ebonics essay

ebonics essay - Nathaniel Gustafson 996079624 EmilySection...

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Nathaniel Gustafson 996079624 5/2/10 Emily—Section 2 The United States of America is one of the few countries that has no official language. While English may be the de facto official language there are a plethora of languages spoken across the country. The languages come with distinct cultures and people, some being more common, such as Spanish, and others that are sadly dying, like the Native American languages of the southwest. Except in more conservative areas, these languages are tolerated and hopefully accepted. However, there is one language, one of the youngest languages around that has received intense scrutiny by the media and the public. This language is that developed and spoken by African-Americans: African- American English (AAE), better know as Ebonics. In 1996, the Oakland Unified School District (OUSD) proposed its “Standard American English Language Development” policy. The most famous example of language disparity in America, this policy recognized Ebonics as having distinct linguistic characteristics and being a legitimate language. The proposal, which was thick with questionable wording and unclear motives, stirred media uproar in which the notions of language, racism, education, and equality all came into play. Before delving into the different arguments and points brought up in the news and subsequently the country, it is important to discuss the background of AAE and the school district’s reasoning for addressing Ebonics and its role in language. The difference between languages and dialects is a muddy area; linguists of every sort have
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different views on what constitutes a language as being “a coherent system of signs - a grammar of elements and rules - which is used in a regular way for purposes of communication, and also for social symbolic purpose,” (Patrick) as opposed to a dialect or simple slang. While at first glance it may seem like Ebonics is simply the way black people speak English, it more complicated than that. AAE can and does fit the categories of being a language: it follows grammatical rules, just like any other language, there are improper ways to speak AAE. On the other hand, Ebonics can also be argued to be just a dialect of English since it shares many similarities with Standard English. No matter the view, sadly the public has seemed to accept the notion that black children are deprived and behind in language development. Walt Wolfram exemplifies this idea, which is very much related to the OUSD’s proposal, in the book Language Myths . Into this nebulous cloud of language, education, along with the political and racial implications involved with AAE came the 1991 OUSD’s proposal that rocked the media. The plan came after the school district created a task force to the root of some shocking statistics. According to a New York Time’s article published in 1997, “As a
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