American Tongues

· Code= variety in language use; code-switching= concurrent use of more than one language or language variety;

· Dialectical differences: regional and social accents

· Basic perceptions of and attitudes toward different ways of speaking

· Migration, settlement, language contact, perception of others, expressions of self

· Uses of standard and vernacular dialects

· Language acquisition

· Language, culture and power

· Stereotypes

1. This film was produced in 1988, do you think that its main points are “outdated”? Why or why not?

2. What were some reactions/ responses to the following scenes?

· different people reciting “Mary had a little lamb”?

· the fellow who said that we “just speak plain American, here, no accent…straight out of the dictionary”?

· one man in Kentucky says that he speaks “ just plain old hillbilly”

· one black woman says that she ‘corrects’ her speech when not around her friends…when she is with her friends she is “just a Southern girl.” Why retain both?

· the woman discusses her fiancé, the “Yalie” and how his language changes the further south they drive?

· Phillip the North End teenager uses a vernacular “to his advantage”? Or of his brother who says he is sometimes embarrassed by his brother’s speech?

· are there other scenes in the film with which you resonated +/-?

3. Were there any “new” words you learned in watching this film? What points would you make about these vocabulary differences?

4. What is the difference between a “regional” dialect and “social” dialect? Can you provide any examples to illustrate?

5. What do you think are some positive reasons for using a local dialect (pronunciation, grammar and vocabulary)?

6. Intra-culturally or inter-culturally… are their languages, dialects, accents, ways of speaking to which you respond favorably i.e. really like the sound(s) of the language? Any to which you have a negative reaction? What do you think shapes these preferences or biases?

7. Do you think that there are any repercussions when a social group’s language use is labeled positively or negatively? Can you think of any groups whose language habits are perceived in positive light? Negative? What factors do you think shape this?

8. What if someone from an agricultural-based, nomadic or pre-industrial culture moved to the U.S. to go to school or get a job, or their children were to attend a local public school after relocating, how much or how little do you think people would make assumptions about them based on language use (and vice versa)? Can you think of any contemporary examples to discuss?

9. What role do you think that mainstream or alternative media plays in (re)presenting different social groups or peoples who speak other languages?

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