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#1
Old 11-05-2002, 12:34 PM
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Ebonics (or let me axe you a question)

Why is it that many blacks (or African Americans for you PC folks), consistently mispronounce words?

The pattern I've noticed:

ask = axe
both = boff (trailing 'th' replaced with 'f')
that = dat (leading 'th' replaced with 'd')

This seems to happen continuously, and education doesn't seem to matter. Chief Moose's press conferences were littered with these verbal errors. Coach Tyrone Willingham of Notre Dame was giving an interview and sounded perfectly articulate.. and then launched a trailing 'th'.

My question is, why? Is this part of the ebonics dictionary, a regional thing, or is it just something that is picked up around homes/neighborhoods? And if it is a regional thing, why is it that I've not noticed these peculiar speech trends in any other segment of the population?
#2
Old 11-05-2002, 12:40 PM
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Many of the black guys and gals I've known over the years could speak both standard English (which many of us regard as "proper") and their own version of it -- it usually did come down to education. But then I could say the same about a lot of the southern guys and gals, too. Of course, there's always an accent of sorts left behind. The only group of people I've ever met personally, though, that couldn't "switch" lingos were people from the eastern part of the country, i.e., Massachussets.
#3
Old 11-05-2002, 12:45 PM
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Re: Ebonics (or let me axe you a question)

Quote:
Originally posted by Max
Why is it that many blacks (or African Americans for you PC folks), consistently mispronounce words?
. . . And if it is a regional thing, why is it that I've not noticed these peculiar speech trends in any other segment of the population?
Because you haven't been listening closely enough?
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Old 11-05-2002, 12:50 PM
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It seems to me to be far from universal among Black/African-American people throughout the US. I would venture a guess to say that it's more frequent among younger and more urban segments, where the pressure to speak more to the standard is less.
#5
Old 11-05-2002, 01:00 PM
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Because you haven't been listening closely enough?
Perhaps. Although I would think that my circle is diverse enough to ask the question. I've never asked any of my black friends because, quite frankly, I didn't want to insult anyone.

If it is a regional thing, fine. But I can honestly say I've never heard a white person say 'axe'.
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Old 11-05-2002, 01:03 PM
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Quote:
Originally posted by Balthisar
The only group of people I've ever met personally, though, that couldn't "switch" lingos were people from the eastern part of the country, i.e., Massachussets.
While I know some folks who seem to have great difficulty pronouncing their "r"s, most folks have no problems with them. I regularly switch in and out of my accent, such that my firends never know what to expect, and that's even before I moved out of the area. My father switches accents frequently (though not deliberately, I suspect), depending on whether he's in a professional setting or a social one.

That's for accent ... if you meant word choice, I frequently say "pop" rather than "soda", and hardly ever say "wicked"...
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Old 11-05-2002, 01:16 PM
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Balthisar is right. Lots of Southerners do it, too, altering their accent and word choices as the situation requires. Heck, I do it, depending on whether I'm hanging out with friends or in a job interview.

I think it's probably a regional/neighborhood thing. If you grow up listening to your family and friends talk that way, of course that's how you're going to talk. And while you might speak a more standard version of English in a professional setting, it makes sense that when you're in a comfy social setting, you'll laps back into what you know best.
#8
Old 11-05-2002, 01:39 PM
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Quote:
If it is a regional thing, fine. But I can honestly say I've never heard a white person say 'axe'.
I can't answer why you have not heard it before, but I do know that both "aks" and "dat" appear in several American and British dialects. While "aks" is more frequently associated with blacks in the U.S. and "dat" (or "dem," "dese," and "dose") are more frequently associated with Eastern European immigrants and some sections of New York City, they each appear in various dialects on the isle of Britain.

In general, I would guess that it is a result of the frequency or lack of certain phonemes in various dialects. If the "th" that we associate with either "this" or "thin" is generally lacking in a dialect, then those words will be pronounced "dis" or "tin." Similarly, a dialect in which "ask" is the only word that uses the final /sk/ phoneme, the speakers are liable to change it to the more comfortable (to them) final /ks/.
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Old 11-05-2002, 01:46 PM
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Max, may I suggest you watch The Sopranos some evening?
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Old 11-05-2002, 04:07 PM
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In Buffalo, there's kielbonics, the dialect spoken by many Polish-Americans. The "th" sound is replaced by "d," so you'll hear white folks say "dat." There's also the filler word "dere," the kilebonics version of "there," often used before or after nouns, business names or place names. A Cheektowaga resident may say ...

