29 April 2014

Suite For Ebony & Phonics

Suite For Ebony & Phonics by John Rickford, linguistic professor and director of The Center For African American Studies at Stanford University, gives a form of awareness to the masses on first and foremost what Ebonics is ("Deriving from both "ebony" and "phonics", meaning black sounds"; basically an English dialect founded to be spoken by majorly African Americans, not all - "more common among working class than among middle class speakers, among adolescents than among the middle age, and informal contexts (a conversation in the street) rather than formal ones (sermon at church) or writing).  Rickford also gives insight upon the action taken by Oakland School Board to approve "a resolution recognizing Ebonics as the primary language of African American students". With Oakland's decision in such action controversy was derived by many linguists expressing Ebonics as "lazy English , bastardized English , poor grammar , fractured slang and continued to say Oakland's decision to recognize Ebonics and use it to facilitate mastery of Standard English as ridiculous , ludicrous , Very Very stupid , and a terrible mistake." Based of the three founding principles linguists derive their practices from "1. describe how people talk - not to judge how language should or shouldn't be used ... 2. All language, if they have enough speakers, have dialects - regional or social varieties that develop when people are separated by geographic or social barriers ... 3. All languages and dialects are systematic and rule governed" thus Ebonics cannot be labeled as "slang". Rickford goes on to say "Ebonics is more of a dialect of English than a separate language, because it shares many words and other features with other informal varieties of American English. And it's speakers can easily communicate with speakers of other American English dialects." Rickford gives clear example through this excerpt to show how Ebonics is indeed a dialect of English giving Ebonics sentences ("He runnin , He be runnin , He  Bin runnin") and even did an experiment where he "presented the Ebonics sentence "She BIN Married" to 25 whites and 25 African Americans from various parts of the United States asking if they understood the speaker to be married or not ... 23 of the African Americans said yes, only 8 of the whites gave the correct answer". This shows that Ebonics is relevant and can be understood through different cultures but more importantly it is a form of English dialect.



Dear Mr. Rickford ,

Personally I believe linguists see a problem within the use of Ebonics that others don't. The underlying issue I feel is more than just Ebonics itself but more of whom uses it, African Americans/the minority - thus linguists label it as "Lazy English , Bastardized English , Poor Grammar and Fractured Slang". Through these labels, there is a sense that this issue derives from more than what the linguists make it out to be; Ebonics itself can't be a dialect based off the people who execute and practice it. As for the general public, their perception of language use and varieties is different compared to linguists due to the fact the general public is born and embedded into a lifestyle affected by their surroundings; in short the customs of a regular civilian is completely different from that of a professional whom studies the use and varieties of language itself, the value for the actual art of language would be different for each party.

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