Writings on the "Ebonics" issue
since December, 1996
This paper, which will be published in Journal of Sociolinguisics in
1998 or 1999, is part of a collection of essays on the theme, "What
do sociolinguists have to say about the Great Language Debates of Our Times?"
compiled and edited by Monica Heller. Three of the papers in this collection
(including mine) were first presented at the 1997 conference on New Ways
of Analysis Variation, held in Quebec, Canada.
This is a revised version (March 25, 1998) of remarks delivered at the
California State University Long Beach [CSULB] Conference on Ebonics held
on March 29, 1997, and will appear in the proceedings (ed. by Gerda
DeKlerk), to be published by CSULB in 1998
This commentary was written for the December, 1997 issue of
It differs slightly from the published version, reflecting editor's changes.
This paper was published in African American English ed. by
Salikoko S. Mufwene, John R. Rickford, Guy Bailey and John Baugh.
London: Routledge, 1998.
This Op Ed submission was written and submitted to the Los
Angeles Times on 3/28/97, but was not published there. It was written
to to counteract California
Senate Bill 205, the misguided legislation introduced by Senator Raymond
Haynes (R, Riverside). S.B. 205 was defeated in committee in April 1997,
but if passed, it would have dismantled the California Standard English
Proficiency (SEP) program and banned any recognition of or reference to
Ebonics and other vernaculars in the process of teaching standard English,
despite the fact that the research evidence in favor of vernacular-based
approaches like contrastive analysis (at the heart of the SEP) is persuasive.
This is the first thing I wrote on the Ebonics issue after the Oakland
School Board resolution of December 1996. Anita Manning of USA
Today asked for some sample sentences, and I came up with these,
together with a discussion of the ways in which they demonstrate the systematicity
of African American Vernacular English [AAVE--the term linguists use more
often for what most people are now referring to as Ebonics, with Ron Williams'
1975 term]. Included in this is Toni Morrison's beautiful quote on the
richness and value of the vernacular.
I wrote this OpEd piece, which appeared in the San
Jose Mercury News on December 26, 1996, after being somewhat frustrated
with talking to reporters for an hour or more and seeing what I said reduced
to a sentence.
This is the Linguistics Society of America
resolution I drafted on January 1, 1997, at the suggestion of Geoff Nunberg
and with his inputs. It was unanimously approved, with minor amendments,
at the Society's business meeting in Chicago on January 3, 1997.
This January 22, 1997 letter to Senator Arlen Specter was included in
the record of the Senate hearings on Ebonics as an addendum to the testimony
of Oakland School Superintendent Carolyn Getridge. It provides a survey
of six studies which demonstrate the value of taking the vernacular variety
of a language into account in teaching students to read and write and make
successful transitions to the standard variety.
This is a letter I wrote to the editors of The
New Republic responding to Jacob Heilbrum's inaccurate and misleading
article: "Speech Therapy"
I wrote this letter to the editors of Newsweek to respond to
Ellis Cose's column in their Jan 13 issue, entitled, "The irrelevance
of Ebonics." The column represents the commonly voiced (but in my
opinion incorrect) view that the failure of schools to educate inner city
African Americans, particularly in the Language arts, is due to problems
like facilities, teacher training, low expectations and so on (all of which
I would agree are important), but has nothing to do with the language children
bring to school and how schools respond to it.
Views of several linguists and anthropologists on the Ebonics issue:
1 and Part
Leila Monaghan of Pitzer College has put together the views of several
linguists and anthropologists on the Ebonics issue for the February 1997
Society for Linguistic Anthropology column. Part 1 contains statements
from Jack Sidnell, Leanne Hinton, Marcyliena Morgan, John McWhorter, John
Rickford (editied version of my Dec 26 SJ Mercury Op Ed piece), and Ron
Kephart. Part 2 contains statements from Charles Fillmore, Susan Ervin-Tripp,
and John Clark. References appear at the end of Part 2.
Other related websites: