Lecture by E. Ochs, November 17, 2017

Elinor Ochs, UCLA

*Message form Claire Kramsch*
Foreign language teachers are used to seeing themselves as teaching language acquisition (SLA), not language socialization (LS). Success in second language acquisition is developing full command of the linguistic and communicative aspects of language, whereas for language socialization it is acculturation and blending into a speech community. However, in both cases, learners have to learn how to use the language in accordance with the expectations of a social community. What can SLA learn from LS research? The BLC is honored to host one of the founders of the field of language socialization, Prof. Elinor Ochs, who has studied for many years how children become “speakers of culture” (Ochs, 2002) in their own family context.

Postindustrial Language Socialization

It is almost a cliché to note that anthropological fieldwork holds up a mirror to the ethnographer’s own taken-for-granted dispositions. The very idea of language socialization began as such when three anthropologists – Shirley Brice Heath, Elinor Ochs, and Bambi Schieffelin – decades ago set out to document child language development in unfamiliar communities. Try as we might to keep our noses to the grindstone and adhere to strict psycholinguistic protocols, the anthropologist in us kept popping into consciousness. A noticing here, a noticing there. In this presentation, I focus on a different kind of language socialization fieldwork, wherein the anthropologist turns to face and enter her home turf. Drawing upon the UCLA Sloan Center study of 32 middle class families in Los Angeles, this presentation examines the communicative labor expended by the families – families resembling my family and perhaps your family– in producing the late modern, postindustrial child. Talk is king (or queen) in a middle class domestic ecology that promotes uncertainty, critical reflexivity, individual desire and creativity, and horizontalization of parent-child relationships. Here the ethnographer’s proximity easily drifts into empathy and frustration when family members’ problematization of just about everything clouds their cooperation and intimacy. An antidote to Monday morning quarterbacking of middle class households is to step back and infuse the everyday achievement of family in the 21st century with the socio-historical logics and constitutive forces of (post)industrial capitalism and middle class formation.

Friday, November 17, 2017
3 – 5 pm
B-4 Dwinelle Hall