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Unformatted text preview: # Published by Blackwell Publishers Ltd. 1999 108 Cowley Road, Oxford OX4 1JF, UK and 350 Main Street, Malden MA 02148, USA. Journal of Sociolinguistics 3/3, 1999: 360–380 Mock Ebonics: Linguistic racism in parodies of Ebonics on the Internet 1 Maggie Ronkin Helen E. Karn Georgetown University, Washington D.C. ABSTRACT This study describes and analyzes outgroup linguistic racism in parodies of Ebonics (‘Mock Ebonics’) that appeared on the Internet in the wake of the December 18, 1996 resolution of the Board of Education of the Oakland (California) Unified School District on improving the English-language skills of African-American students. We examined 23 World Wide Web pages containing 270,188 words, from which we chose nine pages containing 225,726 words for in-depth analysis. Drawing on a characterization of Mock Spanish, our analysis shows that Mock Ebonics is a system of graphemic- phonetic, grammatical, semantic, and pragmatic strategies for representing an outgroup’s belief in the imperfection and inferiority of Ebonics and its users. We show how producers of Ebonics parody pages employ these strategies, which are common in speech stereotypes, to articulate an anti-Ebonics language ideology and shift the blame for the poor academic performance of African Americans from a racist society to learners and the community from which they come. KEYWORDS: African-American Vernacular English, Ebonics, language ideology, language parody, speech stereotypes INTRODUCTION On December 18, 1996, the Board of Education of the Oakland (California) Unified School District passed a resolution to respect the legitimacy and richness of Ebonics in order to facilitate African-American students’ acquisition and mastery of English-language skills. 2 The Oakland Ebonics resolution attracted considerable media attention and sparked widespread public controversy. This study examines outgroup linguistic racism in Ebonics parody pages that appeared on the Internet in the wake of the Oakland resolution. Our definition of racism is ‘the structural societal framework that enables and reproduces dominant group power’ (van Dijk 1989: 220). Outgroup racism is the ‘socially organized set of attitudes, ideas, and practices that deny [a racialized group] the dignity, opportunities, freedoms, and rewards that [the United States] oers white Americans’ (Feagin and Vera 1995: 7). Extending this notion, outgroup linguistic racism is any linguistic attitude, idea, or practice that has these eects. We use the term Ebonics , which is often associated with Afrocentricity and political correctness, because both the Oakland Board of Education and the Ebonics parody pages themselves use this term. Consequently, we use the term Mock Ebonics to refer to outgroup attempts, particularly by Whites, to represent spoken forms of African-American Vernacular English in writing, as well as to articulate an oppositional language ideology that surfaced dramatically during the Oakland Ebonics controversy.the Oakland Ebonics controversy....
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- Fall '11
- African American Vernacular English, Blackwell Publishers Ltd., Ebonics, mock ebonics