"I got to go to dat dere Wal-Mart's dere on dat dere Unionroat and get some of dat dere mulch dere for da frontlawn dere."

which means ...

"I have to go to the Wal-Mart on Union Road to get some mulch for the front lawn."
#11
Old 11-05-2002, 04:24 PM
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Quote:
Originally posted by Max
I can honestly say I've never heard a white person say 'axe'.
You don't get much whiter than Billy Joel, and on the Glass Houses album, he goes back and forth between "ask" and "axe" in the song "Don't Ask Me Why." There's nothing else in the song (or on the album) to indicate this is a consciously "black" stylization. He does, however, use the very-east-coast expression "a buck three-eighty" in a different song on the same album.
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Old 11-05-2002, 04:26 PM
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Quote:
Originally posted by Max
If it is a regional thing, fine. But I can honestly say I've never heard a white person say 'axe'.
Come on to New York City.. They 'axe' enough around here to deforest the entire state
#13
Old 11-05-2002, 04:26 PM
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Oh, and F for TH -- e.g., "bofe" for "both" -- shows up in the Cockney dialect, too.

It's just a regionalism. Don't get your knickers in a twist.
#14
Old 11-05-2002, 04:43 PM
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Philly

Here in da city of brotherly love, dey published a book Phillyphonics-Now Youse Can Talk Like Us.
Examples-
Philadelphia= Fluffya
Italian= Eyetalian
Eagles= Iggles
Water= Wooder

For more examples, watch the first Rocky film. Plenty of obviously inteligent and respected Philadelphians speak in Philly dialect.

Yinglish
This is a dialect used by many Jews of European descent. Fyvish Finkel speaks in Yinglish offfscreen as well as on. Yoda's syntax is based largely on Yinglish. Zev, Izzy, and many of the other Jewish Dopers probably speak Yinglish as well.


English is a dynamic and fluid language. Why all these dialects? I should know such things?
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#15
Old 11-05-2002, 04:54 PM
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Dis and dat are classic Dublinese, as well.
#16
Old 11-05-2002, 05:20 PM
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Quote:
Originally posted by Milton De La Warre
I would venture a guess to say that it's more frequent among younger and more urban segments, where the pressure to speak more to the standard is less.
I would guess that the pressure they have is to speak like their peers, to their standard.
#17
Old 11-05-2002, 08:13 PM
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For the SDMB's consideration regarging 'Eubonics'

My brother worked at a DC goverment agency that had a lot of black administrive filled positions.

He made the comment that the black secrataries would speak "proper English", when dealing with business related companies".

But as soon as the same secretraries would get a personel calls, they would 'lapse into eubonics".

There is something more than speaking "correct" English than is going on here.

What is it?
#18
Old 11-05-2002, 08:42 PM
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Is the ability to understand ebonics purely a black thing? I've experienced the phenomena of black folk speaking with perfect diction but once they're around their black friends (and in my earshot) I can't make heads or tails of what they're saying. Most times when I am dealing with black people I feel like someone's going to brand me as racist because I can't follow half of what the people say and I am sincerely giving them my undivided attention.
This may be off topic but I figure most blacks are speaking with a variation on southern English which is supposed to sound quite a lot like the English spoken in England around the time America was just an unruly colony.
#19
Old 11-05-2002, 08:44 PM
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First off, the term "Ebonics" is a fiction the Oakland school board thought up; they (erroneously) thought Black English was a creole of English and African languages. It isn't. It's just one of many dialects of American English. It's not even an American English dialect influenced by African languages... all the things Standard English speakers find odd about Black English can be traced back to features of British English dialects. If it were really a creole, you would not be able to understand it at all.

This knowledge illustrates an irony that would be hilarious if it wasn't so racist... many Standard American English speakers equate Black English with stupidity, while the same dialect features used by a British English speaker are equated with intelligence.

More later.

-fh
#20
Old 11-05-2002, 10:09 PM
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Ax for ask is not (only) a black thing. It originated in England, in fact look in the Oxford English Dictionary word history sometime: aks is a dialectal variant form in England that has been traced back to Anglo-Saxon, some 1300 years ago. Before that, it was probably found in Common Germanic on the European mainland before the Angles and Saxons migrated to Britain. It may go back all the way to Proto-Indo-European.

English has a history of switching around the order of s and the stop consonants next to it. This is called "transposition." For example, English wasp goes back to Proto-Indo-European *waps-. Italian vespa shows the same transposition; this phenomenon has always been around in Indo-European dialects and has no special association with Black English.

