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http://aerj.aera.net Beyond Language: Ebonics, Proper English, and Identity in a Black-American Speech Community
John U. Ogbu Am Educ Res J 1999; 36; 147 DOI: 10.3102/00028312036002147 The online version of this article can be found at: http://aer.sagepub.com/cgi/content/abstract/36/2/147
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American Educational Research Journal Summer 1999, vol. 36, No. 2, pp. 147-184
Beyond Language: Ebonics, Proper English, and Identity in a Black-American Speech Community
J o h n U. O g b u
University o f California, Berkeley
The discourse on the ebonics resolution passed in December 1996 by the Board of Education in Oakland, CA, has increased national awareness of the language problems faced by African-American children in the public school. The discourse focused almost exclusively on dialect differences per se between the standard English of the public school and the children's home dialect or ebonics. This article has three objectives: (a) to contribute to sociolinguistic studies of speech communities; (b) to describe and explain sociolinguistic factors (beyond language~dialect) that affect Black children's performance on standard English; and (c) to show a connection between the children's dialect beliefs, attitudes, and behaviors in school with those of their parents and community. This article is based on a 2-year ethnographic study of a Black speech community in Oakland, CA, characterized by bidialectalism and diglossia. However, the community and its children face a dilemma fn learning and using proper English because of their incompatible beliefs about standard English.
JOHN U. OGBO is Chancellor's Professor in the Department of Anthropology, University of California, Berkeley 94720. His specializations are educational anthropology, education and culture, and minority education.
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B observations continue to show that Black children do not do well in school. 1 In Oakland, California, as in other cities in the U.S., they still lag
behind White and other minority children. In 1995-1996 their GPA was 1.8, the lowest of all major ethnic groups. A task force established by Oakland Unified School District 2 in 1996 concluded that differences between Black children's home English and the school standard English were at the heart of the problem. It noted that, of the eight major language groups in Oakland, Black students had the lowest scores in the 1995-1996 Language California Test of Basic Skills (CTBS). The task force also attributed their overrepresentation in special education (71%) to their performance in language assessment tests. For these reasons, the task force included among its nine recommendations the "ebonics resolution" adopted by the Oakland School Board on December 18, 1996. The resolution unexpectedly generated a national discourse on Black American English dialect and education. The discourse focused almost exclusively on differences in dialects p e r se. Some people agreed with the Task Force that the academic problems are caused by large differences between Black students' home dialect and school standard English. Others contended that the differences are not large enough to cause problems. The two groups, however, missed the point: It is not only the degree o f differences in dialects p e r se that counts. Wbat also seems to count is the cultural meanings o f those dialect differences. One reason for questioning the emphasis on differences in dialects or languages is that there are more than 60 language groups in Oakland schools. Students from many of these language groups are doing better than Black Americans. The language groups include speakers of West African languages (e.g., Igbo, Krio, Lingula, and Yoruba) which, some say, have influenced Black-American English to be different from standard English. As far as I can determine, the language problems of West African immigrants w h o speak their native languages in Oakland schools are similar to those of Chinese immigrant speakers of Cantonese and to those of Filipino immigrant speakers of Tagalog, rather than to the language problems of speakers of Black American English. Like Cantonese and Tagalog speakers, West African language speakers are tested and classified as either FEP (Fluent English Proficien0 or LEP (Limited English ProficienO students. Black Americans, on the other hand, are tested and classified as either FEP (Fluent English Proficient) or SI (Speech Impaired) students. Furthermore, students in Oakland (including Black Americans) whose mother tongue is not standard English encounter lexical, phonological, syntactic, and prosodic problems with standard English. But most of these language groups appear to be more successful in overcoming the language differences than Black Americans. The work of some sociolinguists provides some clue to the problem. They note that the difficulties experienced by "disadvantaged children with standard English are caused not only by differences in dialects p e r s e but also by nonlanguage factors, including language identity and cultural rules of 148
asic research, evaluation of intervention programs, and common sense
