University of Pennsylvania Working Papers in Linguistics


In studies of nonstandard language in school settings, teachers are often characterized as speakers and promoters of the variety most valued by the school (Labov 1969, Wheeler & Swords 2006, etc.). When teachers' native variety is not equivalent to the school variety, they are confronted with the challenge of constructing an educator persona in a linguistic market in which their speech may not be associated with education. This task is particularly daunting in a dual immersion classroom, where certain students are relying on the teacher as their primary source of a language they do not speak at home, and other students may be native speakers of a variety more standard than that spoken by the teacher. Evidence from the present study, examining the merger of retroflex and dental sibilant initials in Mandarin, indicates that teachers systematically employ more standard language in more “curricular” contexts, thus providing cues for students still developing their knowledge of language and social meaning.