Devante Taggart's Language Autobiography


In this unit we were talking about ​the connection between language and identity. I decided to talk about how the setting someone is in affects the language they use and their identity. Some other themes were code switching and how power ties in with language. In my paper you will read all these themes and how they connect with my personal life and how they might effect the life of others in ways that most people would not notice.

Settings and Their Influences

The setting a person is in for an extended period of time affects them in multiple ways. For example, I travel to the South a lot because that is where majority of my family is from. Georgia, Florida, Louisiana, and Virginia are the main states I travel to. They each bring a different influence into my life. Sometimes I pick up new slang, sometimes I come back with an accent and sometimes I don’t change at all.

The reason some settings are more influential than others is all based on how comfortable a person is. The more comfortable a person is changes how much it influences them and how much they can influence it.

People can be influenced by culture, language and actions/activities for example. I for one never played sports as a child until my brother and me started to hang out more. That's when i got comfortable and started to part take in the activities he was into. He played a lot of football and I wasn't into that. One summer my brother, my cousins and me were all hanging out and they started playing and I just jumped in the game. I started to like the game, but the point is that wasn't something I did but was influenced to do so by my environment.

My family in Louisiana speaks English but they also speak Creole. For those who don’t know Creole is a form of broken down French. I myself don’t know much Creole besides words that form basic conversations. The way they influence me is with an accent. Their English is spoken with an accent and that usually rubs off on me while I’m there.

When people are comfortable (or extremely upset/frustrated), they often fall back on the language they feel more comfortable expressing themselves in. This example connects with me, because when I’m in Louisiana with my mother and grandma, who were raised there, they often mix their English with Creole when talking to our cousins.

In class we discussed how people often “ code-switch “ and I think this connects with setting the most. When people are in an uncomfortable setting they get nervous and switch codes. By this I mean they change their tone of voice and the way they pronounce certain words.

I switch codes very often. I usually speak in proper English in a proper tone with a few slang words thrown in.  When I’m talking to people in powerful positions (i.e. principals, teachers, staff) I speak strictly proper English. This happens with most people who get into a setting that involves lots of people who have great effects on their life.

When I’m around my peers I speak slang, because I don’t have a reason to speak proper. I think the main reason people speak slang around their peers is because they feel comfortable enough to speak how ever they want with out fear of critical judgment. For example, mispronouncing a word with my friends doesn’t affect me as much as mispronouncing a word during a presentation.

That’s when setting connects with “ power “. By power I mean they have a very important position in the community. Peers don’t have much power because the judgment they pass doesn’t affect a person’s life as much as the judgment from a principal or a parent.

Some settings don’t influence people at all. Someone traveling to a job that they don't enjoy will come back the same, because if a person doesn't enjoy their work environment then they must not be comfortable.

People often influence the setting they are in. I influence my school and home setting a lot. One example would be when I come home speaking slang that I recently picked up at school or while I was out and after I say it a few times it rubs off on my family.

Me: Wassup?
Devon (brother): what you getting into today?
Me: I don’t even know fam hbu?
Devon: Chilling, now ride out.
Me: What
Devon: Ride out nigga
Me: Stop playing!
Devon: Whatever boul
Me: That’s not you.

Neither one of use really knew the slang the other was using but context helped out a little. That scene involved us both exchanging slang. The phrases “ ride out”, “ That’s not you” were exchanged and now we both use them in everyday conversations.

All of these ideas connect making a setting seem more complex than most people think. Many people don’t think that their setting influences them as much as I expressed in this essay. Most people don’t notice the little changes in their language when their environment changes, maybe now they will.