AFAIK, Yoda's SOV (Subject-Object-Verb) syntax is based on Japanese rather than Yiddish. Yiddish, a form of German, most often uses SVO the same as English; it puts the object before the verb only for emphasis: "A shmendrik, he says!" This to Yiddish its reputation for colorful and expressive speech helps give. Because it more flexibility with emphasis has. Hungarian and Latin, too, consistently this variability allow, either SOV or SVO using depending on where you the emphasis put. Japanese always the verb last in a sentence puts. So Amharic, Hindi, Hopi, Korean, Lakota, Navajo, Persian, Quechua, Tamil, Turkish, and many, many other languages around the world do.
#21
Old 11-05-2002, 10:41 PM
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Quote:
Originally posted by hazel-rah
First off, the term "Ebonics" is a fiction the Oakland school board thought up; they (erroneously) thought Black English was a creole of English and African languages.
Actually, the Oakland school board didn't invent the idea. It was based on the writings of some linguists. I don't think the school board actually believed that ebonics was a separate language. Instead, they were (justifiably, IMO) trying to get additional funding set aside for school districts with a large number of bilingual children. They were pointing out that children whose parents had little education also needed remedial education in English.
#22
Old 11-06-2002, 12:10 AM
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Quote:
Originally posted by moocher

There is something more than speaking "correct" English than is going on here.

What is it?
What you are observing is common among people who speak more than one language or dialect with a reasonable degree of fluency. They speak with whichever one is best suited to the situation.

Your confusion probably stems from a misconception about the nature of language. The dialect most widely spoken and understood in the US is Standard English Vernacular (SEV). Another common dialect is African-American Vernacular English (AAVE), called Black English Vernacular (BEV) in older linguistics texts and Ebonics by much of the general public. AAVE is not a corruption of "correct" English, and people who speak it do not do so simply because they do not know "correct" English. It is a distinct and grammatically consistent dialect with many native speakers.

From a linguistic standpoint there is no "correct" dialect, there is only the dialect best suited to the situation. In the US that dialect is often, but not always, SEV. Anyone who speaks both can AAVE and SEV can switch between them at will, just as like someone who is fluent in two different languages. If someone who usually speaks SEV at work begins speaking AAVE to a relative on the phone it isn't because they have suddenly forgotten "correct" English but because they have switched to speaking the dialect that they and their listener are most comfortable with.

My first year in college I had a Jamaican roommate who spoke at least three distinct dialects. When speaking in class, to me, or to any non-Jamaicans she spoke standard British English. On the phone to her mother she spoke another dialect that used different grammar and pronounciation ("No mummy, him not go dere!") but that I could still understand perfectly well. With her Jamaican friends she spoke "Patwa" (Jamaican Patois). Despite some apparent English roots Patwa was completely incomprehensible to me, had a distinct syntax and vocabulary, and probably deserves recognition as a seperate Creole language and not an English dialect at all.

Quote:
Originally posted by raisinbread
Is the ability to understand ebonics purely a black thing? I've experienced the phenomena of black folk speaking with perfect diction but once they're around their black friends (and in my earshot) I can't make heads or tails of what they're saying.
No, it is not purely a black thing. You would be able to understand it perfectly well if you were more familiar with the dialect. Native speakers of this dialect are mostly African-Americans, but anyone can learn to speak and understand it.
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Old 11-06-2002, 06:54 AM
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(I tried to post this last night just before I went to bed, but I guess the hamsters stomped it into the dust. Here is a reconstruction from memory.)

The first proposal that Black English is a distinct idiom with its own systematic grammatical structure was put forward by a linguist named J. L. Dillard in his book Black English (New York: Random House, 1972). It was for this same concept that, years later, someone came up with the catchy brand-name "Ebonics." But the credit for developing the linguistic theory of it goes to Dillard (unless anyone knows of an earlier work).
#24
Old 11-06-2002, 07:28 AM
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I think the improper pronunciation goes back to the slave days. Many slaves weren't taught English they just picked it up. So its something thats been passed down from generation to generation and adoted as a "cultrual" thing.
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Old 11-06-2002, 08:03 AM
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elmwood, that piece on kielbonics is one of the funniest things I've read on the SDMB in quite a while (all four of my grandparents came from Poland).

