McWhorter on Black English

C-Span had McWhorter discussing his book, Back Talk, Black Talk. In his talk he laid out, in his usual fashion, the structure of discourse on Black English. What was a bit sad was that his mood on the topic was dyspeptic and dark. He predicted from experience that he would get tons of e-mails telling him what he got wrong and it would be along the lines of, “Yeah, but you can’t talk like that in a job interview,” and other inanities. It is disheartening. I know b/c I’ve tried any number of times on a listserv for foreign languages teachers to tell them students will not learn standard English if teachers focus on the stupid and baseless grammar rules so often perpetuated by well-meaning teachers. McWhorter mentioned those in response to a question and dismissed them, saying he would love to jettison the whole mess. In my personal experience, the more someone defends those shibboleths, the less they know about grammar.

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