An Analysis Of Media Coverage Of Ebonics: Incorporating Black English Into The Curriculum

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The debate on Ebonics has virtually left the media spotlight. The proposal by the Oakland School District in early 1997 to use Ebonics to help African-American children learn Standard English met with much opposition. Few people supported the Oakland resolution which, backed by the Linguistic Society of America, acknowledged Ebonics as a language variety complete with its own syntax, structure, and rules of grammar.

The media triggered a dialogue among Americans about the appropriateness of Ebonics in the classroom. "Are you for or against Ebonics?" was a common question many Americans pondered at work, at restaurant lunch counters, and in classrooms across the country. The issue divided Americans, not so much along
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According to Ernie Smith, Ebonics represents an "underlying psychological thought process," which survives because the language is shaped by an outside culture, one that exists apart from mainstream discourse (15). Speakers of Black English often come from socioeconomically disadvantaged backgrounds. It is within this context that Black English survives.

There are certain distinct patters of Ebonics: the aspectual be; stressed been, and multiple negation. The following are some examples:

Pronouns: Using a pronoun instead of "to be"; rearranging standard pronouns. My brother he bigger than you. Him aint playing.

'Have'and 'Do': Dropping the standard conjugations. He have a bike. He always do silly things. Using "do"instead of "if." I ask Elon do he want to play.

'To Be': Silencing "is" or "are," or using "be" instead; eliminating subject-verb agreement. He not home yet. I be here in the evening. I was; you was there; they was there.

Distinctive Words: A final S may be added or dropped. He want pancakes.

Black English and Standard English share many words in common, which might explain the resistance by many Americans to accept African American Vernacular as anything other than a dialect of English. In any event, Smitherman warns that Black English terms may be used differently or have unique meanings:

This is the source of a good deal of miscommunication and misunderstanding between
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