Ebonics Cultural Assumption

People in different parts of the English-speaking world speak with different accents and use dialect words. The EbonicsCulturalAssumption is that whereas the study of most dialects should be a small, optional part of the study of English, Ebonics should be a course in its own right.

Similarly, whereas people with most dialects realize that in technical documentation, public speaking etc. they should avoid dialect words, to suggest the same to an Ebonics speaker would be discrimination.

A lot of the ebonics flap years ago was taken *way* out of context. The proposal was to use Ebonics to help kids who already spoke Ebonics to learn to read. The research indicated that trying to learn to read *and* trying to learn a new English dialect at the same time made learning to read more difficult than it had to be. Nobody suggested that there should be any kind of course in Ebonics. Basically, it was an ESL (English as a Second Language) course for Ebonics speakers. -- AnonymousCoward ... [IIRC, since the kids' dialect had grammatical rules of its own, you could glom onto these and say something like, "Now, at home you say X, now here's how you would say it in 'Standard' English."]

And before folks jump on this page as an example of discrimination, note that this is equally true, and equally regrettable, for French.

I don't understand the last sentence. How is French like Ebonics? How are French speakers like Ebonics speakers?

Perhaps a reference to the Acadian / Cajun French Dialect / Quebecois? http://frenchcaculture.about.com/gi/dynamic/offsite.htm?site=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.codofil.org%2Fchronologie.html

Did they teach Cajun French in school? Or was the French immersion in "european" French?

Well, I don't think they teach "european" French in Quebec schools. But that is what is taught in French courses in schools in the rest of Canada.

Just so that it's clear: there is such a thing as "proper" french: it's dictated by l'AcademieFrancaise?, if I understand. It is rather eurocentric though. 'it is -l'AcademieFrancaise? is the organization that fines restaurateurs for using the word "hamburger" on the menu as opposed to the more complicated French phrase.

That would be steak haché - literally "chopped steak" - doesn't seem more complicated to me.

Let me get this straight...in France there's a organization that dictates what restaurateurs put on their own menus?

GutterEnglish? has been with us for a long time.

Some more accepted forms are Cockney and West Cornwall (source of the famous "Aaarrr" of PirateSpeak?).

Within England alone there are more than a dozen easily recognized dialect forms, none of which have ever been "legitimized" by making it central to a curriculum.

The idea that, because a segment of the society has elected to partition itself by adopting a slurred/chopped/slangified/whatever version of English, it should therefore be accorded some special recognition in curricula is transparently absurd.

I have lived in the NorthEasternUsa? (UpNorth?), SouthEasternUsa? (DownSouth?), WesternUsa? (OutWest?), England (Midlands, London, Brighton), and other, not-primarily-English-speaking countries. I have learned the local idiom/dialect as needed. With few exceptions, I have found that in most of these places it is well understood that EnglishAsSheIsSpoken? is not necessarily EnglishAsSheIsWritten?, and there was no whining (wingeing) about "our textbooks should be written in our idiom/dialect."

There was pride in being able to speak and conduct commerce in both LocalEnglish? and ProperEnglish.

The idea that someone's color should enable some special treatment in curriculum is InstitutionalizedRacism?, and should never have gotten past the first gales of laughter. Ebonics, literally, is "BlackSpeak?" (or possibly "Blackish").

Somebody, find the SOB who started this crap and let the air out of his tires. Hang him from the nearest giblet (as my good friend Rastus Malaprop would say). Bury him with a steak [sic] of holy [sic] threw [sic] his hart [sic] (sayeth R. Malaprop).

It was a bad idea. It's still a bad idea. A much better idea is to adopt special curricula for Chinglish or Japanglish. We could call it YellowSpeak? (or Yellowish). Of course the IndianSubcontinent? population will get upset and want Indinglish (Indianish? also called Brownish).

Could we, for crying out loud, just skip the whole racist agenda? Please?

-- GarryHamilton

Much of this, of course, trivializes many matters.

Ebonics, like Scottish English, New Zealand English, etc... are all legitimate, recognizeable, and consistent dialects of the EnglishLanguage. For what that's worth. When word of "Ebonics" escaped linguistic and educational circles and hit the mainstream press, the sh*t hit the fan and flew in several directions.

One reaction, of course, was the one complained about above--some thought that Ebonics (for various reasons, often related to discrimination against African-Americans and such) ought to be elevated to first class status alongside the standard written form (in this case, AmericanStandardEnglish? since Ebonics is a USA phenomenon).

The opposite reaction, of course, was that Ebonics wasn't a legitimate, recognizeable, and consistent dialect of the English language--it's just plain BadEnglish that someone (the "liberals", often) was trying to legitimize for PoliticallyCorrect reasons.

It doesn't take a scholar to detect a whiff of racism in both points of view.

In both cases, linguistics is being polluted somewhat with politics (though to say that probably betrays a naive point of view about the nature of linguistics and linguists... as language is a fundamental part of many cultures, many linguistic determinations--such as "language" vs "dialect"--are inherently political and will always be so).

Nowadays, the whole ebonics debate seems to have died down a bit, the Republic still stands.

EditText of this page (last edited February 5, 2005) or FindPage with title or text search