In a side note, we do not speak kielbonics at home (Pepper Mill has no Polish blodd), and no one we know speaks that way, but our daughter MilliCal uses "dat", "dere", and "dose" for "That", "there", and "those" all the time. We can't figure it out.
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#26
Old 11-06-2002, 08:46 AM
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If Ebonic speakers could, in fact, switch easily back and forth between dialects, I could more easily accept that it was simply a matter of choice. Most people, black or white, who speak one of these demotic forms can NOT switch back and forth easily or, in many cases, at all. That's the problem, IMO: many people talking "street" can't just turn on formal English in formal settings.

I'm very impressed when anyone has complete bilingual ability, in ANY two languages, and I point out to defenders of Ebonics that as a second language (or even as a first), it's only positive. As an only language, though, it leaves its speakers disadvantaged, and many defenders are comfortable with its status as a sole language.

The issue here is not "allowing" Ebonics to exist (it does and will) but allowing its grammar, syntax and diction to substitute freely for those of standard English.
#27
Old 11-06-2002, 09:51 AM
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Quote:
Originally posted by pseudotriton ruber ruber
I'm very impressed when anyone has complete bilingual ability, in ANY two languages, and I point out to defenders of Ebonics that as a second language (or even as a first), it's only positive. As an only language, though, it leaves its speakers disadvantaged, and many defenders are comfortable with its status as a sole language.

The issue here is not "allowing" Ebonics to exist (it does and will) but allowing its grammar, syntax and diction to substitute freely for those of standard English.
What do you mean by "allowing"? Do you mean allowing non-standard English to infiltrate standard English? Although I cringe when I hear "African-American Vernacular English (AAVE)" (thanks Lamia) in an out of context situation, there's no such thing as allowing/disallowing anything in a language. Languages are dynamic and they are defined by their usage. We could try to be like the French and fruitlessly force "impurities" from the language, but I see a lot of conflicts with the first amendment in that route.

If we ever can force the language to change, I would instantly delete the words "gonna" and "wanna" and all other silly concoctions. Sure, keep saying them, but there's no excuse for actually writing them (well, other than by way of example ). And "could of" and "would of" -- I'm curious about whether people who write those really think they're literally saying "could of"/"would of" or just don't know how to write "could've" or "would've."
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#28
Old 11-06-2002, 10:13 AM
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So, Max; when I say "y'all" are you going to say "Well, you redneck (or Southerner for you PC folks)?" What about when I pronounce "have to" as "hafta?" When I'm speaking in a formal setting, I use the so-called Prestige Dialect of Standard American English. Otherwise, I use the dialect I'm comfortable with.

Get off it. It's just one of many dialects of the English language.
#29
Old 11-06-2002, 10:28 AM
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Cockney English uses "f" for a trailing -th

eg "Kaff" (=Kath) in soap opera Eastenders, who also owned a "caff" (=cafe)

I don't know if this is also in Ebonics but the replacement of "l" for "w" is also common in Cockney:

"not giw'ty" (=not guilty)
"Michewwe" (=Michelle)
#30
Old 11-06-2002, 10:30 AM
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What Is "Gullah"? Like?

I undertand that the black people who live on the sea islands of the Georgia/S. Carolina coast speak a very interesting dialect called"gullah". What does it sound like-does gullah use "axe" for ask?
#31
Old 11-06-2002, 10:31 AM
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Quote:
I think the improper pronunciation goes back to the slave days. Many slaves weren't taught English they just picked it up. So its something thats been passed down from generation to generation and adoted as a "cultrual" thing.
Well, that would tend to be true of every speaker of the language, wouldn't it? Certainly, your "improper pronunciation" or my "improper pronunciation" (when viewed from the perspective of a proper Oxonian) is the result of the regions where we grew up with the cultural aspects of those places.

The cultural aspects of AAVE would have more to do with the segregation of blacks into their own communities during and long after slavery with "education" having little or nothing to do with it. I was familiar with several immigrant Polish and Italian enclaves as a kid (and briefly encountered a similar German group) and I can assure you that their "English" had a great many differences from SVE both in pronunciation and in syntax. The only differences that I can think of between the grandchildren of those enclaves and those of black groups is that the immigrant groups began intermarrying into the general population and the enclaves dissipated--something that has not occurred among a large number of blacks.
#32
Old 11-06-2002, 10:39 AM
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[QUOTE]Originally posted by Balthisar
[B]

What do you mean by "allowing"?


How about "generally accepting"? That any better? I think you understand my shorthand, but if not, what words would you use to describe giving negative feedback to non-standard dialect? I'm not even talking about direct feedback, but the sort of judgments we all pass on speakers of language that we (privately) consider to be limited?

