Ebonics: the Language of African Slaves and Their Descendants

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Ebonics: the Language of African Slaves and Their Descendants

By | April 2007
Page 1 of 16
Dr. Williams and a group of Black scholars first coined the terms Ebonics in 1973 when referring to the language spoken by African slaves and their descendants. Ebonics, which is derived from the word ebony, which means black, and phonetics, which means sound, was adopted as the new term for Black English and African-American Vernacular English. Mary Rhodes Hoover states, "Many who condemn Ebonics refer to it as "bad grammar," "lazy pronunciation," or "slang." However, linguist Dell Hymes notes that, viewed sociolinguistically, language is much more than characteristics such as grammar or pronunciation (phonology). In fact Ebonics/African-American Language has a number of other characteristics, including semantics, notation, favored genres, sociolinguistic rules, speaking styles, learning and teaching style, and world view themes." Therefore, Ebonics is not slang but a dialect, which is governed by grammatical and phonetic rules, which makes it a legitimate language. In contrast, slang is terms or phrases that develop from popular trends of a particular time and become obsolete when that time period ends. Unlike slang, Ebonics has maintained its purity and definition over hundreds of years because it was not formed out of popularity but from Africans attempting to learn English and teaching this adapted version of English to their children. Blacks' patois was first distinguished in 1707 as "Nigger English" and by 1825 as "Nigger" (Flexner 56). Ebonics, often called the African-American Vernacular English (AAVE), has many different features distinguishing it from Standard American English. The majority of linguists agree that Ebonics is a systematic form of speech with distinctive phonological and grammatical features. Ebonics'grammatical and phonological features are identical to many West African languages' rules of grammar and sentence structure. The West African rules of the repetition of noun subject with pronoun (My sister, she sings good), question...
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