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and so forth. The study I will report in this article is intended to contribute to this direction of research. grammar. the problem lies partly in miscommunication because students differ from their teachers in social meanings and usage of English.e. From a comparative perspective. attitudes. These sociolinguists remind us that Black children and their teachers learn different structural rules for their respective English dialects (i. 3 This failure to examine the relationship between the students' classroom dialect attitudes and those of their speech community has led some to think that they can fix the dialect problems by changing classroom dialect attitudes and behaviors of teachers and students.aera. and cultural factors outside school that shape the social perceptions and interpretations of students and teachers observed in the classroom. where they have to communicate with people from a standard English speech community. The perceptions and interpretations of minority students are determined partly by how the history of a minority group has shaped the dialect beliefs.net at INDIANA UNIVERSITY OF PENNSYLVANIA on December 8. Of particular importance in the history of minority groups is whether people became a minority group voluntarily through immigration or involuntarily through conquest. with few exceptions. As we shall see.Beyond Language language use. It examines the cultural rules and use of two English dialects by adults and children in a Black speech community. Blacks are not the only students who differ from their teachers in discourse style and social perceptions. and this calls for research beyond analysis of classroom discourse. They have not examined the historical. It attempts to discover why and how the social meanings and cultural rules of using the two dialects in this community make it difficult for Black students to learn in standard English in school.. and behavior of their speech communities. Students from all the 60 non-English language groups in Oakland probably differ from their teachers in discourse styles and 149 Downloaded from http://aerj. But these studies have remained classroom discourse analysis. societal. phonology. They point out that within their own speech community Black children do not have the kind of language problems associated with them at school. and vocabulary of Black English and standard English) as well as different cultural rules for using those dialects in their respective speech communities. Sociolinguistic studies have convincingly demonstrated that differences between minority students and their teachers in cultural rules of language use affect to a large extent the children's success in learning to read standard English. researchers have not tried to connect students' classroom dialect attitudes and behaviors with the dialect attitudes and behaviors of their speech community. In the case of Black Americans. slavery. Another problem with sociolinguistic studies is that. And this approach has not proved successful. 2009 . But we need to identify the factors which determine the social meanings and use of dialects of minority speech communities. Sociolinguists have convincingly argued that the difficulty of Black students with the standard English lies partly in the differences in social meanings and use of the dialects. the folk history of a minority speech community provides some clue as to the nature of the people's dialect beliefs and behaviors.
lecture.).. The rules for using standard English in minority speech communities are not necessarily the same as the rules for using it in school or in mainstream White speech community. A speech community is a population that shares both a common language or linguistic codes and a common theory of speaking or cultural rules for the conduct and interpretation of speech acts.. confrontational or conciliatory. they also learn the standard English and their speech community's rules of usage of the standard English. etc. The real issue is. why are some of the language groups.net at INDIANA UNIVERSITY OF PENNSYLVANIA on December 8. in spite of their distinctive language features and discourse styles.S. especially minorities. A person is considered a competent speaker in a speech community if he or she knows both the language (i. Dlglossta Diglossia is the relationship between two dialects or two languages that are used for different purposes within a speech community.. more successful in learning and using standard English than Black Americans? Some Theoretical Considerations Speech Community Dell Hymes published several important works in the 1960s and 1970s arguing that the speech community is an appropriate social unit to study communicative interaction in a society. In that case. which speech event is appropriate (e. Bilingualism and Diglossia Batngualtsm 5 A whole society or some segments of it may be a bilingual speech community. qualify as such bidialectical speech communities. During their language socialization. grammar and phonology) and the cultural rules of s p e a k i n g . each language or dialect is associated with its own cultural rules of usage. there are separate cultural rules governing the use of minority dialects and standard English. In these minority speech communities.e. To become a competent speaker of his or her language. Members of the 150 Downloaded from http://aerj.Ogbu social perceptions. Some segments of the U. and what style (e. Inner city Black-American neighborhoods in Oakland. which communicative code (verbal or finger-pointing). conversation. 2009 . a child during language socialization must learn both the language and the cultural rules of speaking the language of its speech community.w h e n to speak (speech situations). California.g. society may be more appropriately considered bidialectical speech communities because of the existence of two variants of the English language. minority children in these communities learn their own dialects as their mother tongues and the cultural rules of using them. vocabulary. 4 A speech community may be characterized by more than one language or dialect.aera.g. or debate)..
