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This project problematizes hegemonic conceptions of language by looking at the construction of ‘English’ in a nonprofit, community-based adult ESOL program in New York. I use ethnographic observation and interviews to uncover the discursive and pedagogical practices that uphold these hegemonic conceptions in this context. I find that the structural conditions of the program perpetuate a conception of ‘English’ shaped by linguistic racism and classism, despite the program’s progressive ideals. Linguistic authority is centralized through the presentation of a closed linguistic system and a focus on replication of templatic language. This allows for the drawing of linguistic borders by pathologizing forms traditionally associated with racialized varieties of English, pointing to the persistence of raciolinguistic ideologies. Nevertheless, students destabilize these dominant ideas, revealing a disconnect between mainstream understandings of language and the way adult immigrant learners actually use language, and pointing to possibilities for alternate conceptions and pedagogies.


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