Ways with Words: Language, Life and Work in Communities and Classrooms Shirley Brice Heath (Stanford University, California)
Ways with Words, first published in 1983, is a classic study of children learning to use language at home and at school in two communities only a few miles apart in the south-eastern United States. 'Roadville' is a white working-class community of families steeped for generations in the life of textile mills; 'Trackton' is an African-American working-class community whose older generations grew up farming the land, but whose existent members work in the mills. In tracing the children's language development the author shows the deep cultural differences between the two communities, whose ways with words differ as strikingly from each other as either does from the pattern of the townspeople, the 'mainstream' blacks and whites who hold power in the schools and workplaces of the region. Employing the combined skills of ethnographer, social historian, and teacher, the author raises fundamental questions about the nature of language development, the effects of literacy on oral language habits, and the sources of communication problems in schools and workplaces.