. the standard English) is the high dialect which is approved for education. 1. 1. This type of speech community often originates from colonization. when White people enslaved Black people from Africa.) Both diglossia and bilingualism7 One is a speech community with both diglossia and bilingualism (Fig. or enslavement. BILINGUALISM AND COLLECTIVE IDENTITY Figure 1. For example. From "Bilingualism and Diglossia. For the purpose of this essay. and communication with "outsiders. Fishman. Black English) is the low dialect for everyday life in the family and community.e.S. DIGLOSSIA 2. and. BOTH DIGLOSSIA AND BILINGUALISM 3. speech events. I will add a fifth.6 Although the relationship between the co-existing dialects is relatively stable. Fishman has proposed four types of diglossia relationships in a speech community. standard English has borrowed many elements from Black English. 1967. White-American proper English (i." by Joshua A.. box 1). Brief descriptions of the five types of speech community follow. For instance. 2009 . when the British colonized Nigeria they imposed the English language on Nigerian language groups. p.net at INDIANA UNIVERSITY OF PENNSYLVANIA on December 8. Adapted with permission. DIGLOSSIA.aera. Usually one ranks higher than the other on political or other grounds. 30. BiUngualism and diglossia in a speech community Note. BILINGUALISM WITHOUT DIGLOSSIA 4. whereby the superior power imposes its language and communication pattern on the subordinate population.g. The dialects of a diglossia relationship are not of equal status." The mother tongue of the minorities (e.Beyond Language speech community recognize and accept the separate functions of the dialects. NEITHER DIGLOSSIA NOR BILINGUALISM WITHOUT BILINGUALISM 5. 23 (2). they imposed the English language on Blacks who previously spoke various African languages. 151 Downloaded from http://aerj. the dialects can change. jobs. and so forth. Copyright 1967 by Blackwell Publications. (See Figure 1 below.. Journal of Social Issues. in the United States. There may be mutual borrowing of codes. In the case of a minority speech community in the U. conquest.
the native elites may split over the status of the colonizers' language that had existed in a diglossia with the indigenous language. some of these elites are rejecting the colonizers' language because it is the language of their oppressors and a symbol of the colonizers' identity. Some nationalists begin to emphasize the importance of their indigenous language. almost all the native elites had embraced the colonizers' language and used it to achieve their elite status. Although members of the speech community accept the co-existing languages or dialects for different functions. 1) imposed English on the Spanish-speaking and various Indian language populations in the region. box 2).net at INDIANA UNIVERSITY OF PENNSYLVANIA on December 8. the immigrant groups did not learn or use one another's language. Although the author does not know a specific case. 2009 . he speculates that the last phase of a hypothetical colonialism is a good example. The fifth type added by the author is a speech community with both diglossia and bilingualism but the frames of reference of the two languages or two dialects are oppositional. box 4). This situation exists in a formerly diglossia speech community undergoing rapid social change.S. This type is rare and occurs among isolated peoples. An example is Calabar. the conquering Anglos (see Fig. box 5). The British colonial rule brought several language groups to settle alongside the native Efik population. The indigenous Efiks and the immigrant Hausas. A point may be reached eventually when. they 152 Downloaded from http://aerj.aera. commerce.Ogbu when the U. 1. for some. Bilingualism without diglossia (Fig. Other native elites continue to emphasize the importance and appropriateness of the colonizers' language. At such a period of nationalist political struggle. bilingualism. lbibios. Fishman believes that bilingualism without digiossia may be a transitional situation. digiossia may return in the postcolonial future. Christian religion. The indigenous Efiks were not bilingual with respect to the immigrant language groups. Before now. colonial administration. Its members used their indigenous language for everyday life in their community. Igbos and Yoruba learned and used English for education. where the author grew up. 1. there is no consensus about the status of the languages and no clearly established functional separation between the mother tongue and the colonizers' language. Neither bilingualism nor diglossia: The fourth type is really a monolingual speech community with neither bilingualism nor diglossia present (Fig. they learned and used Efik. and the colonizing British were not bilingual because they did not learn or use any of the colonized groups' language." or immigrants. This occurs when formerly separate speech communities are brought together (not necessarily voluntarily) into a common political boundary. In the hypothetical colonial situation. in practice. however. and language frames of reference (Fig. Each immigrant group became a bilingual or multilingual speech community. Diglossia. 1. They question its appropriateness for their political identity. Nigeria. the language of the indigenous population for local economic transactions and for communication with other "strangers. Now. and. 1. box 3). Diglossfa without bilingualism (Fig. conquered and annexed the American Southwest.
partly because of their collective identity and dialect or language frames of reference. people in this category may be different in race." However. immigran0 or involuntary (i.S. Immigrant minorities w h o bring with them a pre-existing sense of w h o they were before 153 Downloaded from http://aerj. religion. of "we-feeling. Central and South America. and dialect frame of reference. members of a minority group) sense of w h o they are. or slavery.aera. Korea. I will explain how the fifth type arises and what distinguishes it from the others by describing some of its distinctive features: type of minorities involved. the two minorities differ in their ability and willingness to accommodate the White English.. Again. the Caribbean. Puerto Ricans w h o consider themselves a colonized people. usually the dominant group's dialect partly because of its perceived meaning for their collective identity. Their distinguishing features are that (a) they did not choose but were forced against their will to b e c o m e a part of the United States and that (b) they themselves usually interpret their presence in the U. as forced on them by White Americans. China. The important distinguishing features of voluntary minorities are that (a) they chose to move to the U. Japan. nonimmigrant). ethnicity. or language. ethnicity. are Native Americans and Alaskan Natives.net at INDIANA UNIVERSITY OF PENNSYLVANIA on December 8.e. early Mexican Americans in the Southwest w h o were also conquered. Both voluntary and involuntary minorities consider the standard English as "White. include people from Africa. society in the hope of a better future and that Co) they do not interpret their presence in the United States as forced on them by the U.S. Collectfve identity refers to a people's (e. government or by White Americans." but they also know that in order to succeed in school and to get good jobs it is necessary to know and use the standard "White English. and Mexico.S." Members of a minority group construct their collective identity out of their collective historical experience. 2009 .. depending on how and why a group became minorities. Nonimmigrant (or involuntary minorities) are people w h o have been made a part of the United States permanently against their will through conquest. collective identity.S. The collective identity of minority groups is either different from or oppositional to the collective identity of White Americans. or language.Beyond Language are unwilling or ambivalent to learn and use one of the languages or dialects. People in this category may be different in race. Native Hawaiians w h o were colonized.e.S. more political or religious freedom) than they had in their places of origin. This situation exists in the Black speech community described by the author." or "belongingness. Immigrant minorities in the U. the original owners of the land w h o were conquered. as slaves.g. It is different from those of the four types described by Fishman. religion.S.. Minority status. and Black Americans w h o were brought to the U. Nonimmigrant minorities in the U. The presence of opposition between co-existing dialects or languages in a minority speech community depends on whether the minority group is voluntary (i. colonization. Voluntary minorities are people w h o have come to settle in the United States more or less voluntarily because they expected better opportunities (better jobs.
