I have read many sources that claim that Black English (i.e. Ebonics, AAVE) is connected to West African languages.
http://www.salon.com/feb97/games/verbivore970214.html

This article states that "many of the distinctive forms of Ebonics can be identified as residues of West African languages." It goes on to say "the word for cat in several African languages also means man. Hence, our hip expression cool cat is derived from Ebonics." Post hoc non est propter hoc. "Cool cat" may indeed by derived from Ebonics, but that has nothing to do with any African language. The man/cat connection is obviously a coincidence.
The article goes on to say that "the absence of certain -s markers, as in '50 cent', 'she work here' and 'John cousin', as well as the absence of the verb to be, as in 'he happy', is rooted in the deep structure of West African languages." Gimme a break! Exactly which West African languages, praytell? Come to think of it, I have read many sources that assert a West African connection, but they never mention which West African languages. I'm starting to think this is all just a big lie. I'm pretty sure that Black English has no connection at all to any African language, and it's just a dialect that developed out of Southern American English.
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9
andrew wrote on 17 Apr 2004:
I have read many sources that claim that Black English (i.e. Ebonics, AAVE) is connected to West African languages. http://www.salon.com/feb97/games/verbivore970214.html ... no connection at all to any African language, and it's just a dialect that developed out of Southern American English.

Ouch! You are straying into the world of racial politics and out of the world of scientifically-based linguistics, if there be such an animal, that is. Your assertions are no less suspect than those in the article you decry. Produce some evidence and your assertion becomes a testable hypothesis, but as it stands, it is merely verbiage.
Lederer's statement of the case is more substantial than you imply, but it is no less a political statement, and it is certainly not a documented piece of scientific fact. He just assumes we are all familiar with the facts he seems to have.
He also calls his article "Case for Ebonics", which establishes that it is a piece of persuasion and not the conventional wisdom. My biggest problem with the Ebonics issue has nothing to do with the claims you attack as perhaps "a big lie", but with the final three paragraphs:
(quote)
Those who believe in the Ebonics movement hope that by recognizing the speech patterns of students speaking Ebonics, teachers can better instruct them in standard English. "We're not saying Black English is wrong; we're saying it's different and not that it has to be abandoned but that something else has to be learned," said Peter Haberfeld of the Oakland teachers' union, which supports the change. "It's building on kids' strengths."
Thus, if a student says, "He done did it," teachers would translate the statement to standard English "he has done it" rather than just correcting the student and telling him or her that his or her language is incorrect.
My hope is that the Ebonics movement will work against the widespread dissing (disrespecting) of the way most African-American youngsters speak. Less defensive about the language in which they live and move, these students may then be in a better position to employ both the Ebonics and the standard codes and to reap the full fruits of our American civilization.
(/quote)
The first paragraph is pure nonsense to meThe only strength exemplified by speaking and writing only a non-standard dialect of English is that students can speak and know how to write more or less the way they speak. It's quite different from teaching students who speak standard dialects of foreign languages in English-only classes.

The second paragraph is also nonsense. Why does Ebonics rate any more consideration than any other non-standard dialect of English? It isn't the job of schools to teach kids that their dialect is socially valuable when it is a social minus in the real world (except, of course, for entertainers of all types, who make money off of a variety of dialects, including Ebonics).
The third paragraph is just a political pipe dream. It ignores reality and the nature of human beings in general. Ebonics is not the only non-standard dialect of English that is shat and spat upon in the USA. And ordering people to feel one way instead of another about a language doesn't work.We can see how it worked here in Taiwan when Chiang Kai-Shek decreed that only Mandarin Chinese, his language, was the only acceptable language in public, and that people who spoke Taiwanese in public would be arrested. Millions here are bilingual, but Mandarin is still the language of business and education because it is spoken by almost everyone and is taught in all schools here. Taiwanese who grew up with Taiwanese as a mother tongue prefer to speak to other Taiwanese in Taiwanese instead of Mandarin, though, because they feel that it's a "warmer" language and give's its speakers a better feeling than the foreign but official Mandarin.

I'm sure the same feeling exists in the PRC among those whose mother tongue is not Mandarin. The Mainlanders here in Taiwan, and most of their children and grandchildren, are not bilingual. They speak the mandated broken English they are taught in high school, of course, but they generally don't speak Taiwanese. And, of course, Taiwanese is not a written language, which makes all the less acceptable. But the language problem here is purely political, not at all scientifically linguistic.
This kind of language discrimination will always exist. It exists everywhere and always has. It isn't restricted to the divide between Ebonics and standard American English.

