Date: Thu, 13 Jul 1995 14:10:14 -0400
From: TERRY IRONS t.irons[AT SYMBOL GOES HERE]MSUACAD.MOREHEAD-ST.EDU
Subject: Re: oj trial
On Thu, 13 Jul 1995, Salikoko Mufwene wrote:
In message Thu, 13 Jul 1995 08:55:51 +0100, debaron[AT SYMBOL GOES HERE]UIUC.EDU writes:
I heard an nth-hand report that the attorneys in the OJ trial and Judge
Ito clashed yesterday over a prosecution question about whether some
witness overheard someone "who sounded black."
I saw the news segment on CNN HEADDLINE NEWS in which Attorney
Cochran(?) was reported to have taken offense at this characterization.
I thought "sounding black/African American" was a common phrase even among
African Americans. So I was shocked by the reaction. I remember
participating in a symposium on AAVE in which an African American linguist
was trying to articulate a distinction between "sounding black" and
"talking black." But I suppose there may be a legal dimension that I have
not perceived yet.
The witness, whose first language by the way is French, denied making any
such statement. But even if he did, the legal question becomes,
what is "sounding black"?
CNN interviewed Edward Finegan on the subject today, and Finegan did not
address any intonational/grammatical characteristics of sounding black.
He did, however, suggest that cultural social differences may manifest
themselves in the way people speak. I don't know if he was trying to say
that there is no such thing as "sounding black" as a linguistic
difference, but it came across that way. He offered no further specifics.
Although we may be able to identify stable elements that characterize
AAVE, if a non-linguist says someone "sounds black," is that person
reacting to these identifiable elements or is that person appealing to
some (perhaps bigoted) stereotypical impression? That is the legal
Do any of the subjective reaction tests reported in the literature (for
example, Houck & Davis recent article on sounding hoosier) address this
P.S. Perhaps for Natalie. Usually when I reply to a posting from the
list (using either pine or elm--why are mail programs named after
trees?), the reply goes to the list. In replying to Sali's posting,
however, the reply goes first to him and then to ADS-L as a cc. Any
explanations out there?
Terry Lynn Irons t.irons[AT SYMBOL GOES HERE]msuacad.morehead-st.edu
Voice Mail: (606) 783-5164
Snail Mail: UPO 604 Morehead, KY 40351