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




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.

Chicago, Illinois

January l997

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