PDF You aint no never say that! - Ebonics as a linguistic variety and attitudes towards it.

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CR: What they say about Allah? LEON: I don' know the res'. GREG But can he make magic? GREG: I know who can make magic?

Linguistic discrimination

CR: Who can? CR: Who can make magic? I'm sayin' the po'k chop God! He only a po'k chop God!


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The monosyllabic speaker who had nothing to say about anything and could not remember what he did yesterday has disappeared. Instead, we have two boys who have so much to say that they keep interrupting each other, who seem to have no difficulty in using the English language to express themselves.


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One can now transfer this demonstration of the sociolinguistic control of speech to other test situations, including IQ and reading tests in school. It should be immediately apparent that none of the standard tests will come anywhere near measuring Leon's verbal capacity. On these tests he will show up as very much the monosyllabic, inept, ignorant, bumbling child of our first interview.

The teacher has far less ability than Clarence Robins to elicit speech from this child; Clarence knows the community, the things that Leon has been doing, and the things that Leon would like to talk about. But the power relationships in a one-to-one confrontation between adult and child are too asymmetrical. This does not mean that some black children will not talk a great deal when alone with an adult, or that an adult cannot get close to any child. It means that the social situation is the most powerful determinant of verbal behavior and that an adult must enter into the right social relation with a child if he wants to find out what a child can do.

This is just what many teachers cannot do. The view of the black speech community which we obtain from our work in the ghetto areas is precisely the opposite from that reported by Deutsch, Engelmann. We see a child bathed in verbal stimulation from morning to night. We see many speech events which depend upon the competitive exhibitions of verbal skills: singing, sounding, toasts, rifting, Iouding--a whole range of activities in which the individual gains status through his use of language. We see the younger child trying to acquire these skills from older children--hanging around on the outskirts of the older peer groups, and imitating this behavior.

We see, however, no connection between verbal skill at the speech events characteristic of the street culture and success in the schoolroom; which says something about classrooms rather than about a child's language. There are undoubtedly many verbal skills which children from ghetto areas must learn in order to do well in school, and some of these are indeed characteristic of middle-class verbal behavior.

Precision in spelling, practice in handling abstract symbols, the ability to state explicitly the meaning of words, and a richer knowledge of the Latinate vocabulary may all be useful acquisitions. But is it true that all of the middle-class verbal habits are functional and desirable in school? Before we impose middle-class verbal style upon children from other cultural groups, we should find out how much of it is useful for the main work of analyzing and generalizing, and how much is merely stylistic--or even dysfunctional.


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  5. In high school and college, middle-class children spontaneously complicate their syntax to the point that instructors despair of getting them to make their language simpler and clearer. Our work in the speech community makes it painfully obvious that in many ways working-class speakers are more effective narrators, reasoners, and debaters than many middle-class speakers, who temporize, qualify, and lose their argument in a mass of irrelevant detail.

    Many academic writers try to rid themselves of the part of middle-class style that is empty pretension, and keep the part necessary for precision. But the average middle-class speaker that we encounter makes no such effort; he is enmeshed in verbiage, the victim of sociolinguistic factors beyond his control. I will not attempt to support this argument here with systematic quantitative evidence, although it is possible to develop measures which show how far middle-class speakers can wander from the point.

    I would like to contrast two speakers dealing with roughly the same topic: matters of belief. The first is Larry H. Larry is being interviewed here by John Lewis, our participant-observer among adolescents in South Central Harlem.

    Linguistic discrimination - RationalWiki

    JL: What happens to you after you die? Do you know? After they put you in the ground, your body turns into--ah--bones, an' shit. JL: What happens to your spirit? And where does the spirit go? Well, it all depends. On what?

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    You know, like some people say if you re good an' shit, your spirit goin' t'heaven Well, bullshit! Your spirit goin' to hell anyway, good or bad. JL: Why? I'll tell you why. An' when they be sayin' if you good, you goin' t'heaven, thas bullshit. His grammar shows a high concentration of such characteristic BEV forms as negative inversion [don't nobody know], negative concord you ain't goin' to no heaven], invariant be [when they be sayin ], dummy it for SE there [it ain't no heaven], optional copula deletion [if you're good The only SE influence in this passage is the one case of doesn't instead of the invariant don't of BEV.

    Larry also provides a paradigmatic example of the rhetorical style of BEV: he can sum up a complex argument in a few words, and the full force of his opinions comes through without qualification or reservation. He is eminently quotable, and his interviews give us a great many concise statements of the BEV point of view.

    One can almost say that Larry speaks the BEV culture. It is the logical form of this passage which is of particular interest here. Larry presents a complex set of interdependent propositions which can be explicated by setting out the SE equivalents in linear order. The basic argument is to deny the twin propositions: A If you are good, B then your spirit will go to heaven. C then your spirit will go to hell. Larry denies B , and allows that if A or not A is true, C will follow. His argument may be outlined: 1 Everyone has a different idea of what God is like.

    C Therefore you are going to hell.

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    This hypothetical argument is not carried on at a high level of seriousness. It is a game played with ideas as counters, in which opponents use a wide variety of verbal devices to win. There is no personal commitment to any of these propositions, and no reluctance to strengthen one's argument by bending the rules of logic as in the 2, 4 sequence. But if the opponent invokes the rules of logic, they hold.

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    In John Lewis' interviews, he often makes this move, and the force of his argument is always acknowledged and countered within the rules of logic. JL: Well, if there's no heaven, how could there be a hell? Well, let me tell you, it ain't no hell, 'cause this is hell right here, y'know! This is hell? Yeah, this is hell right here!

    Larry's answer is quick, ingenious, and decisive. The application of the argument to hell is denied, since hell is here, and therefore conclusion not B stands. These are not ready-made or preconceived opinions, but new propositions devised to win the logical argument in the game being played. The reader will note the speed and precision of Larry's mental operations. He does not wander, or insert meaningless verbiage. It is often said that the nonstandard vernacular is not suited for.

    Despite the fact that Larry H.

    Passwort vergessen?

    White or black? JL: No, I was jus' sayin' jus' suppose there is a God, would he be white or black? And the nigger ain't got shit, y'know?

    So--um--for--in order for that to happen, you know it ain't no black God that's doin' that bullshit. No one can hear Larry's answer to this question without being convinced of being in the presence of a skilled speaker with great "verbal presence of mind," who can use the English language expertly for many purposes. Let us now turn to the second speaker, an upper middle-class, college-educated black man being interviewed by Clarence Robins in our survey of adults in South Central Harlem.

    CR: Do you know of anything that someone can do, to have someone who has passed on visit him in a dream? CHAS M. I have personally never had a dream come true. I've never dreamt that somebody was dying and they actually died Mhm , or that I was going to have ten dollars the next day and somehow I got ten dollars in my pocket. I don't particularly believe in that, I don't think it's true. I do feel, though, that there is such a thing as--ah--witchcraft. I do feel that in certain cultures there is such a thing as witchcraft, or some sort of science of witchcraft; I don't think that it's just a matter of believing hard enough that there is such a thing as witchcraft.

    I do believe that there is such a thing that a person can put himself in a state of mind Mhm , or that--er--something could be given them to intoxicate them in a certain--to a certain frame of mind--that--that could actually be considered witchcraft.