Black English

Article 1: Sociolinguistic Factors in the History of American Negro Dialects, by William A. Stewart.
Questions for further study:
1. −Stewart suggests that sensitivity to language variety differences (at least in the
USA) has, in part, been the result of the growth of a cadre of specialists in the
teaching of English as a second language. Can you elaborate on this connection?
Why would a group of second or foreign language teachers positively influence a
country's attitudes towards dialect or variety differences?
−The problem of dialect differences is coped by specialists in the teaching of
English to speakers of other languages. This is so, because Nonstandard Negro
English show a grammatical system which must be treated as a foreign language.
These specialists are aware of the most important patterns and features of the
English language, that they deem to be problematic for foreign speakers.
And therefore the specialists know how to cope with those dialect problems that
seem to be similar for teaching English as a foreign language and for non−standard
dialect speakers.
For instance, grammatical patterns or the right utterance of the language.
• Because these teachers are the ones who really know about the problems that
involve the differences between two languages, and one of them (the standard
English) being very important for social life and for economic success.
Therefore it is positive for dialect speakers, as for foreign speakers, to master the
Language used by most people of this country.
4. −Summarize the reasoning Stewart offers for the resentment (especially among
minority group leaders) felt at having social class and ethnic background linguistic
correlates pointed out.
• Linguists are finding their observations on language variation among the
disadvantaged received with uneasiness and even hostility by many community
leaders. The reason for this is undoubtedly that the accurate description of dialect
variation in American communities (particularly in urban centers) is turning out
to show a disturbing correlation between language behavior on the one hand and
socio−economic and ethnic stratification on the other...
This turns to be that the differences within the English language in America,
concerning at least between Negro dialects and white−standard language, are due
to the social and economic situation of the person, and less recognized but
probably most important to the race.
7. −The earlier plantation creole in the United States disappeared (except, perhaps,
in the island areas where Gullah is spoken) under a number of influences which
led to decreolization. List the factors which contributed to the drift of the creole
towards the standard and nonstandard forms around it.
I can clearly notice the three most important factors to the drift of the creole
Towards the standard and nonstandard forms:
• −The breakdown of the plantation system due to the abolition of slavery.
• −The influence of the nonstandard dialects of whites with whom they or their
ancestors have come into contact.
• −The insurance of their social mobility in modern American society, and a
prosperous increase in their economic situation.
Article 2: Some Illustrative Features of Black English, by Walt Wolfram.
• −Dialect geography, as its name implies, is mainly concerned with regional
variants, chiefly in the areas of vocabulary and pronunciation. What are the
factors that need to be taken into account in the study of Black English? Is the
term social dialect applicable and why?.
Factors to be into account in the study of Black English:
a). −The linguistic history of Black English. This is independent and very different
from the history of the rest of American English.
b). −A significant factor in the development and maintenance of Black English: the
social distance from the White English.
c). −It is also important to have into account all those dialects close to the Black
English, which influence it, such as White Southern dialects, Standard English and
also the Spanish−influenced English.
Very important too, the influence from a Caribbean Creole language, which may
have been spoken by the early plantation slaves.
d). −The social class factors in the development of Black English:
• The sex: within the different social classes of Negroes, the women use to
approximate the standard English norm more than men do.
• The age: adults generally use socially stigmatized features less than teenagers.
• The race (in relation with language acquisition): a Black child who has
predominantly White peers will speak like his peers not his parents.
e). −Its grammatical system, though it can be considered very near and similar to
the Standard English: ... Nonstandard Negro English will show a grammatical
system which must be treated as a foreign language.
Extracted from: Marvin D. Loflin, A teaching Problem in Nonstandard Negro
• The term social dialect is applicable in the point of view that it is a dialect
derived from the English language and it is used by a specifically part of the
American society, the Black people.
But it is probably more than that, since it has a grammatical system very different
to the English language one, and therefore it can be considered as an independent
Article 3: Black English/Ebonics: What it be like?, by Geneva Smitherman.
Short summary:
The term Ebonics is over two decades old. It was coined by a group of Black
Scholars as a new way of talking about the language of African slave descendants.
Ebonics refers to linguistic and paralinguistic features which on a concentric
continuum represent the communicative competence of the West African,
Caribbean, and United States slave descendant of African origin.
Ebonics represented a way to begin repairing the psycholinguistically maimed
psyche of Blacks in America.
What gives Black Language its distinctiveness is the nuanced meanings of some
English words, the pronunciations, the way in which the words are combined to
form grammatical statements, and the communicative practices of the USEB−
speaking community. In short, USEB may be thought of as the Africanization of
American English.
Patterns of USEB: a). −Aspectual be (denote iterativity); b). − Stressed been (She
been married); c). −Multiple negation (Don't nobody don't know God can't tell me
nothing!); d). −Adjacency/context in possessives (Sista nose); e). −Copula absence;
f). −Camouflaged and other unique lexical forms.
Styles of speaking: a). − Call−Response; b). −Tonal Semantics; c). − Narrativizing;
d). − Proverb Use/Proverbializing; e). − Signification/Signifying; f). − The
Signification is a form of ritualized insult in which a speaker puts down, talks
about, needles −signifies on− other speakers. The speaker deploys exaggeration,
irony, and indirection as a way of saying something on two different levels at once.
Characteristics of signifying: indirection; metaphorical−imagistic; humorous,
ironic; rhythmic fluency; teachy, but not preachy; directed at person present in the
speech situation; punning, play on words; introduction to the semantically or
logically unexpected.
There are two types of Signification. One type is leveled at a person's mother:
The Dozens. The second type is aimed at a person, action, or thing, either just
for fun or for corrective criticism. Today, the two types of Signification are being
conflated under a more general form of discourse, referred to as snappin.
To speak Ebonics is to assume the cultural legacy of U.S. slave descendants of
African origin. It symbolizes a new way of talking the walk about language and
liberatory education for African Americans.
I have found very interesting this study of the culture and the language of the
Black People in America, and how some languages influence one to each other.
I never thought that Black English had an own grammatical system different from
the American Standard English. I thought that Black English would be like a kind
of regional accent of English spoken by Black people. Just like happens in Spain
with the Spanish language and the Andalucia people who talk in a different accent.
So it has been a little surprising for me, and a theme very interesting to know