Or is it that all dialects are equally privileged in your view?
#33
Old 11-06-2002, 10:48 AM
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Quote:
Originally posted by Obvious Guy
I think the improper pronunciation goes back to the slave days. Many slaves weren't taught English they just picked it up. So its something thats been passed down from generation to generation and adoted as a "cultrual" thing.
AAVE is not a mangling of "correct" English, it is a genuine English dialect that is no less valid than, say, the Scouse dialect.

The switching of "th" for "d" is not unique to AAVE. The "th" sound is unusually difficult for the human mouth to form. Every child in my family needed a couple of years of early speech therapy in order to master it. This sort of difficulty is why the "th" sound does not appear in most human languages, including many English dialects.

Quote:
Originally posted by pseudotriton ruber ruber
If Ebonic speakers could, in fact, switch easily back and forth between dialects, I could more easily accept that it was simply a matter of choice.


It is a matter of choice for people who speak multiple dialects. For people who speak only one it obviously is not.

Quote:

I'm very impressed when anyone has complete bilingual ability, in ANY two languages, and I point out to defenders of Ebonics that as a second language (or even as a first), it's only positive. As an only language, though, it leaves its speakers disadvantaged, and many defenders are comfortable with its status as a sole language.
The entire "Ebonics" issue arose because educators were looking for a better way to teach students to speak SEV. Treating AAVE as merely an uneducated attempt to speak SEV rather than a seperate dialect was not helping students to learn SEV. There was hope that by granting AAVE recognition as a foreign language (although it is really an English dialect) then educators would be able to teach SEV as a second langauge (dialect) to native AAVE speakers rather than wasting everyone's time attempting to force children to always speak SEV instead of AAVE.
#34
Old 11-06-2002, 10:58 AM
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Quote:
Max wrote:
Why is it that many blacks consistently mispronounce words?
Just to emphasize what Lamia said, they are not mispronouncing words, but speaking them correctly in their dialect. There are lots of dialects of English, and we all speak our own which would be laughed at in other settings.

In the book The Language Instinct, Stephen Pinker quotes the language of a young black man in an emergency room, which most people reading the book would find almost incomprehensible, but then goes on to show how he is actually following the complex rules of his dialect correctly. Not inferior, just different.
#35
Old 11-06-2002, 11:04 AM
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BTW, in Pittsburgh, people also say "axe" instead of "ask". And "Pixburgh".
#36
Old 11-06-2002, 11:38 AM
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hazel-rah writes:

> First off, the term "Ebonics" is a fiction the Oakland school
> board thought up; they (erroneously) thought Black English
> was a creole of English and African languages. It isn't. It's just
> one of many dialects of American English. It's not even an
> American English dialect influenced by African languages... all
> the things Standard English speakers find odd about Black
> English can be traced back to features of British English
> dialects. If it were really a creole, you would not be able to
> understand it at all.

chula writes:

> Actually, the Oakland school board didn't invent the idea. It
> was based on the writings of some linguists. I don't think the
> school board actually believed that ebonics was a separate
> language. Instead, they were (justifiably, IMO) trying to get
> additional funding set aside for school districts with a large
> number of bilingual children. They were pointing out that
> children whose parents had little education also needed
> remedial education in English.

Let me discuss these two comments, since they get the facts fairly close but still don't get them quite right. Actually, the general belief of linguists nowdays is that the features of AAVE are caused both by the elements that they derived from other American dialects (and the elements were themselves derived from British dialects) and from creolization with African languages. There is a presently-existing creole of English with many elements borrowed by African languages. It's called Gullah, and it's spoken by some blacks on the coastal islands of South Carolina. Like creoles in general, it's hard but not impossible to understand for a speaker of Standard American English to understand it. It's clear that some words from African languages, and possibly a few grammatical patterns, have been borrowed into AAVE. It's probably true though that most of the elements special to AAVE are derived from other American dialects. (More specifically, they are derived from Southern American dialects. Remember, until about 1930, the overwhelming majority of American blacks lived in the South. Even now, about 55% of American blacks live in the South.)