the creation of oppositional dialect or language frame of reference is a part of the overall effort of these minorities to solve the status problems caused by forced incorporation into U. The relationship between the dialect frame of reference of nonimmigrant minorities and the frame of reference of White speakers of standard English is different. have a collective identity that is mainly different from. Indeed.S..S. Immigrant minorities are more willing and more able to learn standard English or adopt White ways of talking for two reasons. One is that before they left their places of origin they generally expected to learn English as the language would they need to succeed or "become somebody" in the U. White-American collective identity. box 5. However. For both immigrant and nonimmigrant minorities. To return to Figure 1. 2009 . One necessary step in coping with the status problems is to create mutually acceptable criteria for determining w h o is a bona fide member of the group. and is perceived by them as different from the frame of reference of White speakers of standard English. For example. the immigrants do not think that accommodating White American ways of talking threatens their language identity. The language frame of reference of immigrant minorities usually predates their arrival in the U. the minority dialects or indigenous languages co-exist with the standard English in a diglossia relationship.Ogbu arriving in the U. As noted earlier. their language frame or reference) from I-long Kong. Others who retain their original languages reinterpret the frames of reference after they have been forced into involuntary minority status.S. A languagefrarne of reference refers to the correct or ideal way to talk by members of a group or community. The other reason is that the differences between their language frames and the frame of reference of White American speakers of standard English are not oppositional.e. The frame of reference becomes an important symbol of their collective identity. Involuntary minorities like Black Americans developed their English dialects after being deprived of their original languages. society. partly because of how and why they became minorities immigrant and nonimmigrant minorities interpret and respond differently to the requirement of mastering the standard English. brought their Cantonese language as well as their pre-existing notion of the correct way to speak it (i.aera. Nonimmigrant minorities constructed an oppositional collective identity after White Americans forced them into minority status and mistreatment. rather than oppositional to.S. at least initially. Likewise. in both immigrant and nonimmigrant minority speech communities. both voluntary and involuntary minorities consider standard English to be "White language" and a symbol of White identity. collective identity is closely tied to dialect frames of reference. They are fully aware that standard English or White English /s required for school success and good jobs. They do not imagine that it requires them to give up their own languages or 154 Downloaded from http://aerj.net at INDIANA UNIVERSITY OF PENNSYLVANIA on December 8. California. Therefore. Igbo and Yoruba immigrants in Oakland brought with them Igbo and Yoruba languages and their own language frames of reference. some Chinese immigrants in Oakland.. The creation of a language/dialect frame of reference or the correct way for members to talk serves this purpose.
The presence of an oppositional relationship has serious implications for learning and using the standard English. nonimmigrant minorities do not interpret learning to talk like White Americans as acquiring a new dialect or skill to add to their own for achieving a goal. a Black speech community in Oakland. Lafayette people did not call their dialect ebonics. Instead. Thus. and behaviors of the members of the speech community--adults and children. they have come to believe that mastering proper English does not necessarily lead to goals associated with that skill.net at INDIANA UNIVERSITY OF PENNSYLVANIA on December 8. to speak it without a foreign accent. As a result. as "our regular English. On the contrary. In the next section. Certainly. the fact that the two dialects of English co-exist means that Lafayette Blacks can speak slang English as well as proper English. the relationship between their dialect or language frames and that of standard English speakers is oppositional. At the time of the study (1988-1990).S. As a result.Beyond Language dialects to be able to learn the standard English. attitudes." In my presentation below I will use their folk terminologies interchangeably. 2009 . may be characterized by both bidialectalism and diglossia. they are not foreigners w h o expect to learn a new language. Furthermore. there is no strong incentive motivation for mastering proper English. First. they seem to think that they are required to give up their own way of talking to be able to talk like White Americans. Second. not everyone in Lafayette talks slang English the same way or believes the same thing about it or about proper (standard) English. Third. while minority speech communities in the U. 8 Nor did I and my researcher assistants use this concept in our study which was completed some 5 years before the "ebonics controversy. because White people created the problems by depriving them of their original languages. they more or less hold White Americans responsible for eliminating the problems caused by the dialect differences. they interpret learning English as acquiring a new language to add to the ones they already have in order to achieve their emigration goals." "Black English. Nonimmigrant minorities are less willing and less able to accommodate White-American ways of talking for several reasons. occasionally. Moreover. Accommodating WhiteAmerican ways of talking seems to threaten their sense of dialect identity.aera. the language or dialect differences serve as boundary-maintenance mechanisms and provide the minorities with a sense of self-worth. I will focus my analysis on the dominant patterns of dialect beliefs. Although there is some diversity in ways of talking in Lafayette. after many generations of discrimination. In this case. Some immigrants more or less assume that it is their responsibility to learn to speak English the way White Americans do---which is." Lafayette people referred to their dialects as "slang" or "slang English" and. My presentation is not about individual or subgroup differences. California. in some there also exists an oppositional relationship between the frames of reference of the minority dialect or language and the standard English. 155 Downloaded from http://aerj. I will illustrate the oppositional situation in the fifth type with my study in Lafayette." or "rap.
