Linguistic discrimination is discrimination based on accent. It is the unjust treatment of people based on their native language or other aspects of their linguist abilities. Craft et al. (2020) suggest that language discrimination is a subset of national discrimination in the definition of language discrimination. It is the unfair treatment of a person based on the characteristics of their speech, such as accent, vocabulary size, and syntax. This type of discrimination focuses on the person’s speech style ignoring their appearance. Language-focused discrimination is part of the social structure in America, which maintains that African Americans are inferior to whites (Henderson, 2001).
African Americans have different accents based on the different regions or countries in Africa. Africa has more than fifty countries, each with different dialects that impact the person’s English. The neighborhoods of African Americans also impact their English. African Americans are denied employment opportunities because they speak English with an African accent. They are subjected to discrimination or treated less favorably because they speak English with an African accent.
African-American Vernacular English (AAVE) is systematically rooted in history and is an identity marker for its speakers (Rickford et al., 2015). AAVE resembles other vernaculars like Appalachian English as an identity marker for the speaker. Language is usually influenced by exposure, social identity, and peer group influence. The speech patterns are shaped by their family, regional, and social environment. This would explain why immigrants from non-speaking countries at a young age can speak English with the same proficiency as those born in the U.S. while their parents cannot. AAVE is the most vernacular variety in the United States and can trigger discrimination at the workplace, schools, and others like the other vocabularies.
There have been many studies on discrimination, with most being able to show how regional differences contribute to stereotypes. Henderson (2001) was able to show how speech patterns can significantly contribute to a person’s wages, especially for African Americans. Others have shown how the same language patterns will impact employment opportunities for African Americans. Some employers will try to place the accent on the different African countries. Workers with regional and racial distinctive speech patterns earn lower wages than those who speak in the mainstream (Politzer-Ahles et al., 2016).
African Americans will have wage differences based on a sorting model. African Americans who have mainstream accents will be given jobs involving intensive interactions with customers and earn sizable wages. The others will be denied employment opportunities, or if they are luckily given such opportunities, they will be given low jobs with minimal interactions with customers and co-workers. The wages will also be minimal compared to other African Americans with mainstream accents. This is the same with hiring managers, where pronunciation differences will determine whether one will be hired as a manager (Henderson, 2001).
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