Well - like I said...I don't want to beat this with a bat anymore....but I'm also more than willing to continue so long as I know someone else is
listening and I'm not just talking to a wall, which I don't think I was before - but like I said, these are just differences in opinion - Whatever I
say is not going to change the way you see something, espically something that just plain annoys you....but nonetheless....I'll make another stand -
Let me start out a quote...those interested in this arguement should read thoroughly and, not to sound rude, but also look up any words that are
unfamiliar to you as some of the vocab that linguists use are not in our own dictionaries (haha...funny funny):
I've been reading the San Francisco newspapers these last two weeks, and I see continuing chaos in the ways commentators choose to describe and
classify the manner of speaking that is the target of the Ebonics resolution. The resolution and the public discussion about it have used so many
different terms, each of them politically loaded ("Ebonics," "Black English," "Black Dialect," "African Language Systems," "Pan-African
Communication Behaviors") that I will use what I think is the most neutral term, "African American Vernacular English," abbreviated as AAVE.
(1) Some participants in this debate think that AAVE is merely an imperfectly learned approximation to real English, differing from it because the
speakers are careless and lazy and don't follow "the rules." It is "dialect," in the deprecating use of that word, or "slang."
(2) To most linguists AAVE is one of the dialects of American English, historically most closely related to forms of Southern speech but with
differences attributable both to the linguistic history of slaves and to generations of social isolation. (For a linguist, to describe something as a
dialect is not to say that it is inferior; everybody speaks a dialect.)
(3) And some people say that while AAVE has the superficial trappings of English, at its structural core it is a continuation or amalgam of one or
more west African languages. The views summarized in (1) are simply wrong. The difference between the views identified in (2) and (3) is irrelevant to
the issue the board is trying to face.
The Oakland resolution asks that the schools acknowledge that AAVE is the "primary language" of many of the children who enter Oakland schools. What
this means is that it is their home language, the form of speech the children operated in during the first four or five years of their lives, the
language they use with their family and friends. An early explanation of the purpose of the new program (San Francisco Chronicle 12/20) is that it
"is intended to help teachers show children how to translate their words from 'home language' to the 'language of wider communication'."
I really have to agree here with #1 and #2 - these are really strong points....and like I mentioned before....that anooying phrase you mentioned
earlier (subtract the "pop-a-cap" part, are really just leftovers from slavery - always remember that we forced African Americans to learn English
and not in an academic fashionat first...this bleeds into culture....which then bleeds into music...which is itself a sub-culture....to say music
alone is not a culture is absurd IMHO)
Another point you made was "...what annoys me is when they know better, but speak with bad grammar anyway..." - I could apply the phrase "they know
better, but..." to a lot of things that people find annoying but that doesn't mean it's biologically wrong for that person/thing to do.....And
honestly....do you think that even if they do "know better" that they're going to care? If you don't like it they'll find someone who
does....that doesn't solve your problem tho...if anything, it amplifies it....
To go against everything I've said so far on the subject tho - I don't think it should be taught in schools...which it has been and continues to be
today - I only think it should be studied, accepted and used by those who choose to use it....
One last quote and I'll call it a night on this discussion...that is unless I get my fire sparked again - I know this is a little long, but just read
"The "demeaning" thing must have to do with the whimsical structure of the
word: "Ebony" (like the magazine) but like a color and a piece of wood,
used to describe a human being. Ebony + Phonics = Ebonics. It's not as
clever to many readers as it was intended to be. .... And. finally, maybe
some linguists feel the -onics/phonics element is demeaning to the notion
of "language" since it is a relatively simple-minded approach to the
teaching of reading by sounding out spelled words"
That's not why I "dislike" the word. I dislike it for other reasons. I'll
get to that, although it isn't particular relevant to why I think the word
has become worse than useless, except as a reference to a specific
political controversy at a specific point in the history of American
Next, considering the above quote, was "Ebonics" intended to be "clever"?
Not really. I'm sure that it was intended to sound "scientific" in defence
of legitimising what it was intended to refer to. Science, linguistics
included, continually coins new words along similar lines, though usually
more accurately preserving the integrity of the Greek and Latin formatives
If the linguists among you are going to get reflective over that, at least
appreciate that "Ebonics" is a BLEND, so that the -on- element pays
literate (not phonetic) homage to both parents, "eb/on/(y)" and
"ph/on/ics". In fact, the method of combination that led to "Ebonics" is
most in tune with the various ways that commercial brand names are coined,
e.g., "Sominex", "Peptobismol", "Lysol", etc. (my favorite is the late
great "Serutan"; that's "Natures" backwards, as the commercials proudly
pointed out). But SO WHAT?
Do you disdain the word "aspirin" for its equally ignominious origin? And
don't you appreciate "infomercials"? (hmm, probably not) What about
"docudramas"? Aren't you worried when the economy goes into a state called
"stagflation"? Does your rug have "fleafestation"? ...
