Working-class women academics: Four socio-linguistic journeys

Gail Grace Verdi, Miriam Eisenstein Ebsworth

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This study focuses on the linguistic and cultural challenges faced by four female academics from working-class backgrounds as they navigated the marginalized dialects of their working-class communities and the dominant discourse(s) and culture(s) of schools and universities. Through a series of open-ended ethnographic interviews, the authors explored the evolution and insights of each woman, as she considered how her socio-linguistic identities were formed within varied contexts and through multiple relationships. Salient themes derived from discussions and analyses included: (1) the influence female caregivers had on language development; (2) a moment of recognition for each woman that her native language or dialect conflicted with the Standard English used in academic settings; (3) the struggle to deal with aspects of difference including contrasting pragmatic systems; (4) gendered discourses and social norms of behaviour within working-class and academic communities; and (5) a recognition by each woman that she would always have to struggle to survive in the academic world. This paper concludes by considering approaches educators might utilize to foreground the marginalized dialects of working-class students and to add the unique richness of class-based sub-cultures to the curriculum.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)183-204
Number of pages22
JournalJournal of Multicultural Discourses
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jul 2009


  • Contrasting pragmatic systems
  • Female academics
  • Gendered discourses
  • Linguistic identities
  • Marginalized dialects and subcultures
  • Working-class women

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cultural Studies
  • Communication
  • Linguistics and Language


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