I dipped into the pool of linguistics a bit this past summer, so when I ran across links to Oliver Willis displaying his willful linguistics ignorance (with regards to the acceptance of Ebonics [and American Southern, “hillbilly” etc.] as a genuine language), I had to click and read the entire discussion.
And then I found out he did it again. This time there’s three pages of good back-and-forth, with “Ed from Ohio” and Willis tightly holding onto their original opinions, and three or four other characters tag-teaming in attempts to be helpful.
It’s an interesting discussion (although repetitious in theme), and there are good linguistics-related links interspersed throughout.
The interesting debate (and to me, the only one worth reading for, since the rest is basic sociolinguistics chatter) is the idea that accepting AAVE (see above for the etcs) as a language is “enabling”—that it will induce laziness in learning “standard” American English. That those who speak it must be ignorant to the fact that it takes “standard” American English skills to succeed. That by giving their speech more weight than mere slang (several commenters called AAVE “crap English” or ignorant speech, for instance), we are making it impossible for AAVE-speakers to be successful. That there is one and only one way to speak English in America, and all else is ignorance. That treating the instruction of “standard” English as the instruction of a second language is giving too much weight to “ignorant speech”. That it shouldn’t be necessary to teach Americans (in particular blacks) a second language in a structured ESL setting, because, hell, they’re American and from the same country as the rest of us, right? That—
You know what? Fuck it. I’m not getting my blood pressure up over this tonight.
Starter links below. Follow chains to learn more.
- The Linguistic Society of America on Ebonics
- Wikipedia on AAVE
- John Rickford on Ebonics
- The Center for Applied Linguistics on Ebonics
- A bibliography of works on AAVE
- Amended resolution of the Oakland School Board on Ebonics
Now take all of that and applyit to American Southern English, New England speech, etc.
And finally: the man who started it all (for me). Cheers.