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Vernacular EloquenceWhat Speech Can Bring to Writing$
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Peter Elbow

Print publication date: 2012

Print ISBN-13: 9780199782505

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: March 2015

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:osobl/9780199782505.001.0001

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How Our Culture of Proper Literacy Tries to Exclude Speech

How Our Culture of Proper Literacy Tries to Exclude Speech

(p.343) 17 How Our Culture of Proper Literacy Tries to Exclude Speech
Vernacular Eloquence

Peter Elbow

Oxford University Press

This chapter discusses some of the problems with the existing culture of proper literacy and how it tries to exclude speech. It first looks at the concepts of literacy, proper literacy, and multiple literacies or multiliteracies before turning to the argument that proper writing is no one's mother tongue. More specifically, it contends that proper literacy is hostile to spoken language, including the spoken language of privileged or mainstream speakers. To support its argument, the chapter considers three kinds of writing: school writing, academic writing, and “generally literate” writing. It also examines the culture of propriety in writing before concluding with a story about illegal alphabets used by immigrant workers in Cobden, Illinois back in 1980.

Keywords:   proper literacy, speech, literacy, multiple literacies, spoken language, writing, school writing, academic writing, propriety, illegal alphabets

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