On Gee and Grammar

James Paul Gee is an important theorist in linguistics, discourse analysis, and the emerging field of study connecting video games to learning. We read an excerpt Of Gee (as he is referred to in academic circles) on grammar and dialects of the English language.

In the excerpt, Gee writes of the origins of “Standard English,” variations of grammar and dialect, and how these tie in to the way children learn language. He begins to reference Noam Chomsky (an important Structuralist theorist) and appears to be using him as a source to espouse Gee’s own theories.

I disagree with Chomsky’s general observations.

When I tell others I am an English teacher, they often allude to the idea that I must be a grammar gatekeeper. That I uphold the rules of old and drill those kids into correct speech and writing.

I tell them that language is a social construct. That is why I disagree with Chomsky’s main assertions.

As a social construct, language binds individuals together, creating a social and linguistic community. The structure of the language and the community evolves, as new memes and tropes enter the social sphere.

Gee writes about black vernacular in this excerpt. He praises it and defends it with the academic lexicon of linguistic studies. When he takes this approach, he is still enacting the power dynamic of privilege.

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