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Reading Zora Neale Hurston’s Translanguaging

April 5, 2017

Which language(s) will we readers read when we read Zora Neale Hurston’s novel, Moses, Man of the Mountain?

Is it standard American English as we construct that language socially? For example, isn’t it English in the standard variety in America that we’re reading when we read this excerpt?

Miriam.walked.and.talked

What language, then, are we reading on the page before that brief excerpt? Here it is:
Is.she.done.took.to.dictating.Miss.Miriam

As we read might it be the case that the novelist has more than one language and is herself using all of her voices. It could be that she has us her readers reading her translanguaging as well. If so, do we sense that she’s clearly demarcating her languages on purpose? Do we feel that somehow one language is superior to another or that “sub standard” ought to enter our minds in the uses of language in the novel?

I’m asking because a bit of a conversation around the question of the translanguaging of Susan Rice yesterday. I posted on that here then. And the discussion is going on there at Language Log.

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