spoken soul the story of black english pdf

Spoken Soul The Story Of Black English Pdf

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John R. Rickford

Download this document as a pdf. At its most literal level, Ebonics simply means 'black speech' a blend of the words ebony 'black' and phonics 'sounds'.

The term was created in by a group of black scholars who disliked the negative connotations of terms like 'Nonstandard Negro English' that had been coined in the s when the first modern large-scale linguistic studies of African American speech-communities began.

However, the term Ebonics never caught on among linguists, much less among the general public. That all changed with the 'Ebonics' controversy of December when the Oakland CA School Board recognized it as the 'primary' language of its majority African American students and resolved to take it into account in teaching them standard or academic English.

In theory, scholars who prefer the term Ebonics or alternatives like African American language wish to highlight the African roots of African American speech and its connections with languages spoken elsewhere in the Black Diaspora, e. Jamaica or Nigeria. Here, we will use 'Ebonics' without ideological or theoretical qualification, preferring it to AAVE and other alternatives simply because it is the most widely-known public term right now.

Unlike many slang terms, these 'black' words have been around for ages, they are not restricted to particular regions or age groups, and they are virtually unknown in their 'black' meanings outside the African American community. Ebonics pronunciation includes features like the omission of the final consonant in words like 'past' pas' and 'hand' han' , the pronunciation of the th in 'bath' as t bat or f baf , and the pronunciation of the vowel in words like 'my' and 'ride' as a long ah mah, rahd.

Some of these occur in vernacular white English, too, especially in the South, but in general they occur more frequently in Ebonics. Some Ebonics pronunciations are more unique, for instance, dropping b, d, or g at the beginning of auxiliary verbs like 'don't' and 'gonna', yielding Ah 'on know for "I don't know" and ama do it for "I'm going to do it. These distinctive Ebonics pronunciations are all systematic, the result of regular rules and restrictions; they are not random 'error'--and this is equally true of Ebonics grammar.

For instance, Ebonics speakers regularly produce sentences without present tense is and are, as in "John trippin" or "They allright". Many members of the public seem to have heard, too, that Ebonics speakers use an 'invariant' be in their speech as in "They be goin to school every day" ; however, this be is not simply equivalent to is or are. Invariant be refers to actions that occur regularly or habitually rather than on just one occasion.

That depends on whom you ask. Black preachers and comedians and singers, especially rappers, also use it for dramatic or realistic effect. But many other people, black and white, regard it as a sign of limited education or sophistication, as a legacy of slavery or an impediment to socioeconomic mobility.

Some deny its existence like the black Chicagoan whose words "Ain't nobody here talkin' no Ebonics" belied his claim. Others deprecate it like Maya Angelou, who found the Oakland School Board's Ebonics resolutions "very threatening" although she uses Ebonics herself in her poems, e. It should be said, incidentally, that at least SOME of the overwhelmingly negative reaction to the Oakland resolutions arose because the resolutions were misinterpreted as proposals to teach Ebonics itself, or to teach in Ebonics, rather than as proposals to respect and take it into account while teaching standard English.

The method of studying language known as 'contrastive analysis' involves drawing students' attention to similarities and differences between Ebonics and Standard English. On this point, linguists are quite divided. Some emphasize its English origins, pointing to the fact that most of the vocabulary of Ebonics is from English and that much of its pronunciation e.

Others emphasize Ebonics' African origins, noting that West African languages often lack th sounds and final consonant clusters e. Moreover, they argue that the distinction made between completed actions "He done walked" and habitual actions "We be walkin" in the Ebonics tense-aspect system reflects their prevalence in West African language systems and that this applies to other aspects of Ebonics sentence structure. These traits suggest that some varieties of American Ebonics might have undergone the kinds of simplification and mixture associated with Creole formation in the Caribbean and elsewhere.

They might also suggest that American Ebonics was shaped by the high proportions of Creole-speaking slaves that were imported from the Caribbean in the earliest settlement periods of the thirteen original colonies. Arguments about and evidence on the origins issue continue to be brought forth. A relatively new 'historical' issue has emerged in recent years: Is Ebonics converging with or diverging from other vernacular varieties of American English?

One thing is for sure: This dynamic, distinctive variety--thoroughly intertwined with African American history and linked in many ways with African American literature, education, and social life--is one of the most extensively studied and discussed varieties of American English and it will probably continue to be so for many years to come.

Baugh, John. Beyond Ebonics: Linguistic pride and racial prejudice. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Green, Lisa. African American English: A linguistic introduction. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Labov, William. Language in the inner city: Studies in the Black English Vernacular. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press. Poplack, Shana, ed.

The English history of African American English. Rickford, John R. Spoken Soul: The story of Black English. New York: John Wiley. Smitherman, Geneva. Black talk: Words and phrases from the hood to the amen corner.

New York: Houghton Mifflin. Wolfram, Walt, and Erik R. The development of African American English. Donate Jobs Center News Room. Search form Search. John R. Rickford Download this document as a pdf. What does Ebonics sound like? What do people think of Ebonics? Where did Ebonics come from? Further reading Baugh, John. Why Can't Computers Use English? How can I get involved with LSA? LSA Publications.

Spoken Soul: The Language of Black Imagination and Reality

African-American English AAE , also known as Black English in American linguistics , is the set of English sociolects primarily spoken by most black people in the United States and many in Canada ; [1] most commonly, it refers to a dialect continuum ranging from African-American Vernacular English to a more standard English. There has been a significant body of African-American literature and oral tradition for centuries. African-American English began as early as the seventeenth century, when the Atlantic slave trade brought African slaves into Southern colonies which eventually became the Southern United States in the late eighteenth century. The most widespread modern dialect is known as African-American Vernacular English. African-American Vernacular AAVE is the native variety of the majority of working class and many middle class African Americans , particularly in urban areas, [1] with its own unique accent, grammar, and vocabulary features. Typical features of the grammar include a "zero" copula e. African-American Standard English, a term largely popularized by linguist Arthur Spears, is the prestigious and native end of the middle-class African-American English continuum that is used for more formal, careful, or public settings than AAVE.

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John Russell Rickford & Russell John Rickford, Spoken soul: The story of Black English. New York: John Wiley & Sons, , xii + pp. Hb.


Spoken Soul: The Story of Black English

Download this document as a pdf. At its most literal level, Ebonics simply means 'black speech' a blend of the words ebony 'black' and phonics 'sounds'. The term was created in by a group of black scholars who disliked the negative connotations of terms like 'Nonstandard Negro English' that had been coined in the s when the first modern large-scale linguistic studies of African American speech-communities began. However, the term Ebonics never caught on among linguists, much less among the general public.

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Spoken Soul: The Story of Black English

By John Russell Rickford. Fasold , Georgetown university. The worst of all possible things that could happen would be to lose that language. Now renowned linguist John R. Rickford and journalist Russell J.

Access options available:. New York: Wiley, The title of this book suggests what it is and what it is not. It is a story told by a scholar JR and a journalist Russell Rickford with roots in the speech community and deep, broad knowledge of the language variety that is essentially connected to the heart and soul of African American people in the United States.

Rickford is the J. Rickford , [4] won the American Book Award in Rickford is married to Angela Rickford. The two have four children: Shiyama, Russell, Anakela, and Luke. Rickford earned his B.

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