Ebonics

Lulu of the Lotus-Eaters mertz at gnosis.cx
Thu Dec 27 15:02:29 MST 2001


I wrote:
|the resolution contained some nonsense like claiming the Ebonics was
|grammatically based on African languages rather than on English.  But
|that belief, while having a certain cultural cache, is not at all how
|pidgin/creolization operates.  In syntax, AAVE is an Anglo-Saxon
|dialect; the African influences are in lexical and phonetic features.
|Every ALA member knows this much (and I do also).

"Charles Brown" <CharlesB at CNCL.ci.detroit.mi.us> responded:
|CB:  What you say here is a little unclear, because linguistics
|includes both syntactical ,and lexical and phonetic features as part of
|grammar.  The distinctive features of phonology are part of grammar, for
|example.  So, your statement would not contradict the resolution on this
|point but support it.

I'm used to using "grammar" in the sense of:

    gram mar
    1. a. The study of how words and their component parts combine to
          form sentences.
       b. The study of structural relationships in language or in a
          language, sometimes including pronunciation, meaning, and
          linguistic history.
    The American Heritage (r) Concise Dictionary of the English Language,
    Third Edition.  Copyright (c) 1992 Houghton Mifflin Company

In this sense, "grammar" is a close synonym with "syntax," and contrasts
with phonology, phonetics, morphology, semantics, and pragmatics.  But I
would have been better to use "syntax" specifically in my first post.

Specifically, I assert that syntactically, AAVE is a branch of
High-Germanic, Anglo-Saxon languages, and a very close relative of SAE
(and only slightly less so of Standard British English).  Further, I
claim that certain phonetic and morphological features of AAEV are
borrowed from the West African languages spoken by original (captive)
migrants of the African diaspora.  This pattern of aspect borrowing is
common to most studied pidginizations.

Moreover, I would claim (from intuition, not from any real data I have
seen), that any differentiation in the semantics and pragmatics of AAVE
and SAE arise predominantly from cultural and political elements of the
American system of race, rather than from any features of diasporic
linguistic sources.

Yours, Lulu...

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