Ebonics: English Language and Oakland Unified School

Topics: English language, American English, African American Vernacular English Pages: 13 (3867 words) Published: October 8, 1999


This is an English exam paper prepared for the EVU2-EDB course at Niuernermik Ilinniarfik, Nuuk.

The main topic of this paper is the USA, and I have chosen to concentrate on a fairly new issue, the language know as Ebonics. There have always been changes in the English language. This is how the language came about and evolved from standard British English to American English.

During the last few years, as the world has become more sensitive to the rights of minorities, women, animals, etc. a new form of changes has taken place. These changes have become known as Political Correctness.

Ebonics is the political correct version of Afro-American English. I intend to show that – and comment on how – racialism and competition affects a society and how this, in the case of Ebonics, is actually happening in today's America. Nuuk February 1997 Ral Fleischer

THE QUESTIONS ASKED I will attempt to answer the following questions about Ebonics; - what is Ebonics? - what are the underlying reasons behind Ebonics? - who is prospering from Ebonics?

What is Ebonics? Most people outside of America have at most but a vague idea of what Ebonics is all about. Apart from being a buzzword in American media since December 1996 what are the fundamental concepts behind this expression? Where, how and when did it start, and who started it?

What are the underlying reasons behind Ebonics? To fully understand Ebonics, some historical background is needed. One has to have some knowledge on how the English language has developed in America. Furthermore one has to be aware how the American society is loaded down with the influence of stereotypical thinking, racialism and competition. In his autobiography, the famous black spokesman, Minister Malcolm X, portrays the undisguised hostility that exists between white and black people in America. He illustrates this conflict with the following words: "…You cannot find one black man, I do not care who he is, who has not been personally damaged in some way by the devilish acts of the … white man!. The greatest miracle … in America is that the black … has not grown violent … they would have been justified by all moral criteria, and even by the democratic tradition" (The Autobiography of Malcolm X, page 371 & 349)

Is Ebonics simply the democratic consequence, a black non-violent upraise against the "devilish acts of the white man" as as foreseen by Malcolm X?

Who is prospering from Ebonics? What advantages is meant to be attained – and for whom – with Ebonics?

DESCRIPTION OF THE MATERIAL Although the introduction of Ebonics has excited more debate than almost any other philosophical issue in recent years, only a very small amount of written material – apart from newspaper articles – about this subject has reached Greenland so far. This, because Ebonics is a rather new and first and foremost an all American phenomenon.

Newspaper Articles The majority of the material collected for this paper consists consequently of various newspaper articles. I was able to follow the discussion about Ebonics in the American newspaper 'the Washington Post' via the Internet and have as a result chosen the following articles as the basis of my inquiry into the matter of Ebonics: - Ebonics: A Way to Close the Learning Gap? - Among Linguists, Black English Gets Respect - Ebonics Debate Comes to Capitol Hill

Magazine Articles All of the above listed articles are from the Washington Post. I also managed to find a few articles in 'Time Magazine' and 'Newsweek' from which I chose: - Hooked on Ebonics The contents of these articles have given me an impression of how the American public "officially" interpret the concept of Ebonics.

Internet Web-sites Furthermore two Internet web-sites (computerised electronic billboards) have been of incredible help, the first by providing me with the original 'Declaration of Ebonics', the other by broadening my understanding of the...
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