Sonja Lanehart
Sonja Lanehart

First-Year Faculty: UTSA Professor Sonja Lanehart investigates attitudes about language and its use

By Lydia Fletcher
Special Projects Writer

(June 21, 2007)--At the end of the spring semester, Sonja Lanehart finished her first year at UTSA, after being recruited from the University of Georgia. Former Provost Guy Bailey recruited her, knowing the Houston native wanted to return to Texas to teach.

The nationally respected linguistics scholar is the inaugural holder of the Brackenridge Endowed Chair in Literature and the Humanities in the Department of English, Classics and Philosophy. Lanehart teaches undergraduate and graduate courses in English literature and linguistics, humanities and African American studies.

Lanehart is the author of "Sista, Speak! Black Women Kinfolk Talk About Language and Literacy" (University of Texas Press, 2002), a study of African-American women's language and identity issues. In the book, she interviews her grandmother, mother, aunt and sister, and examines her own attitudes about language and her use of it.

Her broader research interest is the sociolinguistic study of language in the African-American community, and she is working to define what African-American language is and to analyze the impact of Ebonics on the language and identity of the African-American community.

According to Wikipedia, Ebonics is a combination of the words "ebony" and "phonics," and originally described the language of all people of African ancestry, or the language of Black North American and West African people, emphasizing the African roots of the former. Since 1996, it has been used largely to refer to African-American Vernacular English as a sub-category of American English.

Lanehart received her B.A. in English at the University of Texas at Austin and master's and doctoral degrees in English language and literature at the University of Michigan.

Lanehart's teaching at UTSA focuses on research methods and methodology, language and uses of literacy, sociolinguistics, English language variation and standardization, and the history of the English language. She has added several courses to the UTSA curriculum and plays an important role in mentoring English master's and doctoral students.

Lanehart co-edits the Research News and Comments section of the American Educational Association's journal, Educational Researcher. An avid tennis player, Lanehart says she is thinking about trying out soccer for a change.

The Brackenridge Endowed Chair in Literature and the Humanities was funded by grants from the George W. Brackenridge Foundation and the National Endowment for the Humanities. The UTSA Department of English, Classics and Philosophy previously benefited from Brackenridge Foundation endowment gifts that established the George W. Brackenridge Distinguished Visiting Professorship in the Humanities and the Sue E. Denman Distinguished Chair in American Literature.

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