Journal of
Languages and Culture

  • Abbreviation: J. Lang. Cult.
  • Language: English
  • ISSN: 2141-6540
  • DOI: 10.5897/JLC
  • Start Year: 2010
  • Published Articles: 132

‘Can I get an amen?’ The Black gospel church as discourse community and pedagogical model

John W. White
Department of Foundations and Secondary Education, University of North Florida, 1 UNF Drive, Jacksonville FL 32224, USA.
Email: [email protected]

  •  Accepted: 26 March 2012
  •  Published: 30 December 2012



Too often times, educators assume that Standard English is static, that it is prone to infection from non-school discursive practices, and subsequently take on the role of "language police" by banning non-standard English from the classroom. This narrow view of 'what counts' as academic discourse ignores the organic nature of language, alienates increasing numbers of linguistically diverse students, and ultimately affirms linguistic ethnocentrism. This paper, conversely, highlights the fact that there are ways of teaching Standard English that celebrate linguistic diversity and facilitate students’ buy in. One of such examples is the Black gospel church. The most successful preachers from this tradition show that language can be at once culturally relevant and “standard”. Their liturgical and pedagogical style makes use of both code switching and code meshing, a new take on code switching in which dyadic linguistic lines are blurred to create new hybrid discourses that both reify and strengthen the underlying tenets of each discursive form.


Key words: Discourse processes, academic English, black vernacular English, code meshing, code switching.