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.