Constructions
      8. 9.7 Evaluation: Rhetorical Analysis
      9. 9.8 Spotlight on … Business and Law
      10. 9.9 Portfolio: How Thinking Critically about Rhetoric Affects Intellectual Growth
      11. Further Reading
      12. Works Cited
    8. 10 Position Argument: Practicing the Art of Rhetoric
      1. Introduction
      2. 10.1 Making a Case: Defining a Position Argument
      3. 10.2 Position Argument Trailblazer: Charles Blow
      4. 10.3 Glance at Genre: Thesis, Reasoning, and Evidence
      5. 10.4 Annotated Sample Reading: "Remarks at the University of Michigan" by Lyndon B. Johnson
      6. 10.5 Writing Process: Creating a Position Argument
      7. 10.6 Editing Focus: Paragraphs and Transitions
      8. 10.7 Evaluation: Varied Appeals
      9. 10.8 Spotlight on … Citation
      10. 10.9 Portfolio: Growth in the Development of Argument
      11. Further Reading
      12. Works Cited
    9. 11 Reasoning Strategies: Improving Critical Thinking
      1. Introduction
      2. 11.1 Developing Your Sense of Logic
      3. 11.2 Reasoning Trailblazer: Paul D. N. Hebert
      4. 11.3 Glance at Genre: Reasoning Strategies and Signal Words
      5. 11.4 Annotated Sample Reading: from Book VII of The Republic by Plato
      6. 11.5 Writing Process: Reasoning Supported by Evidence
      7. Further Reading
      8. Works Cited
    10. 12 Argumentative Research: Enhancing the Art of Rhetoric with Evidence
      1. Introduction
      2. 12.1 Introducing Research and Research Evidence
      3. 12.2 Argumentative Research Trailblazer: Samin Nosrat
      4. 12.3 Glance at Genre: Introducing Research as Evidence
      5. 12.4 Annotated Student Sample: "Healthy Diets from Sustainable Sources Can Save the Earth" by Lily Tran
      6. 12.5 Writing Process: Integrating Research
      7. 12.6 Editing Focus: Integrating Sources and Quotations
      8. 12.7 Evaluation: Effectiveness of Research Paper
      9. 12.8 Spotlight on … Bias in Language and Research
      10. 12.9 Portfolio: Why Facts Matter in Research Argumentation
      11. Further Reading
      12. Works Cited
    11. 13 Research Process: Accessing and Recording Information
      1. Introduction
      2. 13.1 The Research Process: Where to Look for Existing Sources
      3. 13.2 The Research Process: How to Create Sources
      4. 13.3 Glance at the Research Process: Key Skills
      5. 13.4 Annotated Student Sample: Research Log
      6. 13.5 Research Process: Making Notes, Synthesizing Information, and Keeping a Research Log
      7. 13.6 Spotlight on … Ethical Research
      8. Further Reading
      9. Works Cited
    12. 14 Annotated Bibliography: Gathering, Evaluating, and Documenting Sources
      1. Introduction
      2. 14.1 Compiling Sources for an Annotated Bibliography
      3. 14.2 Glance at Form: Citation Style, Purpose, and Formatting
      4. 14.3 Annotated Student Sample: “Healthy Diets from Sustainable Sources Can Save the Earth” by Lily Tran
      5. 14.4 Writing Process: Informing and Analyzing
      6. Further Reading
      7. Works Cited
    13. 15 Case Study Profile: What One Person Says About All
      1. Introduction
      2. 15.1 Tracing a Broad Issue in the Individual
      3. 15.2 Case Study Trailblazer: Vilayanur S. Ramachandran
      4. 15.3 Glance at Genre: Observation, Description, and Analysis
      5. 15.4 Annotated Sample Reading: Case Study on Louis Victor "Tan" Leborgne
      6. 15.5 Writing Process: Thinking Critically About How People and Language Interact
      7. 15.6 Editing Focus: Words Often Confused
      8. 15.7 Evaluation: Presentation and Analysis of Case Study
      9. 15.8 Spotlight on … Applied Linguistics
      10. 15.9 Portfolio: Your Own Uses of Language
      11. Further Reading
      12. Works Cited
  4. Navigating Rhetoric in Real Life
    1. 3 Unit Introduction
    2. 16 Print or Textual Analysis: What You Read
      1. Introduction
      2. 16.1 An Author’s Choices: What Text Says and How It Says It
      3. 16.2 Textual Analysis Trailblazer: bell hooks
      4. 16.3 Glance at Genre: Print or Textual Analysis
      5. 16.4 Annotated Student Sample: "Artists at Work" by Gwyn Garrison
      6. 16.5 Writing Process: Thinking Critically About Text
      7. 16.6 Editing Focus: Literary Works Live in the Present
      8. 16.7 Evaluation: Self-Directed Assessment
      9. 16.8 Spotlight on … Humanities
      10. 16.9 Portfolio: The Academic and the Personal
      11. Further Reading
      12. Works Cited
    3. 17 Image Analysis: What You See
      1. Introduction
      2. 17.1 “Reading” Images
      3. 17.2 Image Trailblazer: Sara Ludy
      4. 17.3 Glance at Genre: Relationship Between Image and Rhetoric
      5. 17.4 Annotated Student Sample: “Hints of the Homoerotic” by Leo Davis
      6. 17.5 Writing Process: Thinking Critically and Writing Persuasively About Images
      7. 17.6 Editing Focus: Descriptive Diction
      8. 17.7 Evaluation: Relationship Between Analysis and Image
      9. 17.8 Spotlight on … Video and Film
      10. 17.9 Portfolio: Interplay Between Text and Image
      11. Further Reading
      12. Works Cited
    4. 18 Multimodal and Online Writing: Creative Interaction between Text and Image
      1. Introduction
      2. 18.1 Mixing Genres and Modes
      3. 18.2 Multimodal Trailblazer: Torika Bolatagici
      4. 18.3 Glance at Genre: Genre, Audience, Purpose, Organization
      5. 18.4 Annotated Sample Reading: “Celebrating a Win-Win” by Alexandra Dapolito Dunn
      6. 18.5 Writing Process: Create a Multimodal Advocacy Project
      7. 18.6 Evaluation: Transitions
      8. 18.7 Spotlight on . . . Technology
      9. 18.8 Portfolio: Multimodalism
      10. Further Reading
      11. Works Cited
    5. 19 Scripting for the Public Forum: Writing to Speak
      1. Introduction
      2. 19.1 Writing, Speaking, and Activism
      3. 19.2 Podcast Trailblazer: Alice Wong
      4. 19.3 Glance at Genre: Language Performance and Visuals
      5. 19.4 Annotated Student Sample: “Are New DOT Regulations Discriminatory?” by Zain A. Kumar
      6. 19.5 Writing Process: Writing to Speak
      7. 19.6 Evaluation: Bridging Writing and Speaking
      8. 19.7 Spotlight on … Delivery/Public Speaking
      9. 19.8 Portfolio: Everyday Rhetoric, Rhetoric Every Day
      10. Further Reading
      11. Works Cited
    6. 20 Portfolio Reflection: Your Growth as a Writer
      1. Introduction
      2. 20.1 Thinking Critically about Your Semester
      3. 20.2 Reflection Trailblazer: Sandra Cisneros
      4. 20.3 Glance at Genre: Purpose and Structure
      5. 20.4 Annotated Sample Reading: “Don’t Expect Congrats” by Dale Trumbore
      6. 20.5 Writing Process: Looking Back, Looking Forward
      7. 20.6 Editing Focus: Pronouns
      8. 20.7 Evaluation: Evaluating Self-Reflection
      9. 20.8 Spotlight on … Pronouns in Context
      10. Further Reading
      11. Works Cited
  5. Handbook
  6. Index