The Oakland school board statement about "Ebonics" was a horrible distortion of the beliefs of linguists about AAVE. I was at a meeting of the Linguistic Society of America in January 2001 (about four years after the Oakland statement), and the linguists there were still incredibly angry about the worthless of it. Studying African-American Vernacular English (or Black English, but certainly no linguist calls it "Ebonics") has been one of the interests of linguists for the past 30 years. That's not surprising, since studying regional, social-classed-based, gender-based, occupational, etc. dialects is a part of what linguists do. The Oakland statement was a hopeless misunderstanding of what linguists had told the teachers about AAVE. First, the statement was full of gooey, meaningless educational jargon. Second, the teachers (or maybe administrators) who wrote the statement didn't understand anything the linguists had told them about the status of dialects, the origins of AAVE, or the recommendations that linguists made for teaching.
#37
Old 11-06-2002, 11:39 AM
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Although I'm not from "Pixburgh", I do hail from Western PA, and often exhibit a similar accent to those in the Burgh.

I've noticed, especially when I visit my family and lapse back into the accent, that we tend to drop "th" entirely off of the beginning of words and replace "th" with "D" in other situations.

Example:

Q: Where you goin'?
A: Dahn air. (Down there)

A: Up air. (Up there)


Q: Where you from?
A: Da Sas ide. (The South Side)

I find myself concetrating quite a bit in professional settings to pronounce the "th", but when I'm at my folks, the "th" 's disappear entirely.
#38
Old 11-06-2002, 06:14 PM
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Quote:
Originally posted by pseudotriton ruber ruber
How about "generally accepting"? That any better? I think you understand my shorthand, but if not, what words would you use to describe giving negative feedback to non-standard dialect? I'm not even talking about direct feedback, but the sort of judgments we all pass on speakers of language that we (privately) consider to be limited?

Or is it that all dialects are equally privileged in your view?
No, I got you now... I really thought you meant something along the lines of "purifying the language." And like I said, I'd be for it. But, I also understand it doesn't work that way.

I get a bad impression of a speaker when I hear anyone speaking non-standard English in an environment that demands it -- and it happens frequently. I no longer try to correct anyone for fear of being branded a racist (yes, it happened, at work, when I was trying to be helpful).

Yes, I think all dialects are equally privileged in my view -- but only in their place. That's why standard English is standard English. That's why the Germans-Austrians-Swiss have Hochdeutsch. And so on.

Where one can make a difference is if you're given the chance to teach a business communications course at work (you guys do training, right?) -- stress the differences, and stress that "black English" isn't wrong -- just that it's not standard English.
__________________
---
If you want to discuss cannibalizing black people, probably the best place for that is the BBQ Pit.
-- Colibri
#39
Old 11-06-2002, 08:08 PM
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Posts: 9,132
Quote:
Originally posted by pseudotriton ruber ruber
How about "generally accepting"? That any better?
In Great Debates, yes.

Not here.

Please, everyone, stick to the facts.
#40
Old 11-06-2002, 09:11 PM
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As someone who volunteers in an innercity hospital, I can tell you some horror stories of bad language skills. A lot of black people seem to have trouble saying Pediatric. Instead, they say 'pee-tree-attic'. Also, instead of saying Connect, a lot of them say 'menneck'. I think it's pure laziness, with a dash of stupidity thrown in.

Also, I don't understand why black people have to name their chirren (I mean children) names like Q'sharneesha, Quad'asia, Shardaysia, etc.
#41
Old 11-06-2002, 10:08 PM
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pittsburghese.com

And no, it's da sah side.

Like it's da nor-side. (For years as a child, I never new it was the NORTH Side. I thought it was a place called Norside. I swear)

dahntahn
up air
ahrn
cahr
warsh
dem stillers

jeez-a-man, get outta tahn!
#42
Old 11-06-2002, 10:31 PM
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I've enjoyed reading everyone's opinion on this and I've learned a lot. Loved the Philly talk lessons too. Personally,I didn't take the op's question as racial at all. I figured he or she just really wondered about it. Everything and everyone doesn't have to be racist just because they raise the "B" word. How in the heck are we all going to live together if we can't ask and find out about each other???? I'm glad the question was asked because hopefully we all learned something from it.
#43
Old 11-06-2002, 10:42 PM
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Thanks for the clarifications, chula and Wendell Wagner. I actually couldn't find any sites about who came up with the term "ebonics" but it doesn't appear to be the Oakland School Board. I was pretty sure no linguist coined it.

-fh
#44
Old 11-06-2002, 10:45 PM
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Quote:
I think it's pure laziness, with a dash of stupidity thrown in.

Also, I don't understand why black people have to name their chirren (I mean children) names like Q'sharneesha, Quad'asia, Shardaysia, etc.
Unfortunately for your opinion, it has been demonstrated in several posts preceding yours that such an opinion is simply wrong. There is nothing "lazy" about differing pronunciations and syntax and "stupidity" has nothing to do with it (although a failure to recognize the distinctions that linguists have been publicizing for over thirty years may be a sign of true ignorance).