and semi-immigrant Mexican-American minorities in Oakland and Union City. That is. L a f a y e t t e : A Black S p e e c h C o m m u n i t y Purpose of the Study Over the years. and responses. beliefs. I have developed an explanation of school performance of minority groups. This explanation posits that there are two sets of factors influencing minority school performance: how society at large and the school treat minorities (the system) and how minority groups respond to those treatments and to schooling (community forces). There are several reasons for using the case study to illustrate the fifth type of speech communities. and behaviors of Lafayette parents and other adults. vocabulary. Fourth. the study will show that the dialect beliefs." The third objective is to show that Lafayetteparents do not and cannot teach their children standard English because they themselves do not speak it at all or speak it well. This article focuses on dialect perceptions.aera. it is a study of the dominant beliefs and attitudes of Lafayette Blacks toward their slang English and proper English and their behaviors. I hope that the overall presentation will shed some light on the dialect beliefs. which I call cultural-ecological theory. Rather. but this article is about only one. the case study will show that the persisting difficulty of Lafayette people with standard English is due.net at INDIANA UNIVERSITY OF PENNSYLVANIA on December 8. treatments. California. The last objective is particularly important. and behaviors of Lafayette students at school are the same as those of their parents and other adults. 2009 . Methodology The Setting My research assistants and I studied two Black speech communities. in part. My research assistants and I used an ethnographic approach to discover how these minorities perceive and respond to their histories. phonology. It is also about the folk histories of these dialects. it is not a linguistic study of grammar. considering the role that educators and researchers usually assign to parents in teaching their children standard English. Finally. This case study is a part of a larger comparative study which examined the community forces of immigrant Chinese-American. rather than their scientific histories. Second. and syntax of slang English or proper English in this community. and schooling. attitudes. One is to show that in this inner city Black speech community slang English and proper English co-exist in a diglossia relationship but in oppositional frames of reference. Lafayette? Lafayette is a low-income Black 156 Downloaded from http://aerj. to their incompatible beliefs about proper English.Ogbu Another point to bear in mind is that the case study is not about dialect forms or structures. nonimmigrant BlackAmerican. attitudes. The theory further posits that differences in school performance between immigrant and nonimmigrant minorities are partly due to differences in their community forces. The children's dialect attitudes and behaviors are not merely those of the "street.
net at INDIANA UNIVERSITY OF PENNSYLVANIA on December 8. the female assistant had completed college. meetings on special issues. A male junior ethnographer studied male students. For example. The long period of fieldwork enabled us to become "members" of Lafayette community through both informal and formal interaction with the people. we hung out in barber shops and salons and visited families. Procedures and data collection. and a female junior ethnographer focused on female students. Furthermore. recruitment and training. By cornrnuniCy I mean the attendance area of an elementary school. was responsible for adult study. We attended community events. including religious services. t° Research assistants. (b) Several months of a 2-hour weekly workshop on how to do ethnographic research.Beyond Language neighborhood in West Oakland. speech events. funeral services. these included 40 females and 36 males. Participants in the study. The male ethnographer had some college education and worked extensively with adolescents. observed many more people. We (from now on. The researchers spent about 2 years (1988-1990) collecting ethnographic data in the community. my research assistants and I will be referred to as we or the researcbers). 157 Downloaded from http://aerj. Our phrasing of the questions was influenced by our dialect experience during participant observation phase.aera. These participant observations helped us to learn about community forces from actual behaviors. (c) The associate director supervised a weekly fleldwork practice. weddings. and 36 senior high students. informal gatherings. which involved reading and discussion. The trainees read some past ethnographic research accounts for discussion at the workshop. (d) Each week a 1-hour weekly feedback session with me or the associate director was conducted to discuss the practice fieldwork. participant observations allowed us to compare what we were told in interviews with what we saw the people actually do. We also interviewed 76 students: 12 elementary.. 28 junior. I deliberately selected my assistants with this background because I believed that it would enhance the study. My senior assistant served as my associate director of the Lafayette study. I was assisted by three ethnographers: a senior researcher with a doctoral degree in linguistics and two junior ethnographers. The adults we interviewed were people we met at various events during the participant observation phase. and situations but formally interviewed 33 parents and grandparents as well as seven other adults. All the research assistants were Black Americans who had either grown up or lived for many years in Oakland. 2009 . and supervised the junior assistants. The researchers received an intensive training in ethnographic research for 3 months. We developed our interview questions partly from the theoretical framework of the study and partly from the what we learned through participant observation. and to learn what to emphasize in ethnographic interviews. to learn what further questions to ask besides the ones we started with. The training was divided into four parts: (a) a study of the research problems. they both brought to the study indigenous knowledge and informants through personal networks.
