And here we go with the Ebonics thing again…..

How hard not to respond to this to the Listserv (flteach)! The truth is, I did already. This is what I wrote:
“The correct appellation for this dialect of English is either the technical
African-American Vernacular English or the everyday term, Black English or
Black dialect. It is NOT Ebonics.

Secondly, if this dialect were incomprehensible to DEA agents, then
sportscasters would call for an interpreter every time they interviewed an
athlete speaking this dialect, of which there are many. Any English-speaker
can understand someone speaking Black English.

What the DEA agents are no doubt running into is a coded vocabulary or slang
deliberately used to throw outsiders off, either b/c it’s a criminal
enterprise or just b/c the suspects come from an in-group culture that
develops its own in-group terminology. Such slang is frequently denominated
“argot”. Black English, OTOH, is most definitely NOT slang and to call it
that is not worthy of an educated person, anymore than calling Scots English
slang is.

Thanks to Wes and Charlotte for discussing this issue. As fl teachers, we
owe it to our students to possess and convey an accurate understanding of
the languages and dialects our students speak. I am sure this list would
erupt if someone were to mischaracterize the Spanish of the American
Southwest or Canadian French.

For those interested, John McWhorter is a reliable scholar; his books
relevant to this issue are Word on the Street, Our Magnificent Bastard
Tongue, and Spreading the Word.”

First: the word Ebonics. The “proper” term i.e. the term used by linguists, is African-American Vernacular English. The everyday term is Black English or Black Dialect. It is definitely NOT Ebonics. Ebonics came out of a conference in 1973 and was the coinage of a Dr. Williams, a respected linguist. He was trying to establish a term which would separate A-AVE from English, an academically respectable view but controversial. The coinage never caught on until 20 years later when the Oakland School Board latched onto it. Personally, I think it was an unfortunate choice b/c the lack of the word “Black” or “African” allowed the media to unleash all the pent-up desire to ridicule Black people. Now they could ridicule the way Blacks talk without being called racist. And they did, belching out along with racism a hairball of ignorance about language. That’s why I like to set people straight on the term Ebonics.
Next, the issue is not that A-AVE is hard for non-speakers to understand. Will someone PLEASE read a book on this topic? For a bunch of fl teachers, listserv members seem significantly challenged on this issue. Black English is a dialect of English and moreover one that is quite comprehensible to speakers of other dialects, esp. in the U.S. No sportscaster interviewing a football or basketball player speaking Black English asks for an interpreter.
On  28 Aug 2010, at 10:40, Charlotte Meyer wrote:
>> What amazes me most about that is the number of people who apparently did not read the article and are incensed that the DEA is “coddling” people who don’t speak right [sic].
>> AND the number of people who did not read the article but are defending the DEA’s [assumed] decision to serve people who choose to speak “Ebonics”
> Hmm, it must be my Military Intelligence background.  What is going on is obvious to me.  The suspected drug dealers are speaking in “code” and the DEA is looking for code-breakers.  Duh!

It would be obvious to anyone who actually read the article with any kind of intelligence, military or otherwise.

My amazement was directed at the huge number of people who read only the headline, assumed the DEA is “coddling” people who are “too lazy or ignorant to speak right” [sic], and felt obligated to post their extreme displeasure in a comment.

AND at the similar number who read only the headline, assumed the DEA is being admirably non-judgmental in not demanding formal language of prospective employees, and felt obligated to defend the DEA against the first group.

Wes Groleau

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