Cover image for Beyond ebonics : linguistic pride and racial prejudice
Beyond ebonics : linguistic pride and racial prejudice
Baugh, John, 1949-
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
New York : Oxford University Press, 2000.
Physical Description:
xx, 149 pages : illustrations ; 22 cm
Reading Level:
1550 Lexile.
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
PE3102.N42 B37 2000 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks
PE3102.N42 B37 2000 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area

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The media frenzy surrounding the 1996 resolution by the Oakland School Board brought public attention to the term "Ebonics", however the idea remains a mystery to most. John Baugh, a well-known African-American linguist and education expert, offers an accessible explanation of the origins ofthe term, the linguistic reality behind the hype, and the politics behind the outcry on both sides of the debate. Using a non-technical, first-person style, and bringing in many of his own personal experiences, Baugh debunks many commonly-held notions about the way African-Americans speak English,and the result is a nuanced and balanced portrait of a fraught subject. This volume should appeal to students and scholars in anthropology, linguistics, education, urban studies, and African-American studies

Author Notes

John Baugh is Professor of Education and Linguistics at Stanford University and has served as President of the American Dialect Society.

Reviews 2

Booklist Review

In this slender volume, Baugh, a black linguist, fluent in the social transference between standard English and ebonics typical of many middle-class blacks, offers insights into the controversy provoked by the Oakland, California, school board's efforts to declare ebonics a language. Baugh eloquently explores the consequences of a linguistic heritage of slavery for African Americans. He also traces the evolution of English for blacks in the U.S. from slavery to its aftermath, stressing the discrimination that kept blacks out of the mainstream. Baugh notes that the Oakland controversy highlighted disagreement among linguists about dialect versus language and the implications those definitions have for funding educational programs. Baugh laments the fact that U.S. society has failed to acknowledge the reasons so many blacks speak English differently than others who have come out of the American melting pot. With the underlying theme of race relations in the U.S., he examines reactions of the public (black and white), the press, and politicians to this ongoing debate. --Vanessa Bush

Choice Review

The Oakland, California, school board released a firestorm in 1986 when it declared "ebonics," or black English (BE), the official language of Oakland's African American students. Legions of language gladiators rallied to defend standard English. Talk-show telephone lines bristled with outraged protests from language purists. Baugh (linguistics, Stanford Univ.), author of Black Street Speech (CH, May'84) and Out of the Mouths of Slaves (1999), attempts a dispassionate chronicle of the moribund ebonics movement. Essentially he succeeds, although sometimes his objectivity slips. He writes, "In the case of 'aks' among many African Americans ... there was never sufficient early exposure [to education] to correct this mistake." As a linguist, Baugh should recognize "aks" as a variant, not a mistake, just as "grass" is a variant of Old English "gaers" and results from the metathesis that produces "aks." In Black English (CH, Dec'72) J.L. Dillard demonstrates the regularity of BE grammar. In Talkin and Testifyin (CH, Dec'77), Geneva Smitherman convincingly confirms Dillard's contentions, and in Talkin That Talk (CH, Mar'00) she discusses ebonics in two insightful chapters. Beyond Ebonics is in a class with these books, despite Baugh's occasional lapses. Recommended for all collections. R. B. Shuman; University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Table of Contents

1 Linguistic Pride and Racial Prejudicep. 1
2 Ebonic Genesisp. 15
3 A Contentious Global Debutp. 25
4 Oakland's Ebonics Resolutionsp. 37
5 Legislative Lamentp. 49
6 Legal Implicationsp. 63
7 Disparate Theoretical Foundationsp. 73
8 Racist Reactions and Ebonics Satirep. 87
9 Beyond Ebonics: Striving toward Enhanced Linguistic Tolerancep. 101
A. Linguistic Society of America Resolution on the Oakland "Ebonics" Issuep. 117
B. Texas 75th Legislature, Regular Session: House Resolution 28p. 119
C. California 1997-98 Regular Session: Senate Bill 205p. 121
Referencesp. 133
Indexp. 139