Before you start, assume you are a person whose native language is not English, and
you learned English as your second language.
For this prompt, you will craft a cohesive story about you and your linguistic
identity. Consider the auto-ethnography:
What is auto-ethnography? Carolyn Ellis (2004) has said that auto-ethnographic writing
is… “writing about the personal and its relationship to culture. It is an autobiographical
genre of writing and research that displays multiple layers of consciousness.”
She continues that to write this way is to blend “research, writing, story, and method
that connect[s] the autobiographical and personal to the cultural, social, and political.”
If language is always cultural, social and political (and vice-versa), what if we were to
add “linguistic” to that list? I mean, in a way, how could we not?
Surely, auto-ethnography is analytical writing. Your personal experiences become data
that you and others a analyze in the interest of gaining a better understanding of a social
phenomenon. In this class, we’ll attend to the phenomena of language use, learning and
Take a look at your ideas, and ask yourself:
This autoethnography should be a compelling, cohesive story that narrates a few of my
personal experiences with and through language to shed light on larger dynamics of
power in society. While certainly not perfect or fully-formed now…Does my writing
capture what Ellis describes as auto-ethnography? How can I re-write and re-organize
what I’ve written to do so?
In order to “do” auto-ethnography, consider the ways in which we’ve learned how
culture “gets made” and power is reinforced, affirmed and resisted in everyday
linguistic interactions. We’ve looked at this through examples of critical linguistic
variation, pragmatics, and semantics.
In telling your story, connect your lived experiences through language use to topics
in at least two of these areas. For instance, you may talk about how your learning of a
second language involved challenging lessons with puns or idioms, by way of
culturally-situated implicatures. You may talk about how the ordinary code-switching
that took place between generations at home introduced the value of language variation
to you, but not without the weight of prescriptive ideologies about how you were to
speak, to whom and where. When introducing a concept from our class literature, be
sure to bold that term, as I have above.
It’s important that when weaving theory and concepts from class readings into your
own story, you cite the sources from which these ideas emerge. Any style is fine, as
long as it’s consistent. Parenthetical citations or footnotes/endnotes are handy.
It’s important in your writing to not just tell, but show how language is done. You
have analyzed a bit of linguistic structure in a previous draft—now I’m asking you to
transcribe a particular interaction that is germane to your larger narrative. If you are
speaking about codeswitching, transcribe at least one such interaction from recent
memory, or record (written/typed/texted language may be shared with permission from
the other communicator, of course). Reproduce this interaction stylistically just as you
see others conveyed in HLW. P. 201 of HLW (Pragmatics, see pictures in the next page)
offers a transcription style that is clear, distinct from the surrounding text of the chapter,
and offers translation between two languages, (and the utterances of two speakers).
HLW. Pg. 201
HLW. Pg. 202
Your auto-ethnography should be written not just for the purposes of a class
assignment, but rather, as a type of auto-biographical writing available for those close
to you who haven’t studied linguistics in a class like ours. Showcase to them how and
in what ways language, linguistics and power are tied up together in your life. Do so by
articulating your voice in a way that is authentically you. Use your work in this class as
a support system to help you get there.
All in all, be as descriptive and creative as possible in your autoethnographic
writing. Be sure to challenge yourself to “see” phenomena that may have been invisible
to you previously. Organize your answers in any way you wish—but please do so in
one cohesive short essay. This draft should not exceed 5 double-spaced pages.