Research & Community Activities

One theme in all of my activities is working to increase social justice and equality. I started off in linguistics, and later anthropology, looking closely into the grammar of two languages among the many that fascinate me: African American English (AAE) and Haitian French Creole (HC).

Recently, I have become more involved in looking at language in education, following my belief that access to quality education is essential for creating equal opportunity for disadvantaged groups, who often speak stigmatized languages. This project focuses on producing writings that deal with topics related to increasing the academic achievement of students whose home language is stigmatized. AAE and HC are among these home languages.

Under my community activities I include speaking to and consulting with nonacademic groups. These activities take many forms, but I derive most satisfaction from those that have produced more solid legal defenses for persons unjustly accused of deficiencies or crimes based on misused or biased language evidence. My research on race, color, symbolism, and controversial expressions has been crucial for many of these defenses. Also important is presenting linguistic and anthropological information on television and radio. Along with the internet, these are the best venues for disseminating scholarly research to broad audiences and, in so doing, making it clear that academic research has highly practical uses.