Learning Outcomes

By the end of this section, you will be able to:

  • Identify situations and contexts calling for purposeful shifts in voice, diction, tone, level of formality, and structure.
  • Identify linguistic structures, including American English dialects.
  • Write a description in an authentic voice.

English and Its Dialects

Although English is the primary language of the United States, distinctive dialects, or forms of language specific to a particular region or social group, vary according to location, culture, ethnicity, socioeconomic status, and other factors. American dialects may have their own grammar, vocabulary, syntax, pronunciation, and common expressions. Many, mainly regional, differences in pronunciation are often marked by rhotic and non-rhotic accents. Speakers with rhotic accents pronounce the /r/ before consonants and at the end of a word. Those with non-rhotic accents do not pronounce the /r/; for example, think of the Boston accent pronunciation of park as pahk or the Coastal Southern (areas along the Gulf of Mexico) pronunciation of better as bettuh.

While the American Midwest has what might be considered the closest variation to General American English, the language spoken by most Americans, it has its own regional and cultural dialect variations. In characteristic Midwest American English words such as cot and caught are pronounced as homophones. As in rhotic dialects, /r/ sounds are pronounced, even in words that don’t contain the letter r: wash, for example, becomes warsh. And /s/ may be added to words as a grammatical construction: Alls we need is more ice cream.

Variations in pronunciation and dialect result from a host of factors. Dialects are formed when people are divided socially, geographically, or both. Despite the difficulties in categorizing such complex variations in language, most scholars agree that dialects can be classified on the basis of location and social groupings, despite the overlap between them. A regional dialect is a variation in language that occurs within a geographical region. A social dialect includes differences in speech associated with a social group or socioeconomic level.

Among the most common—and most debated—language variations is African American Vernacular English (AAVE). AAVE, also referred to as Black English Vernacular or Ebonics, is a generalized term for a variety of dialects spoken by Black Americans. These dialects are influenced by American Southern dialects. With roots in the language patterns of people descended from enslaved Africans in the United States, AAVE has its own syntax, grammar, and tense system. Some common features include the absence of third-person singular and possessive pronouns and the use of double negatives.

