Date: Mon, 17 Jul 1995 20:05:09 -0400


Subject: Re: oj trial

On Mon, 17 Jul 1995, Ditra Henry wrote:

Is Black English Another Language?


I cannot, nor would I dare, claim expertise in Black English. For what I

have observed and have read cannot get at competence. Yet what I have

observed leads me to the conclusion that Black English is a distinct

language, although (perhaps influenced by the ideas of John Rickford and

Michael Montgomery) I once fancifully termed it in a public lecture to be

New World Afro-Hibernian English. Certainly, black english or aave or

whatever shares vocabulary with american english. But vocabulary are

only signs, and language as a computational capacity and system of mental

representations is much more than signs and vocabulary.

Within the principles and parameters framework (which minimalist theory

threatens to economize), a CP rewrites as a spec C' which rewrites as a

C IP, with IP becoming the functional category governing VP and so on

down the line until we get to some real words. At a high level, IP, or

infl, represents various tense-modal-aspect features of a language. In

my lecture, drawing upon various sources, including Baugh, I tried to

show that at the IP level the parameters for TMA (tense/modal/aspect) are

set differently for BE than for AE. This parametric difference leads to

the conclusion that BE is not simply a variety of AE but is a distinct

language competence. This conclusion is supported by understandings of

be/been/done constructions provided by African Americans that are not

accessible by honkies.

The Great White American Un-PC Honkie,



Terry Lynn Irons t.irons[AT SYMBOL GOES HERE]

Voice Mail: (606) 783-5164

Snail Mail: UPO 604 Morehead, KY 40351