John Baugh

John Baugh

Professor of Psychology, Anthropology, Education, English, Linguistics, and African and African-American Studies
​Margaret Bush Wilson Professor in Arts & Sciences
PhD, University of Pennsylvania
MSSH, University of Pennsylvania
BA, Temple University
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  • Washington University
  • CB 1109
  • One Brookings Drive
  • St. Louis, MO 63130-4899
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Professor Baugh is a renowned linguistics expert who has published extensively in that field, as well as in legal affairs, sociology and urban studies.

Professor Baugh's primary research interest has been the social stratification of linguistic behavior in multicultural and multilingual nations. Initial interest in this area began with quantitative and experimental studies of linguistic variation among African Americans. These studies evolved into applied linguistic research devoted to policy issues in medicine, education, and law. Gradually his analyses expanded to include populations who suffered various forms of linguistic discrimination, including deaf communities, as well as speakers of languages or dialects who lack fluency in the dominant linguistic norms of their respective societies.

Most of Professor Baugh's research is interdisciplinary, drawing extensively upon related work in the fields of anthropology, ethnography, linguistics, and sociology. These experimental investigations are tailored to have practical applications whenever possible. Recently he has conducted studies of linguistic profiling over the telephone, where callers seeking housing or other goods and services face discrimination due to stereotypes about their speech. Very often these discriminatory acts have legal implications in civil and criminal court cases.

In addition to his linguistic research, Professor Baugh directs the African and African American Studies program, which strives to advance distinguished scholarship of and by people of African descent regardless of academic discipline. These administrative duties are collaborative and involve scholars and students across Washington University who work to advance teaching, scholarship, and public service throughout the African Diaspora.

Talkin Black Talk: Language, Education, and Social Change

Talkin Black Talk: Language, Education, and Social Change

Talkin Black Talk captures an important moment in the history of language and literacy education and the continuing struggle for equal language rights. Published 50 years after the Brown decision, this volume revisits the difficult and enduring problem of public schools’ failure to educate Black children and revises our approaches to language and literacy learning in today’s culturally and linguistically diverse classrooms. Bringing together some of the leading scholars in the study of Black Language, culture, and education, this book presents creative, classroom-based, hands-on pedagogical approaches (from Hip Hop Culture to the art of teaching narrative reading comprehension) within the context of the broader, global concerns that impact schooling (from linguistic emancipation to the case of Mother Tongue Education in South Africa).

This landmark work:

Presents an interdisciplinary approach on language education, with contributions from leading experts in education, literacy, sociolinguistics, anthropology, and literary studies.

Contextualizes the education of marginalized youth within the continuing struggle for equal language rights, and promotes an action agenda for social change.

Includes a powerful afterword by Geneva Smitherman – the leading scholar on issues of Black Language and Education.

Beyond Ebonics: Linguistic Pride and Racial Prejudice

Beyond Ebonics: Linguistic Pride and Racial Prejudice

The media frenzy surrounding the 1996 resolution by the Oakland School Board brought public attention to the term "Ebonics", however the idea remains a mystery to most. John Baugh, a well-known African-American linguist and education expert, offers an accessible explanation of the origins of the term, the linguistic reality behind the hype, and the politics behind the outcry on both sides of the debate. Using a non-technical, first-person style, and bringing in many of his own personal experiences, Baugh debunks many commonly-held notions about the way African-Americans speak English, and the result is a nuanced and balanced portrait of a fraught subject. This volume should appeal to students and scholars in anthropology, linguistics, education, urban studies, and African-American studies.

Out of the Mouths of Slaves: African American Language and Educational Malpractice

Out of the Mouths of Slaves: African American Language and Educational Malpractice

When the Oakland, California, school board called African American English "Ebonics" and claimed that it "is not a black dialect or any dialect of English," they reignited a debate over language, race, and culture that reaches back to the era of slavery in the United States. In this book, John Baugh, an authority on African American English, sets new parameters for the debate by dissecting and challenging many of the prevailing myths about African American language and its place in American society.

Baugh's inquiry ranges from the origins of African American English among slaves and their descendants to its recent adoption by standard English speakers of various races. Some of the topics he considers include practices and malpractices for educating language minority students, linguistic discrimination in the administration of justice, cross-cultural communication between Blacks and whites, and specific linguistic aspects of African American English. This detailed overview of the main points of debate about African American language will be important reading for both scholars and the concerned public.

Black street speech: its history, structure, and survival

Black street speech: its history, structure, and survival

In the minds of many, black street speech--the urban dialect of black Americans--bespeaks illiteracy, poverty, and ignorance. John Baugh challenges those prejudices in this brilliant new inquiry into the history, linguistic structure, and survival within white society of black street speech. In doing so, he successfully integrates a scholarly respect for black English with a humanistic approach to language differences that weds rigor of research with a keen sense of social responsibility.

Baugh's is the first book on black English that is based on a long-term study of adult speakers. Beginning in 1972, black men and women in Los Angeles, Philadelphia, Chicago, Austin, and Houston were repeatedly interviewed, in varied social settings, in order to determine the nature of their linguistic styles and the social circumstances where subtle changes in their speech appear. Baugh's work uncovered a far wider breadth of speaking styles among black Americans than among standard English speakers. Having detailed his findings, he explores their serious implications for the employability and education of black Americans.

Black Street Speech is a work of enduring importance for educators, linguists, sociologists, scholars of black and urban studies, and all concerned with black English and its social consequences.