chapter  3
18 Pages

“Talkin Black in this White Man’s World”: Linguistic supremacy, linguistic equanimity, and the politics of language

Studies of intercultural discourse and communication, or intergroup communication, often examine communicative misunderstandings or conflicts that occur when speakers of different language backgrounds come into contact. These misunderstandings usually occur not because the languages have different syntactic structures, but because they have different rules of language use. For example, in the US, misunderstandings or conflicts may not occur between a native Arabic speaker learning English and a native speaker of English simply because Arabic does not use the copula (is or are) in sentences like “She excellent” for “She is excellent” (Bahloul 1993). However, misunderstandings or conflicts may occur between the same two speakers as a result of fundamental differences in their native speech communities’ rules of language use regarding social distance, formality, and age, among other variables (Hussein 1995). Intergroup conflict can occur between speakers of the same language group (but perhaps different ethnicity, gender, social class, religious affiliation, regional background or other grouping) when speaker intent (illocutionary force) is misinterpreted by the hearer.