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Michael Stoff, Director 305 East 23rd St, CLA 2.102, (G3600) Austin, TX 78712-1250 • 512-471-1442

Fall 2004

T C 357 • Arguing About Language - W

Unique Days Time Location Instructor
42160 MWF
9:00 AM-10:00 AM
CAL 221

Course Description

Although Americans generally do not realize it, they spend a great deal of time arguing publicly and privately about language. (e.g. the 1996-7 debates about Ebonics and continuing discussions about bilingual education and making English the national language stand as examples at the national level.) Such debates are especially common on university campuses, where the nature of hate speech and “political correctness” have been hot topics within the past few years. Yet they also extend to writing courses, where students are required to write what one researcher terms “hyperstandardized” English; to courses in business and communication, where women learn “to talk like men” in order to succeed; and to courses in language and gender, where students debate why males and females seem to have such difficulty communicating and who should change. As these examples illustrate, arguments about language transcend simple labels like “liberal” or “conservative,” “good old boy” or “feminist.” What might studying these arguments teach us about language as a tool and symbol and about ourselves as individuals, members of various social groups, and members of this society? What can they teach us about the nature of argument, especially argument in the public arena? In this course, we will find out by considering in detail several of these debates. Examining a range of texts—canonical texts in the history of rhetoric, pamphlets, newspaper and magazine articles, television interviews, web sites, and academic analyzes of these—will enable us to analyze efforts to affect language and its use; it will likewise force us to read critically.

About the Professor Keith Walters, associate professor in Linguistics with courtesy appointments in Anthropology and Middle Eastern Studies, spends much of his time thinking about how individuals use language to create identities for themselves and the groups to which they belong. His research focuses on language and society here in the US and in Tunisia, where he served as a Peace Corps volunteer. His hobbies include swimming, rowing, and cooking.


Kenney, Randall, Nigger: The Strange Career Of A Troublesome Word Lunsford, Ruszkiewicz, & Walters. Everything’s an Argument, With Readings Selections by Kenneth Burke and Steven Toulmin.


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