Date: Wed, 8 Jan 1997 13:44:48 -0500
From: Allan Metcalf AAllan[AT SYMBOL GOES HERE]AOL.COM
Subject: LSA on Ebonics
From the Linguistic Society itself, the exact text of the resolution they
LSA RESOLUTION ON THE OAKLAND
" EBONICS" ISSUE
Whereas there has been a great deal of discussion in the media and among
the American public about the l8 December l996 decision of the Oakland
School Board to recognize the language variety spoken by many African
American students and to take it into account in teaching Standard English,
the Linguistic Society of America, as a society of scholars engaged in the
scientific study of language, hereby resolves to make it known that:
a. The variety known as "Ebonics," "African American Vernacular English"
(AAVE), and "Vernacular Black English" and by other names is systematic and
rule-governed like all natural speech varieties. In fact, all human
linguistic systems--spoken, signed, and written -- are fundamentally
regular. The systematic and expressive nature of the grammar and
pronunciation patterns of the African American vernacular has been
established by numerous scientific studies over the past thirty years.
Characterizations of Ebonics as "slang," "mutant," " lazy," "defective,"
"ungrammatical," or "broken English" are incorrect and demeaning.
b. The distinction between "languages" and "dialects" is usually made more
on social and political grounds than on purely linguistic ones. For
example, different varieties of Chinese are popularly regarded as
"dialects," though their speakers cannot understand each other, but
speakers of Swedish and Norwegian, which are regarded as separate
"languages," generally understand each other. What is important from a
linguistic and educational point of view is not whether AAVE is called a
"language" or a "dialect" but rather that its systematicity be recognized.
c. As affirmed in the LSA Statement of Language Rights (June l996), there
are individual and group benefits to maintaining vernacular speech
varieties and there are scientific and human advantages to linguistic
diversity. For those living in the United States there are also benefits in
acquiring Standard English and resources should be made available to all
who aspire to mastery of Standard English. The Oakland School Board's
commitment to helping students master Standard English is commendable.
d. There is evidence from Sweden, the US, and other countries that speakers
of other varieties can be aided in their learning of the standard variety
by pedagogical approaches which recognize the legitimacy of the other
varieties of a language. From this perspective, the Oakland School Board's
decision to recognize the vernacular of African American students in
teaching them Standard English is linguistically and pedagogically sound.
Selected references (books only)
Baratz, Joan C., and Roger W. Shuy, eds. 1969. Teaching Black Children to
read. Washington, DC: Center or Applied Linguistics.
Baugh, John. 1983. Black street speech: Its history, structure and
survival. Austin: University of Texas Press.
Bloome, David, and J. Lemke, eds. 1995. Special Issue: Africanized
English and Education. Linguistics and Educaton 7.
Burling, Robbins. 1973. English in black and white. New York: Holt.
Butters, Ron. 1989. The death of Black English: Convergence and
divergence in American English. Frankfurt: Peter Lang.
Dandy, Evelyn. 1991. Black communications: Breaking down the barriers.
Chicago: African American Images.
DeStephano, Johanna 1973, ed. Language, society and education: A profile
of Black English. Worthington, OH: Charles A. Jones.
Dillard, J. L. 1972. Black English: Its history and usage in the United
States. New York: Random House.
Fasold, Ralph W., and Roger W. Shuy, eds. 1970. Teaching Standard English
in the inner city. Washington, DC: Center for Applied Linguistics.
Gadsden, V. and D. Wagner , eds. 1995. Literacy among African American
youth. Creskill, NJ: Hampton Press.
Jones, Regina, ed. 1996. Handbook of tests and measurements. Hampton,
Kochman, Thomas. 1981. Black and white styles in conflict. NY: Holt
Kochman, Thomas, ed. 1972. Rappin' and stylin' out. Urbana: University
of Illinois Press.
Labov, William 1972. Language in the inner city: Studies in the Black
English verna cular. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press.
Lippi-Green, Rosina. To appear. English with an accent. London:
Mufwene, Salikoko S., John R. Rickford, Guy Bailey and John Baugh, eds. To
appear. African American English. London: Routledge.
Rickford, John R., and Lisa Green. To appear. African American Vernacular
English. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Shuy, Roger W., ed. 1965 . Social dialects and language learning.
Champaign, Ill., National Council of Teachers of English.
Simpkins, G., G. Holt, and C. Simpkins. 1977. Bridge: A cross-cultural
reading program. Boston: Houghton Mifflin.
Smith, Ernie A. 1994. The historical development of African American
Language. Los Angeles: Watts College Press.
Smitherman, Geneva. 1986. Talkin and testifyin: The language of Black
America. Detroit: Wayne State University Press.
_____ 1994 Black Talk. Boston: Houghton Mifflin.
_____, ed. 1981. Black English and the Education of Black Children and
Youth. Detroit: Center for Black Studies, Wayne State University Press.
Taylor, Hanni U. 1989. Standard English, Black English, and
bidialectalism: A controversy. NY: Peter Lang.
Williams, Robert L. 1975 Ebonics: The true language of Black folks. St
Louis: Institute of Black Studies.
Wolfram, Walt 1969. A linguistic description of Detroit Negro speech.
Washington, DC: Center for Applied Linguistics.
_____ 1991. Dialects and American English. Englewood Cliffs, NJ;
Prentice Hall and Center for Applied Linguistics.
Wolfram, Walter A., and Donna Christian 1989. Dialects and education:
Issues and answers. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall.
Wolfram, Walter A. and Clarke, Nona, eds. 1971. Black-White speech
relationships. Washington: Center for Applied Linguistics.