5 Responses

  1. Rachel E. Lauber
    Rachel E. Lauber September 23, 2011 at 10:01 pm |

    Refreshingly insightful. I especially liked the part about, “if the topic is language, everyone thinks they’re a linguist.” That is, unfortunately, too true.

  2. Dan Hemmens
    Dan Hemmens August 3, 2012 at 6:51 am |

    I’m not sure it’s entirely true that people are happy to defer to physicists and gastroenterologists on matters of physics and gastroenterology. I think it just happens to be the case that what physicists and gastroenterologists say happens, mostly by sheer coincidence, to overlap strongly with people’s preconceptions.

    For example, UK parents regularly freak out because their kids are being taught to do maths using methods that are different from the methods they were taught when they were at school, and of course there are large parts of America in which people are certainly *not* happy to defer to biologists on the question of evolution.

    I think linguists are in a uniquely terrible position because they work in a field about which people have *so many* preconceptions most of which are *so wrong*.

  3. Ruth
    Ruth August 20, 2012 at 6:44 pm |

    I believe Ebonics is a language rather than a dialect – the differences between it and Standard English are greater than with a simple English dialect. There is a distinctive and traceable history. In fact, according to research done in Texas (found through the film, Do You Speak American, a PBS Special), modern day Ebonics differs from Standard English far more than the plantation English spoken by slaves did. It has gone down a completely different path than Standard English, which, if we delve more deeply, has been influenced time and time again by the language of Ebonics: ie, jazz, cola, tote, etc.
    I think one thing that consistently holds Ebonics back is the fact that it is not concretely identified one way or the other, and there are so many terms to describe it – Black English, AAVE, etc. No wonder we can’t make up their minds about it, no one can even come up with a single term to claim it with.

    Good post though.

  4. Spence Morris
    Spence Morris August 13, 2013 at 8:47 am |

    I retired from teaching nearly fifteen years ago. I am a native american man who returned to my
    neighborhood to make a difference with young people.
    I have a decidedly non-liberal stance when it comes to educating the young.
    I established a charter school where personal responsibility was a given.
    Our methods were highly regarded, with a waiting list for children who wanted to study with us.
    Our students came from all over the world and all that we asked
    of them was to be willing to work. Those who would not apply themselves left.
    On the matter of ebonics, it may be a dialect of sorts, but to the ear of an english speaker,
    it is ugly, clumsy, and paints the speaker as being vastly ignorant.
    Liberal apologists too often jump to the defense of those who will not strive, inventing or co-signing
    onto excuses and exceptions to maintain some status quo to “save face”. In the real world, these rationalizations serve to keep people in poverty, to promote ignorance and isolation.
    Our langua franca is American English, and to navigate the marketplace and dwell in communities of
    diversity, American English serves it’s purpose. “Insider languages” or code speech serves to isolate
    and keeps others at a distant. It is a hallmark of cult behavior.
    Children will always practise exclusive behavior, in dress, actions or speech. But to legitimize
    and integrate exclusive behavior is to “play not to lose”. Translated that means, go along to get
    along. Our struggling education system seems to pass the problems on to some unspoken mysterious
    future where things will hopefully be sorted out. Therein dwells the lie.
    The sorrow of ebonics is that it creates one more sorry excuse for educators and critics to maintain
    their focus on black children. “The poor things- we must do something to help them! Let us purchase
    more basketballs and hoop nets to show that we mean well!”
    To make an exception for students based on color or creed is too often another nail in the coffin of learning.

  5. Tom Tom
    Tom Tom June 22, 2014 at 4:26 am |

    I’m just so sorry to burst the bubble of thought that is inclined to actually believe Ebonics is a valid language. The practice of dropping the “T” off the end of any word that has one (Firs, Las, Bes, actually First, Last, and Best), not knowing the difference between “she house” and “her house”, and phrases like, “I went over Mamma’s house”, is simply lazy speech. Notice that African-Americans who cling to this slave-like speech pattern of poorly stitched together wording, are not ever hired to speak on television news programs? There is a clear and distinct reason for this. Just as the current President B.Obama doesn’t use ebonics, it isn’t proper, and is indicative of one belonging to not just low class people, but low-low class people. I will never forget watching The Jefferson’s and hearing their house keeper say, in an attempt to sound like she had class, “I still doesn’t have no champagne.” that line drew plently of laughs simply because it was clearly very poor wording which was completely out of character for someone of real class. We were all taught to read and write proper English in our public education (those of us who cared to pay attention and learn something). Some chose instead to imitate their parents and friends more “street” version of speech. My parents were both “from the country” and both spoke with that particular manner. I was conscious of it and deliberately chose to not ever use that speech pattern as I didn’t want anyone to think I was uneducated because to me that is exactly how it sounds. Some people are a bit too proud to portray the image of a low class and under educated in their everyday lives. Ebonics doesn’t make you Black, it restricts you and identifies you as belonging to a lower class of person. On the flip side of that, proper King’s English does not make you White, it identifies you as someone who paid attention in school and learned how to choose and use the proper words in a sentence.

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