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Issues in Applied Linguistics

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"Tell Me Legally, Tell Me Legally": Linguistic Hegemony in Real Time


In this paper I demonstrate how a man, in real time interaction, makes relevant his social identity as teacher and African American as he tries to get the students to adopt stylistic and strategic aspects of educated middle class rhetoric, which I call the abstract/ speculative inquiry style.

When the teacher asserts certain institutional classroom interactional privileges associated with being a teacher (e.g., interrupting a student's turn) he highlights his identity qua teacher (and his interlocutors' identities qua students), and therefore highlights the power asymmetry of the social interaction. Insofar as the teacher exploits (and the students allow him to exploit) these power-asymmetrical interactional resources as he promotes abstract/speculative rhetorical inquiry, and attempts to silence concrete/empirical rhetorical inquiry, he and they imbue the character of teaching abstract/speculative inquiry with hegemonic, even coercive, political significance.

When the teacher foregrounds his shared African American social identity with the students he 1) does not assert those institutional classroom interactional privileges associated with being a teacher, and 2) uses more concrete/empirical features in his own rhetoric —even as he attempts to promote abstract/speculative inquiry. As a consequence of these co-occurrence facts, the teacher marks both a particular rhetorical style (abstract/speculative inquiry) as well as a hierarchical classroom interactional ecology with non-African Americaness or whiteness, while imbuing concrete/empirical inquiry and a more symmetrical conversational ecology with African-Americaness.

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