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The goal of this paper is to present an ‘argument mapping’ of Jane H. Hill’s article, “Language, Race, and White Public Space”. First, I will define some terms from the article that are needed to understand the claims of Hill. Then I will present the main claims of the article. Next, I will present and describe the two sets of evidence that Hill uses to support the claims she makes. Using the evidence I have found from Hill’s work, I will link the two claims to each other, and state Hill’s final general conclusion.
Finally, I will show how the parts of Hill’s structure all connect to form her general conclusion.
One definition in this article that needs explaining is that of “Mock Spanish.” This term means language that incorporates Spanish words into standard English, but these words are used in a demeaning and joking manner. Another is indexicality; this means that the function refers to the context of the form.
A third is code switching which means using vocabulary from two different languages in one conversation.
In this article, Hill discusses the ways languages are treated. The assumption is that all languages are seen as and treated equal. Hill explains how although this claim is made, it is greatly untrue. This is seen in legislation throughout America, as it is always in standard English, despite the United States not having an official language. It’s also exemplified in how there was a “moral crisis” when African American English was being discussed in classrooms.
In order to disprove this assumption, Hill used an analysis of another study by Urciuoli as well as her won ethnographic studies. These studies comprised of observation of informal conversation between participants, and following a wide range of media and mass reproduction; this includes fliers, souvenirs and greeting cards. The conversational studies examined participants who were caucasian, Latino and Chicano.
One claim that Hill makes is that Latinos experience the “outer sphere” as a site of racialization, while whites do not. This outer sphere consists of conversations with people in authority, like teachers and social workers, compared to those who are apart of one’s inner sphere, which includes family and friends. Hill attempts to prove this by providing a first set of ethnographic facts. One part of the first set of ethnographic facts is that, using ethnographic study, code switching is frowned upon among Latino cultures and considered disorderly, while code switching as apart of white American culture is unmarked. The evidence showed that in any kind of conversation, formal or informal, whites could be using Spanish or English without raising eyebrows. Another ethnographic fact is that Latinos and Chicanos were consistently stressed about the way they spoke english, specifically their accents. However, the studies also showed that whites did not notice or show concern over having a significant American accent while speaking Spanish. A third piece of evidence showed that pressure from the “outer sphere” to perform English speaking in an orderly manner is so great on bilingual speakers, it can sometimes result in them not being able to speak at all.
Another claim Hill makes is that mock spanish has a racializing function. She goes on to say that to understand Mock Spanish, one must presuppose racist characteristics about Latinos. She attempts to prove this by using a second set of ethnographic facts. The second set of ethnographic facts include an analysis of how Mock Spanish is used. One fact is that Mock Spanish is sometimes used as hate speech. One example of this that Hill brings up is a sign for anti-immigration protest that said “Adios, José!”Another fact is that Mock Spanish is used to address speakers who appear to be Spanish speakers. Hill states that after studying Latinos, some of them claimed that there were times where their peers called the “amigo.” A third piece of evidence is one practice of Mock Spanish which entails adding the suffix -o to a word, with modifiers like “el” or “mucho” added before it. This would include sayings like “el cheapo” and “numero two-o.”
Hill’s two claims that Latinos experience outer spheres differently, and more racially, than caucasians, and that Mock Spanish has a racialization function come together to form her overarching conclusion that a white public space has been constructed, and that languages are not all treated as equals. Hill says that in the public white space, disorder is unmarked for whites, but for any other racialized population it is “hypervisible to the point of being the object of political campaigns and nationwide ‘moral panics’” (p. 129). She further supports her conclusion by talking about how other languages do have crossover of vocabulary into standard English, but not in the same way that Mock Spanish does. Hill talks about how ebonics do have a similar type crossover, with Ebonic vocabulary being appropriated by caucasians, but it does not have the same power Mock Spanish since it is harder to determine if that vocabulary indexes blackness. Hill also says how Mock French exists, but it indexes luxury. Mock Yiddish exists, but it is used by both historical Yiddish speakers and non-Yiddish speakers alike, so it is not quite the same.
One ideology of explanation includes homogenizing heterogeneity. Hill explains this as appropriating diversity and devaluing its connection to the marginalized group. One example of this is through cross over forms of Ebonics to standard English; an example of this is a comic strip using the term “happening,” coming from the African American English vocabulary word “happenin.” Another ideology of explanation that Hill mentions is that of the elevation of whiteness. Hill says that the elevation of whiteness is achieved in two different ways; one is through direct indexicality. This would include a speaker saying they use Mock Spanish because they are from the Southwest. Another way that elevation of whiteness is achieved is through indirect indexicality; this means that in order to understand Mock Spanish, one must be able to acquire access to negative racializing interpretations. An example of this would be a greeting card that Hill has seen that had grossly racist representations of Chicanos. Indirect indexicality is not addressed by speakers, but direct indexicality is.
I have now finished mapping the argument structure of Hill’s article on language, race and white public space. I will go over the structure of Hill’s argument once again. Hill’s argument is made up of two claims, that are supported by six ethnographic facts, with three facts per claim.
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