As to your apparent problem with various names, I would point out that they at least show more imagination than naming every third or fourth girl Madison or Ashley and every other boy Jacob.
#45
Old 11-07-2002, 02:39 AM
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Re: What Is "Gullah" Like?

Quote:
Originally posted by ralph124c
I undertand that the black people who live on the sea islands of the Georgia/S. Carolina coast speak a very interesting dialect called"gullah".
Although Gullah takes most of its words from English, it retains enough African and Caribbean tribal creole influences for it to be classed not as a dialect, but as a language all its own. From the linked page, which includes the two tongues' distinct versions of Virginia Mixson Geraty's poem "Thank God for Charleston" (accompanied by the caveat that Gullah was never intended to be a written language, and thus has no true orthography):

Contrary to the belief still held by some, Gullah is not poor, or broken English. It is not a dialect of any other language, neither is it Black English. Gullah possesses every element necessary for it to qualify as a language in its own right. It has its own grammar, phonological systems, idiomatic expressions, and an extensive vocabulary.

More at

http://ccpl.org/ccl/gullahcreole.html
#46
Old 11-07-2002, 05:51 AM
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Mammie, I don't think the OP was racist. I do think the conception of Black English as broken or lazy English does have definite racist overtones, however. As I said earlier, many features of Black English are markers of laziness and low intelligence to the ears of Standard English speakers. Yet the same features when they appear in British English dialects are seen as charming or a sign of high intellect. Knowing that all English dialects are equal in terms of logic, consistency and fitness, what other conclusion can be drawn but that there are social judgements taking place, and they aren't pretty?

I tend to react strongly to threads such as these because A. I expect a lot from Dopers who are generally very interested in language and B. I have found that if I don't take a hard line, people assume I'm coming from a position of cultural relativism (all dialects are equal, let's hold hands) which is not true at all. I'm not taking this position because it's fair or just. It's proven by science. The grammaticality and fitness of Black English is totally beyond dispute in the field of linguistics.

So I read the OP as having a total absence of malice. rostfrei's position on the other hand is a lot harder to justify as being merely curious.

-fh
#47
Old 11-07-2002, 11:05 AM
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Quote:
Originally posted by Balthisar
. That's why the Germans-Austrians-Swiss have Hochdeutsch. And so on.
Oh? You have a problem with Hochdeutsch? You racist!!!!
#48
Old 11-07-2002, 11:09 AM
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Something that has been touched on here, but not expored, is the WHY factor.

Why do people switch between one dialect and another? And also, why do people find it so annoying/disrespectful/etc. when someone does NOT switch to the 'appropriate' dialect?

And that leads me to my master's thesis.

Code-switching is the fundamental process involved. We've established (thanks to some very well-written work by Lamia) that there are valid dialects involved.

People use language codes that include the dialect, word choice, topic choice, and accent (even without the general dialect).

Code choice is determined by the person's perception of their identity and role within the setting (including location, members of the group, reason for being there, etc.).

So, when talking to business people, the admins speak business english. Their role includes that they are business people, and does not include their identity as Urban African-american. When they speak on the phone to a friend, who also identifies as Urban African-american, they use the codes that say 'I am in the same category as you'. Language choice, dialect choice, accent, topic, word choice switch to match the identity and role within that context.

Effective code-switching is commonly associated with business success. This, to my mind was why ebonics was being introduced. Poorly done, but that is still the issue - being able to use another set of codes when appropriate, and valuing the 'home/core-identity' code set as equal was part of that process.

Examples of me, code-switching. Not talking about the details of breastfeeding with work clients, unless the group has sub-selected into a bunch of working mothers with small children, in which case, the group identity as 'working mothers with small children' includes the topic choice as an appropriate option. Picking up the accent of someone I need to work closely with, but not doing so intentionally. Not using jargon when talking with a mixed group of people both inside and outside my profession.

When someone fails to fully code-switch, it does set them apart. It annoys us because they are proclaiming their differentness, their NON-membership in the group.

Sometimes, that lack of code-switching is intentional. A person may choose to retain their identity as, say, profoundly religious, by mentioning their faith (topic choice) during work conversations. It makes others uncomfortable when it happens, because you are suddenly faced with not being identified as members of the same group. You are different, and they have said so by their code use.

