LINGUIST List 8.86

Thu Jan 23 1997

Disc: Ebonics

Editor for this issue: T. Daniel Seely <>


  1. Mari Broman Olsen, Dialect diversity in other countries (was "Ebonics")
  2. Dan Moonhawk Alford, Re: 8.63, Disc: Ebonics and 'principles'
  3. benji wald, Re: 8.73, Disc: Ebonics

Message 1: Dialect diversity in other countries (was "Ebonics")

Date: Tue, 21 Jan 1997 15:20:38 -0500 (EST)
From: Mari Broman Olsen <>
Subject: Dialect diversity in other countries (was "Ebonics")

With the exception of the post from Stirling Newberry
<>, analogies (or analyses) from other countries
with linguistic diversity have been lacking in the Ebonics postings.
America is relatively new to such controversy. What do the
experienced linguistic planners think about this debate: a flash in
the pan? a recognizable step toward linguistic diversity? paternalism
masquerading as linguistics? I'd like to know....

Mari Broman Olsen
Research Associate

University of Maryland Institute for Advanced Computer Studies
3141 A.V. Williams Building
University of Maryland
College Park, MD 20742

(301) 405-6754	 FAX: (301) 314-9658
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Message 2: Re: 8.63, Disc: Ebonics and 'principles'

Date: Wed, 22 Jan 1997 08:04:33 -0800 (PST)
From: Dan Moonhawk Alford <>
Subject: Re: 8.63, Disc: Ebonics and 'principles'

I'm still confused about something. Given the tough time Whorf has had for
over half a century around the word 'principle (of linguistic
relativity)', what exactly are African Language Systems 'principles'? Are
they something like what we otherwise call 'rules' or 'laws'? Linguistics
just doesn't have a great track record in dealing with 'principles,' even
though they are the foundation of science and mathematics, so every time I
see the term surfacing, I wonder how it's meant.

warm regards, moonhawk
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Message 3: Re: 8.73, Disc: Ebonics

Date: Wed, 22 Jan 1997 19:42:11 -0800 (PST)
From: benji wald <bwaldHUMnet.UCLA.EDU>
Subject: Re: 8.73, Disc: Ebonics

First of all, didn't I say it's not "Ebonics" anymore, it's "African
Language Systems"?

But, seriously, I agreed with a lot of what Tom Sawallis wrote in his
posting. Then I hit a bump at the following point.

 The time, effort, and
>money that was to have been dedicated to teaching teachers about BEV would
>be much more profitably spent teaching them about the differences between
>spoken and written English.

Idealistically this sounds good, and indeed in terms of "more or less
(time, effort, money)" some formula is necessary, because indeed the
difference between speaking and writing is not well recognised for what it
is. Nevertheless, in case Tom does not realise it, in the US the position
of African Americans in the overall society is historically and continues
to be "special". And what that means is that debilitating attitudes which
are no longer acceptable or even consciously held about African Americans
are still able to hide themselves in reactions to African American speech.
It's no accident that stereotypists seize on "invariant be" nowadays rather
than some "nonstandardism" of currency beyond the African American
community. Apart from that, mutual ignorance of African American and
non-African American speech and even more general ways of talking (such as
noted in Shirley Brice-Heath's "Ways with Words" in a localised context)
remains a problem in recognising just what BEV-speaking pupils know and
don't know and how to teach them what they don't know.

I won't bury this point in a lot of other things, the way I usually do.
But I will maintain for further discussion that in the US the relationship
between African Americans and the "standard" society is SPECIAL, and also
that discussion of this point is relevant to the linguistic issues
involved. -- Benji
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