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Raciolinguistics examines how language is used to construct race and how ideas of race influence language and language use.[1] Although sociolinguists and linguistic anthropologists have previously studied the intersections of language, race, and culture, raciolinguistics is a relatively new focus for scholars trying to theorize race throughout language studies. Nelson Flores and Jonathan Rosa first popularized the term in their 2015 discussion of "appropriateness" in American language and education.[2] In 2016, H. Samy Alim, John R. Rickford and Arnetha F. Ball published a book compiling raciolinguistic research.[1] In their work, raciolinguists incorporate intersectionality in theorizing how various identities (e.g. gender, ethnicity, nationality) within a group and/or an individual influence lived experiences of race.

Drawing from sociolinguistics and linguistic anthropology, raciolinguistics focuses on race and its relation to language. A central concern of raciolinguistics is to understand the complex meanings and implications of speech coming from a racialized subject.[1] The field also explores how the relationship between race and language impacts domains like politics and education.[3]

In education[edit]


In their critique of American language education, Nelson Flores and Jonathan Rosa argued that the standardization of "appropriate" language in American schooling creates different experiences for racialized students.[2] "Appropriate" language, defined by the language of the dominant culture, is a construction of raciolinguistic ideologies that uphold certain linguistic practices as normative and others as deficient. These ideologies are defined by the White listening/speaking subject in that "language-minoritized students [are expected] to mimic the white speaking subject while ignoring the raciolinguistic ideologies that the white listening subject uses to position them as racial Others".[2]

In her LangCrit framework, Alison Crump also explored Whiteness within the construction and education of a standard English and how language scholars may further address language, race, and identity in language education.[4]

Anthropologist Samy Alim explains in his book that American society hyperracial or hyperracializing, meaning that when speaking, people are orienting to race while also denying the evidence that shows how society is essentially structured and infleunced by it.[5]

Race and language[edit]

Languaging race[edit]

Languaging race focuses on how race can be constructed or deconstructed "through the lens of language". [1] Through and by language, one can take on, discard, or impose affiliations made with a certain race; such as education level, economic status, etc. For example, standardized language is linked with the idea of whiteness; this can be observed when black public figures such as Barack Obama are labeled as "articulate" because of their ability to speak standard English, while white public figures' use of standard language is not deemed worthy of comment.[6] Similarly, racialized individuals may be expected to speak languages other than English—for example, Latinxs expected to be fluent in Spanish—and judged harshly for not being bilingual. In some cases, people may be labeled as unable to speak any language well at all: "Her English is horrible, and from what I hear, her Spanish isn't that good either"[7].

Languaging race also encompasses the theory of transracialization, made popular in the United States by the case of Rachel Dolezal. However, within raciolinguistics, the emphasis of transracialization is put on how individuals both resist racial categorization and use such categorization in order to achieve racial justice, as in the case of Black Lives Matter.[1]

Racing language[edit]

Racing language uses race theory to understand how sociolinguistic variation relates to social and political processes. This includes the development of African-American Vernacular English (AAVE) in the United States, the generational linguistic shifts of Punjabi communities in London, and the significance of pharyngeal versus depharyngealized Hebrew in Israel.[1] Association with a racial group may be related to the use of ethnolects or ethnolinguistic repertoires,[8] influencing the language used among a racial group and/or an individual seeking to identify with the group. This area explores the historic and systematic reasons linguistic features are associated with certain racial groups.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e f Alim, H. Samy; Rickford, John R.; Ball, Arnetha F. (2016-09-30). Raciolinguistics: How Language Shapes Our Ideas About Race. Oxford University Press. ISBN 9780190625702.
  2. ^ a b c Flores, Nelson; Rosa, Jonathan (2015-06-10). "Undoing Appropriateness: Raciolinguistic Ideologies and Language Diversity in Education". Harvard Educational Review. 85 (2): 149–171. doi:10.17763/0017-8055.85.2.149.
  3. ^ University, Stanford (2016-12-27). "Stanford experts highlight link between language and race in new book". Stanford News. Retrieved 2017-02-27.
  4. ^ Crump, Alison (2014) Introducing LangCrit: Critical Language and Race Theory, Critical Inquiry in Language Studies, 11/3
  5. ^ Alim, H. Samy, editor literari. Ball, Arnetha F., 1950- editor literari. Rickford, John R., editor literari. (2016). Raciolinguistics : how language shapes our ideas about race. ISBN 978-0-19-062569-6. OCLC 1120520730.CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  6. ^ Samy, Alim, H. (2012-10-01). Articulate while Black : Barack Obama, language, and race in the U.S. Smitherman, Geneva, 1940-. Oxford. ISBN 9780199812974. OCLC 820011208.
  7. ^ Rosa, Jonathan Daniel (2016). "Standardization, Racialization, Languagelessness: Raciolinguistic Ideologies across Communicative Contexts". Journal of Linguistic Anthropology. 26 (2): 162–183. doi:10.1111/jola.12116. ISSN 1548-1395.
  8. ^ Benor, Sarah Bunin (2010-04-01). "Ethnolinguistic repertoire: Shifting the analytic focus in language and ethnicity1". Journal of Sociolinguistics. 14 (2): 159–183. doi:10.1111/j.1467-9841.2010.00440.x. ISSN 1467-9841.