But sometimes, especially with accent and pronunciation when moving between languages and dialects, it is not intentional. They just don't have clear distinctions between the two code sets for certain sounds, or lack the verbal (physical) skills to make the switch complete. This is where my brother-in-law comes in. He's a speech pathologist who specializes in accent remediation. He works with people who cannot seem to lose the accent or pronunciation enough to fully switch into their business/professional identity. They may still 'identify' accidentally as Russian immigrants, or Southern, or Urban Black. And that gets in the way of their business life. Effective code-switching is very useful for business success. Doesn't mean they feel less like Russian immigrants or Southern or Urban Black inside, or at home, or with their friends. But they want to simply identify as 'professional' when at work. And doing so requires extra work on the skill at times.

Code-switching is a social skill. People who do not do so effectively are considered socially awkward by many people. Like the guy at the dinner party who can't stop speaking 'geek'... he isn't switching to match the group identity/role-as-guest. Or the guy who drops references to money/status/education/class into a conversation - he is specifying his role/identity as superior, which is poor code-switching (or intentional lack thereof).

My thesis, by the way, looked at individual identification of place as a basis of code-switching decisions. We know that people do switch based on location - say, the difference in content of conversations in front of the elevator at work vs. standing in the executive conference room... even with the same people, what you choose to discuss will differ. As a geographer, I looked at what the linguists called a black box (location/sense of place), and determined that you could definitely identify the boundaries of a location that was related to sense of identity.

Anyway, hope that clarifies some why it is frustrating/annoying/offensive when someone doesn't code switch - we tend to think they do it on purpose, actively are identifying themselves as 'not members of this group', but often it is just a lack of skill, or incomplete switching.
#49
Old 11-07-2002, 11:27 AM
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Sternvogel writes:

> Although Gullah takes most of its words from English, it retains
> enough African and Caribbean tribal creole influences for it to
> be classed not as a dialect, but as a language all its own.

The boundary between what is a dialect and what is a language is more of a political matter than a linguistic one. The definition of a dialect is a variety of a language that's close enough to the other varieties that it's mutually comprehensible. But there's a whole spectrum possible in the closeness of varieties of language, from ones that are so close that only an expert could tell them apart, to ones that are just barely far enough apart that they are no longer mutually comprehensible. There are also cases of continuums of dialects in which dialect A is mutually comprehensible with dialect B, dialect B is mutually comprehensible with dialect C, dialect C is mutually comprehensible with dialect D, dialect D is mutually comprehensible with dialect E, but dialect A is not mutually comprehensible with dialect E.

Because of this, this distinction between a dialect and a language is not rigorously kept in the standard naming of languages and dialects. There are cases where two varieties are usually considered different languages even though they are mutually comprehensible, while there are other cases where a variety is considered just a dialect even though it is no longer mutually comprehensible with the standard dialect. There is thus no easy answer to the question of whether Gullah is a separate language or just a dialect.
#50
Old 11-07-2002, 11:56 AM
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Average white Canadian guy here...

Almost every day my five year old daughter will come up and say... "Let me axe you sumtin" because she's inquisitive and needs to know stuff.

I understand that it's easier for her to say "axe" than ask and the "sumtin" probably comes from her dad (me) who has to conciously has to say "something" rather than "sumthin". That whole "ing" at the end of words has always been a challenge for me. Doin, goin, havin, lovin, runnin, ... etc.

"So how arre yewe doin?"

That's how I sound and it is due to the influences I had when I was developing my own ability to speak. People think I do a pretty good Scottish or Irish imitation but it's because it's not really an imitation but rather my ability to lapse into a more comfortable mode of speech. I got hassled for it when I was in school and did spend a lot of time working on making my speech more mainstream... now I just don't care.

I worked with a woman who had nearly perfected code switching. Coming from the Maritimes she encountered a lot of prejudice just because people thought she was inferior due to her accent. She worked extremely hard to eliminate every vestige of her eastern dialect so that she could pass unnoticed. Unnoticed by everyone but me apparently.

After I nailed her as being a Maritimer and whenever we would get together she would relax and speak as the good lord intended, by rolling those r's, softening those vowels, and adjusting her speaking rythym. She had a lovely accent.

So I guess there can be many reasons why people switch channels when they are speaking, some may not be able to or others may recognize that their particular dialect sets them apart from the mainstream and draws prejudice or conversely, identifies them as belonging to a specific group. Teenagers have their own "speak" that can sometimes sound like a completely different language.

I simply enjoy listening and know one should not judge another for the peculiarities of the way they speak.
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