There is something fascinating, almost magical, about the ability to speak. Though it is a common miracle played out each day, we are a long way from understanding the mysteries of language. Linguists have spent decades trying to unlock the codes of communication and have determined that human speech has very special properties that allow us to communicate at a rate 3 to 10 times faster than we could otherwise. There is more to language than speech, however, and anthropologists have spent as much time considering the links between culture and perception. Teachers must have the skills to both understand and build on the language of their students. Through understanding students' language, teachers hold the key to understanding their learning. TEXT FOCUS This reader is designed to take teachers into the domains of linguists and anthropologists. We believe it is important to read the studies of researchers who have shaped our understanding of how we develop language and use it to communicate meaning. But it is equally important to take that knowledge into the classroom, exploring how language can be used for genuine learning, for sharing understanding with others, and for delighting in the magic of language. We have included many studies of language from classrooms, written by teachers. These stories help us all understand how language develops and changes over time--and how this knowledge can help us change classroom practice for the better. To take the dialogue further, we invited three language researchers to tell us more about the process of their work--and, beyond their published research, what they are working on now, what motivates their research, and how they link it to their teaching lives. Our interviews with Shirley Brice Heath, Deborah Tannen, and Karen Gallas challenge us to engage in a "passion for the ordinary," exploring closely what is occurring all around us. InA Map of the World,(1994; New York: Doubleday) Jane Hamilton writes about a two-year-old child, Lizzie, who is just learning to speak: She was just beginning to speak in short sentences. She was at the juncture in her baby- hood when it was possible she knew everything worth knowing. She understood the texture of her family; she understood the territory and rage and love, although she couldn't say much more thanballandmoo,I want, pretty girl,andbad dog.As her language shaped her experience and limited her ideas, she would probably lose most of her wisdom for a time. . . Lizzie, at two, was on the brink, between stations. It was tempting to think that if only they could speak, infants could take us back to their beginning, to the forces of their becoming; they could tell us about patience, about waiting and waiting in the dark. (p. 27) The pieces in this reader can help give us a language to speak about language. We can understand that feeling a toddler has of losing knowledge for a time. Some of these readings will challenge you--as they have challenged us--to rethink some of your most cherished beliefs about language, learning, and culture. Learning about language has taught us much about patience, about waiting and listening closely to students so we can grasp multiple meanings beneath the words they use. TEXT ORGANIZATION Throughout this book we invite you to become a researcher of language in classrooms. We give guidance and many examples of teachers researching the language of their students. We've peppered the text with examples from novice teacher researchers who, like you, are just learning to analyze language--everything from purchasing tape recorders to coding tape transcripts to noting the way a head is held when someone laughs. We believe passionately that teachers can understand most deeply the lives and learning of their students if they arPower, Brenda Miller is the author of 'Language Development A Reader for Teachers', published 2001 under ISBN 9780130940636 and ISBN 0130940631.