AAVE has distinct grammar conventions. The speaker or writer will often omit forms of the verb to be from a sentence, as in these examples:

“What [omitted is] he talking about?”

“She [omitted was] the one who took it.”

While General American English requires verb and tense agreement, AAVE features more variations. For example, in AAVE, the word been is often placed before a verb in order to convey a past event: for example, “He been married” rather than the General American English “He was married.” This change in grammar can actually convey different meanings. In General American English, the sentence implies that the man is no longer married, whereas the sentence in AAVE indicates that the man is still married.

This is by no means an inclusive list of AAVE conventions, as languages are constantly evolving. Understanding that language differences result from culture, identity, and geography and that you, as a writer, have the opportunity to express yourself using your social norms is an important first step in recognizing the role of culture in language.

Although differences in pronunciation abound, English dialects are widely classified as “standard” or “nonstandard.” Standard dialect follows specific rules for syntax, vocabulary, and grammar. This dialect is often perceived as more academic than nonstandard dialects and is used in formal situations. Other dialects, usually lacking such standardization and generally perceived as having less stature, are considered nonstandard dialects. For years, academic scholars and teachers have subscribed to the idea that so-called standard English should be the default dialect used in schools and academic writing. This dialect is spoken by newscasters, television news anchors, and a large percentage of middle-class Americans, especially those with formal educations.

And yet you, like others, have your own patterns of speech based largely on your culture, family, and region. Code-switching, or alternating between two or more languages or language forms, was taught explicitly in schools with the intent that students learn to speak and write standard English for certain academic and professional situations. However, newer research in best practices is revealing that allowing students to learn in and use their authentic voices, including nonstandard dialects, is a more equitable practice that is both culturally responsible and beneficial to learning.

“Students’ Right to Their Own Language”

The Conference on College Composition and Communication (CCCC) is the world’s largest professional organization committed to writing research, theory, and teaching. It publishes the quarterly journal College Composition and Communication and holds an annual convention. The CCCC also publishes position statements on writing and the teaching of writing based on research, best practices of writing pedagogy, and language practices. Recent research completed by the CCCC addresses the use of a wide variety of linguistic expressions and choices, including various regional and cultural dialects.

In 1974, the Conference on College Composition and Communication adopted “Students’ Right to Their Own Language,” a statement that affirmed students’ rights to use “their own patterns and varieties of language—the dialects of their nurture” or those that help them create their own identity. The statement recognizes that so-called General American English is aligned with a dominant White majority and includes implicit bias against students from other backgrounds. Finally, the statement reinforces the idea that a nation that praises and encourages diversity, particularly in academic circles, should not only accept diversity in language and dialect but also celebrate it. Doing so allows students to use the totality of their lived experiences, cultural language, and ideas to create fuller meaning in their writing. Over the years, the statement has undergone revisions and has been expanded to address students learning and writing in a second language.

This statement takes a step toward confronting the assumptions and hidden bias present in the educational system and works toward creating more equitable, anti-racist teaching for students, particularly from Black and other BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and people of color) backgrounds. The most recent updated and reaffirmed statement stems from 2014.

Demand for Linguistic Justice

One position statement released by the CCCC in July 2020 was “This Ain’t Another Statement! This Is a DEMAND for Black Linguistic Justice!” Responding to the historical and sociopolitical context of today’s world, this statement coincided with #BlackLivesMatter, a movement to fight racism directed at the Black community, often at the hands of police and vigilantes. The statement shifts the narrative to composition and communication, asking how Black lives matter in language education, research, and scholarship.

The CCCC strongly promotes students’ language rights based on their own cultural backgrounds, yet it acknowledges that language rights have suffered from a similarly “inadequate response” as other social justice movements. Specifically for Black students and writers, cultural traditions such as AAVE/Ebonics continue to be devalued and diminished in line with the devaluation of Black lives. The demand upholds the organization’s earlier statement that Ebonics communicates Black traditions and social truths. The statement includes these demands:

  • That teachers stop teaching only standard English as the communicative norm
  • That teachers stop teaching Black students to code-switch and instead teach about linguistic racism
  • That teachers teach “Black Linguistic Consciousness” and work to unravel anti-Black linguistic racism
  • That Black perspectives be included in the research and teaching of Black language

You can learn more about the impact of linguistic bias in education in this TEDx Talk.

Publication: Writing as Your Artifact

Try this short exercise to identify and practice writing in a dialect that directly reflects the culture your artifact comes from. Write a short three- to five-paragraph story from the perspective of the artifact you chose for this chapter’s writing assignment. What might your artifact see, hear, feel, or experience in its everyday life? Concentrate on using an authentic dialect, including vocabulary, grammatical conventions, and sentence structure, when constructing your story. As you reread your writing, ensure that you can hear your authentic voice in the text.

When all stories have been written, consider collaborating with your instructor to collect them in a class book that includes illustrations of the artifacts and a short quotation from the point of view of each artifact, similar to the format of the Trailblazer sections of this book.

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