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Ebonics, Language, and Power

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Title:Ebonics, Language, and Power
Authors:Long, Michael
Contributors:Brown, James D. (advisor)
University of Hawaii at Manoa. Department of English as a Second Language. (department)
Date Issued:1996
Abstract:The current furor and confusion in the U.S.A. over the role of "Ebonics" in education is but a recent skirmish in a long-running struggle. It is not new, not confined to "Black English," or to English in general, not confined to education, and certainly not confined to the U.S.A. It is a controversy that surfaces in North America and around the world time and time again. On all five continents, coercive power relationships between socioeconomic elites wielding state power and oppressed groups wielding little or none find linguistic reflexes. The elites speak the "official" state language or the "standard" variety of a language-in the present case, "standard English" (SE)-which they made official or standard; the oppressed groups (not necessarily minorities, as in the present case) are decreed by the same elites to speak a less acceptable or unacceptable language or a socially stigmatized variety of the same language, like "Black English." Very real objective linguistic differences thus provide yet another excuse for discrimination in many areas of public life, including education (so-called) criminal justice systems, employment, media access, and even labor unions. The public policy decisions in different countries that result from these periodic convulsions often enshrined in statute and case law, concern linguistic human rights, and they have wide-ranging social consequences for hundreds ofmillions of people. The rhetorical barrage surrounding the present struggle serves to confuse the real issues, or to ensure that they are not discussed at all, which benefits only one side in the status quo.
Pages/Duration:26 pages
Appears in Collections: Working Papers (1982-2000)

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