ebonics

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Ebonics means 'black speech' (a blend of the words ebony 'black' and phonics 'sounds'). The phrase was created in 1973 by a group of black scholars who disliked the negative connotations of terms like 'Nonstandard Negro English' that had been coined in the 1960s when the first modern large-scale linguistic studies of African American speech communities began. However, the term Ebonics never caught on amongst linguists, much less among the general public. That all changed with the 'Ebonics' controversy of December 1996 when the Oakland (CA) School Board recognized it as the 'primary' language of its majority African American students and resolved to take it into account in teaching them standard or academic English. Clearly there is a problem with these children that may be addressed by looking at language. The role that Ebonics may play in changing the above statistics is a practical question. Only the completion of a program including Ebonics, and time, will reveal the answer. Whatever the basic agenda in Oakland California, it is important to look at the question of Ebonics from the point of view of doing what is best for children. Acknowledging the strength of Ebonics in no way suggests teaching Ebonics in place of Standard English. Acknowledging the strength of Ebonics can and should serve to ease the teaching of Standard English. Many people see Ebonics as "gutter language", and "slang", and are quite outspoken about it. These beliefs are deeply rooted in society. Resistance to the acknowledgment that Blacks who use Ebonics may be speaking a unique language is very strong, but I believe it is important to challenge the belief that Ebonics is "slang". Some people have stated that the movement to recognize Ebonics is Afro-Centrism at its worst. I would argue that the attempts to squelch Ebonics are Euro-Centrism at its worst and most intense. Ebonics includes non-slang words like ashy (referring to the appearance of dry skin, especially in winter), which have been around for a while, and are used by people of all age groups. These distinctive Ebonics pronunciations are all logical. For example, Ebonics speakers often create sentences without present tense is and are, as in " They allright or "They allright". But they don't leave out present tense am. Instead of the ungrammatical *"Ah walkin", Eboni... ... middle of paper ... ...uite different and that the conditions necessary for the emergence of a fully-fledged creole language were never met in the US. These scholars have shown on a number of occasions that what look like distinctive features of AAVE today actually have a precedent in various varieties of English spoken in Great Britain and the Southern United States. It seems reasonable to suggest that both views are partially correct and that AAVE developed to some extent through restructuring while it also inherited many of its today distinctive features from older varieties of English, which were once widely spoken. While the situation in this case is made more extreme by the context of racial and ethnic conflict, inequality and prejudice in the United States, it is not unique. Such undecided attitudes towards abnormal varieties of a language have been documented for many communities around the world and in the United States. References: Smitherman, G. (1991). Talking and testifyin: Black English and the Black experience. In Reginald Jones (Ed.) Black Psychology.(3rd ed., pp. 249-268). Berkeley, CA: Cobb & Henry Spears, A. K. (1984). Towards a new view of Black English. The Journal, 1, 94-103.

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