Franke: EFL teacher & medical editor.
For email, ehziuh htiw rehpycrebyc ecalper.
Ouch! You are straying into the world of racial politics and out of the world of scientifically-based linguistics, if there be such an animal, that is. Your assertions are no less suspect than those in

You may be, but I'm not. As the subject line suggests, I am only interested in the question of whether Ebonics has any connection to any African language. Now you're using my question as an excuse to stand on a soapbox.
Students: Are you brave enough to let our tutors analyse your pronunciation?
Ouch! You are straying into the world of racial politics and out of the world of scientifically-based linguistics, if there be such an

You may be, but I'm not. As the subject line suggests, I am only interested in the question of whether Ebonics has any connection to any African language. Now you're using my question as an excuse to stand on a soapbox and discuss nasty issues that I wanted to avoid. I never said anything about politics or race, and indeed I tried to step around these issues. The West African question can be neatly seperated from the politics surrounding it, and that was my intent.
andrew wrote on 18 Apr 2004:
Ouch! You are straying into the world of racial politics ... is. Your assertions are no less suspect than those in

You may be, but I'm not. As the subject line suggests, I am only interested in the question of whether Ebonics has any connection to any African language. Now you're using my question as an excuse to stand on a soapbox.

You made unsupported assertions about Ebonics. You attacked a political manifesto (Lederer's). You didn't ask anything. You asserted, you claimed, you stated:
(quote)
I'm starting to think this is all just a big lie. I'm pretty sure that Black English has no connection at all to any African language, and it's just a dialect that developed out of Southern American English.(/quote)

When you learn the difference between making a claim and asking a question, you will be able to better judge whether my assessment of your post was accurate or a distortion. At the moment, you don't seem to know the difference, and your claim that you weren't getting involved in the racial politics of Ebonics is a misunderstanding of what you yourself said.

Franke: EFL teacher & medical editor.
For email, ehziuh htiw rehpycrebyc ecalper.
andrew wrote on 18 Apr 2004:
Ouch! You are straying into the world of racial politics and out of the world of scientifically-based linguistics, if there be such an

You may be, but I'm not. As the subject line suggests, I am only interested in the question of whether ... these issues. The West African question can be neatly seperated from the politics surrounding it, and that was my intent.

You failed to realize your intention. Rhetoric 101 for you.

Franke: EFL teacher & medical editor.
For email, ehziuh htiw rehpycrebyc ecalper.
Site Hint: Check out our list of pronunciation videos.
Ouch! You are straying into the world of racial politics and out of the world of scientifically-based linguistics, if there be such an

You may be, but I'm not. As the subject line suggests, I am only interested in the question of whether ... these issues. The West African question can be neatly seperated from the politics surrounding it, and that was my intent.

I wasn't confused as to your intent. I think it is a very interesting question you raise. Perhaps Raymond, Evan, or someone else here will be able to answer it. If not out of Africa, why, in so few years, did it become the separate dialect it became? Black English is somehow related to an African language is my guess, but it is only a guess. Did Africa have a pidgin English at the time the slaves were brought over to the New World? That'd be another possible origin, if so.
Charles Riggs
My email address: chriggs/at/eircom/dot/net
Charles Riggs wrote on 18 Apr 2004:
You may be, but I'm not. As the subject line ... from the politics surrounding it, and that was my intent.

I wasn't confused as to your intent. I think it is a very interesting question you raise. Perhaps Raymond, Evan, ... English at the time the slaves were brought over to the New World? That'd be another possible origin, if so.

You and andrew might want to look at the materials on Gullah, a dialect of English (but some consider it a creole) spoken only on the Sea Islands off the coast of South Carolina. The West African influence is very strong there in all aspects of culture. Encarta has two articles about it, one on the language and one on the people.

http://tinyurl.com/2y7uh

Franke: EFL teacher & medical editor.
For email, ehziuh htiw rehpycrebyc ecalper.
I have read many sources that claim that Black English (i.e. Ebonics, AAVE) is connected to West African languages. http://www.salon.com/feb97/games/verbivore970214.html ... no connection at all to any African language, and it's just a dialect that developed out of Southern American English.

If you want to lose your faith, lose it to a pro and not an amateur. Anybody who calls AAVE 'Ebonics' without scare quotes or qualification in published work is demonstrating their lack of credentials to discuss the issue. The first hit on Google with the search terms 'creole AAVE' is John Rickford's article "The Creole Origins of African American Vernacular English: Evidence from copula absence". You want chapter and verse, he's got chapter and verse.
Incidentally, it was written before the Oakland School Board brouhaha, and the word 'ebonics' does not appear in the paper, which gives you some idea of how useful a term it is. If you search on 'ebonics', by comparison, much of what you get is racist junk. Garbage in, garbage out.

Some other useful sources (post-brouhaha) can be found at

http://www.umich.edu/~jlawler/ebonics.lsa.html
http://www.umich.edu/~jlawler/wow/nunberg.html
http://www.stanford.edu/~rickford/ebonics /
http://www.linguistlist.org/topics/ebonics /
http://www.cal.org/ebonics /
http://www.cal.org/ebonics/ebfillmo.html
http://www.cal.org/ebonics/fillmore.html
http://www.ling.upenn.edu/~wlabov/L102/Ebonics test.html

-John Lawler http://www.umich.edu/~jlawler U Michigan Linguistics Dept "A man does not know what he is saying until he knows what he is not saying." G.K. Chesterton, 1936, "As I Was Saying"
Teachers: We supply a list of EFL job vacancies
Show more