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Bucholtz’s Article Review Essay (Critical Writing)


1. Mary Buchotlz (2001) dedicated the article to the marked language in multiracial youth culture. In the article, the author bases on anthropological and linguistic research on youth subcultures. The author follows the idea that nerds have an ambiguous racial position. They resist current trends, reject the norm of coolness, and signal their distance from other representatives of American youth.

Also, Bucholtz shows the tendency: ideologically, nerds separate themselves from African and European American students. The coexistence of standard and superstandard English among the multiracial American youth is characterized by the presence of certain phonology, grammar, lexis and slang that make youth subcultures different.

2. The central problem of the article is racial markedness of the American youth subcultures. Bucholtz is focused on whiteness of nerds, their distance from African and European American culture, and explains their peculiarity within the context of standard and nonstandard English.

3. The article raises topical questions concerning youth subcultures and peculiarities of their language. As the phenomenon of racial markedness is peculiar to American youth language, the role of Bucholtz’s article grows.

4. Moreover, the author’s ideas and findings presented in the research, widen scholarly literature, and provide people with anthropological understanding of a language among students.

5. Bucholtz states that unmarked position of whiteness in the United States is conditioned by American history and culture. As the phenomenon of markedness roots in linguistic theory, the author’s problem is based on racial and cultural ideologies. The anthropological view on modern American youth gives an opportunity to believe that interracial distinctions dictate certain tendencies among students.

For example, “hillbillies”, being “degraded form of whiteness” are separated from “the middle-class white norm” (Bucholtz 2001:85). However, the nerds represent the other style of racially marked whiteness. The author considers them as “intellectual overachievers and social underachievers”; for this reason, they seem separated from “trendier youth” (Bucholtz 2001:85).

In the same time, the author notes that racial and ethnic diversity of American students causes racial unmarkedness among European students who practice African youth elements in dance, music, sports, etc. however, the nerds stay apart from the phenomenon of coolness that is so peculiar for African and European American students.

The basic practice for them is “a particular emphasis on language as a resource for the production of an intelligent and nonconformist identity” (Bucholtz 2001:87). The author stresses on the language used by different student groups.

According to Butcholtz, there are standard and nonstandard, or superstandard English language among the youth. The author underlines: “superstandard English contrasts linguistically with Standard English in its greater use of “supercorrecf” linguistic variables: lexical formality, carefully articulated phonological forms, and prescriptively standard grammar” (Bucholtz 2001:88).

The observations show that the nerds tend to use too normal English, avoiding slang; for this reason, they are referred to “hyperwhite” group, in contrast to their black and white counterparts (Bucholtz 2001:96).

6. The research method of the author is based on personal observations. Bucholtz’s observations of multiracial American students (in Bay City High School) gave an opportunity to see students’ language subculture, their binary nature, and define the nerds as a hyperwhite group.

7. The main strength of the article lies in the proved tendency among American nerds to linguistically separate themselves from the others, based on the observations. However, there is the main weakness, as well. As the author observed the students only in one American school, his hypothesis about nerds’ tendency may be inadequate in relation to the American students from other schools.

8. Verbal language presupposes the usage of phonology, grammar, lexis and other linguistic elements of language (Miller et al. 2010). The nerds’ verbal language is different from that of their peers. Their language lacks slang; many slang terms sound unfamiliar to them. However, they can provide literal definitions of synonyms. The observations of the author show that the nerds do not use the expression “kick back”; they use” to relax” instead of it (Bucholtz 2001:90).

As the observation was made in multiracial school, it is necessary to stress that according to linguistic anthropology, culture and society and a person’s social position determine language” (Miller et al. 2010:326). Thus, the researcher reveals that African, Asian and European American students have their own preferences in language. For example, the word “blood” is uttered by a white and a black student in a different way (Bucholtz 2001:90).

According to most anthropologists, culture and language are interdependent phenomena, and determine one another (Miller et al. 2010). In Bucholtz’s article, one may see the diversity of language among student subcultures, conditioned by the variety of their races and ethnic groups. The crucial point of the article is the following: the racial marked whiteness of nerds among American youth is explained by usage of superstandard English and their social distance from their counterparts.

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IvyPanda. 2019. "Bucholtz’s Article Review." March 3, 2019. https://ivypanda.com/essays/bucholtzs-article-review/.

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IvyPanda. (2019) 'Bucholtz’s Article Review'. 3 March.

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