Date: Mon, 24 Nov 1997 10:59:28 -0500

From: Alan Baragona baragonasa[AT SYMBOL GOES HERE]VAX.VMI.EDU

Subject: Re: vernacular

Ellen Johnson wrote:

The negative motivation was my shock at hearing Labov say on the radio

that only poor, inner-city blacks *really* speak AAVE, that anyone who

has learned to code-switch can never go back to speaking the

vernacular in a way that is grammatically consistent. I shouldn't

have been shocked; it is the logical extension of his idea that

people who have been exposed to more dialects will mix them.


I guess my problem with this is twofold. 1) it shows that we are

still firmly entrenched in structuralism, looking for behavior that we

can write neat rules for and 2)it leads us to focus on speech that is

not really the common, everyday speech for most people in our society,

what I thought "vernacular" was supposed to mean. Or do I have too

much of a middle-class bias here?

It strikes me that there's a third problem--the notion that ghetto AAVE

is not a mix in the first place but is some sort of pure Ur-Sprach, and

that any kind of growth or change from outside influences is some sort

of corruption. It's a poor argument when it's made about the language

at large, so I don't see why it's any more acceptable when applied to a

dialect or vernacular of a sub-culture.