(OK, The worst you can say for "Ebonics" as a linguistic formation is that
it's "slogan-y". And that might not appeal to your sense of what is
traditionally appropriate to "rational scientific discourse" or "polite
Next -- and this is most serious. Even more than the continuously
increasing array of pharmaceutical brand-names (and the more *sedate*
generic pharmaceutical names marketed under the brand-names), "Ebonics"
has turned into POISON.
You cannot use that word in a serious linguistic discussion about language
varieties, and you most definitely cannot use that word with non-linguists
and have them listen to you without *prejudice and blinding emotion*. And
if you don't know that, what have you been talking about during the last
The phenomenon is familiar. There are lots of other words and expressions
that that has happened to. We talked about this on list once in the case
of the expression "political correctness". That's why I found it odd that
Rob Hagiwara would write the following:
"Political Correctness is not about replacing 'familiar and simpler' terms
with 'odd and inappropriate' ones. The 'tenets' of PC are about courtesy
That's wrong. The attitude of acknowledgment and respect that is intended
by certain forms of linguistic and other behaviors is PUT DOWN/DEMEANED
with the term PC. Rob had acknowledged that earlier, but here he fell into
the trap, either in order to condense what he wanted to say, or by
misplacing the scare quotes. As an expert in communicative disorders, I
was surprised that he let this communicative disorder get past. The word
"Ebonics" has become a communicative disorder.
You are not free to use words any way you feel like ( if you want to be
understood). You cannot say "I think everybody should be politically
correct and those who sneer at political correctness are cycloptic
troglodytes -- or worse!". It simply doesn't say what you want to say.
(take note, ye linguists using words like "language", "dialect" and
"grammar" in public. Gauge your audience, and the audience of your
audience. Your audience can understand you -- maybe -- and they can let
THEIR audience MISunderstand you.
Maybe you should say, "everybody USED TO think that
"language/grammar/blabla" was ... but then linguists made the AMAZING
discovery that blablabla!" So if the audience still thinks what everybody
"used to" think, they're still living in caves, get it? OK, I tried.)
And you cannot say "Ebonics is a legitimate language in its own right." In
fact, if you read the list and most other current discussion you'll see
that "Ebonics" is used to refer to the political movement and/or topic of
discussion originating in the flap over the Oakland School Board's first
resolution. That's how it's used. Other uses have been marginalised,
and cannot be understood by most people. The word has been poisoned, and
it POISONS conversations that have to do with language.
(N.B. The Oakland school board understood that very well when they
expurgated the word "Ebonics" from their revised resolution -- but only
altered the intent of the original resolution minimally. And it worked.
They were ignored as the fire set by their initial use of the word
"Ebonics" raged on and ravaged the countryside -- and the cityside.)
Finally, why do I dislike the term "Ebonics"? For linguistic reasons. For
social and political analysis I think it is going to be fine, even useful,
to refer to "the Ebonics movement", "the Ebonics controversy", etc.
Doesn't even need scare quotes.
But, again, as a linguistic term applied to the first language of most
- long before the controversy, it was already associated with perhaps
well-intentioned but inaccurate, superficial, premature and immature
characterisations of that language. Its linguistic sponsors never went
beyond finding any similarity they could between AAVE (I'll call it that
without saying what the "E" stands for) and a number of Africal languages,
primarily West African Niger-Congo languages, and asserting that these
features were historically continuous with those languages.
(I'm not saying *all* their identifications were *totally* wrong, but that
they had no method to recognise whether they were right or wrong -- unless
you consider wishful thinking to be a methodology, rather than a
distracting factor to be constantly guarded against in developing and using
They dismissed any contradictory or confounding data, and dismissed any
arguments questioning that theory, as irrelevant. And they ignored such
data and arguments in propagating their theories.
(In mitigating my condemnation of them, I'll note that they chose to focus
on some equally methodologically ignorant and lousy theories which denied
the possibility of continuity between (almost) any feature of any African
language and AAVE. So their attention might have been somewhat distracted
by the racism and anti-Africanism of theories which had previously found
their way into print. But that doesn't excuse them for ignoring legitimate
issues that had arisen before them and have continued to arise. )
Even worse (according to my standards of scholarship), they ripped all
their pet features off of AAVE and reified them as a separate language.
The result is at best a bunch of language fragments, incoherent and
unusable alone, and it leaves what it ignores in AAVE similarly incoherent
and unusable as a language. This does as much damage to the concept of
AAVE as a language as does the false and intentionally vicious concept that
AAVE is not a language. Ebonics is not a language, but a parody of AAVE,
and the methodology used to assert that it is a language is not
linguistics, but a parody of it.
Hopefully that wasn't to long of a quote for the mods...
[Edited on 8/24/2004 by EnronOutrunHomerun]