Adults and students were asked the same questions. researchers served as teacher aides. Permission was obtained from parents and school officials to interview students. transcribers followed specific written instructions on how to transcribe the interviews." is the perception of Black parents and Black students of the differences between how speakers of Black English talk and the way speakers of standard English talk. school sports. each topic was assigned a code. For example. During the participant observation phase. She then trained and supervised five coders using the Textbase Alpha program. assisted with school plays and other programs. counselors. and partidpation in extracurricular activities. Before the interview began. n Code DD (Table 2) contains categories on dialect and identity. academic performance. The associate director of the entire comparative study went for a special training in computer coding of ethnographic data. Transcrip¢ion and coding. They met weekly with their supervisor to discuss specific or general problems encountered in the transcription. Thus. After the interview. This was further divided into 15 subcodes. testing. In the coding system. asking for clarification or elaboration of some points made in the interview. The final version was the result of team discussions.aera. but the questions were phrased to elicit adult or student perspectives. collected documents and statistics on school attendance. The 158 Downloaded from http://aerj. we made charts of students' sitting arrangements and observed and recorded students' interactions with one another and with the teacher.net at INDIANA UNIVERSITY OF PENNSYLVANIA on December 8. Data analysis and interpretation. 2009 . and revisions. My coding categories were derived both from the conceptual framework of the study and from new categories that emerged during the fieldwork. "How Black People Talk. The questions were open-ended and informants' responses were audiotaped. and supervised children's activities on the school grounds and during field trips.Ogbu The principal investigator drafted the initial interview questions and had the assistants review them. The audiotaped interviews were transcribed by trained transcribers. disciplines. and other qualitative data. We attended schoolboard meetings. and so forth. The interview usually took place in the informant's home. Only the student interviews are used in this article. the researcher explained the purpose of the study and answered questions the informant might have about the study. After their training. and other school personnel. the researcher might continue talking with the informant. including when and how to make insertions in the transcripts. the subcode P06. We also conducted the research in school. "Dialect Differences and Dialect Frames of Reference" (see Table 1) was assigned the P code. Interviews were scheduled at the convenience of the informants. For classroom observations. I developed a coding system for the ethnographic interviews. The coders had a reliability of over 80%. participant observational descriptions. We encouraged our informants to elaborate in their answers to questions. We interviewed some teachers.
aera. DD17. P13. PO3. DD10.Beyond Language Table 1 P Code: Dialect Differences and Dialect Frames of Reference Subcodes POl. P07. DD14. DD07. Pll. DD15. DD02. DD09. Thus. for analysis o f C o d e P for Lafayette parents. P15. DD06. P02. DD03. t h e n the entries for the entire P c o d e Table 2 DD Code: Dialect Differences/Frames of Reference and Schooling Subcodes DD01. DD04. DD18. T h e p r o c e d u r e for data analysis w a s t r en d analysis. 2009 . P06. the first thing w a s to s u m m a r i z e t h e entry for e a c h s u b c o d e . DD12. P05. P04. DD08. DD13. Dialect differences between group and Whites Educated Blacks and White talk Educated Blacks and Black talk Communication problems with White people How White people talk How Black people talk Interpretations of dialect differences (see PO1) Pressures to speak standard English Pressures against speaking standard English Group's dialect at home Group's dialect at school No perceptions of class differences in dialect Asian language barrier Learning English Speaking Spanish Parents 36 13 3 12 9 8 0 0 8 2 3 1 Students 65 0 0 0 6 7 0 0 16 0 3 0 2 0 0 2 0 0 c o d i n g a n d o r g a n i z a t i o n of this c a t e g o r y are similar to the p r o c e d u r e f o l l o w e d in C a t e g o r y P. P10. P08.net at INDIANA UNIVERSITY OF PENNSYLVANIA on December 8. Dialect differences and school adjustment and performance Dialect differences between group and the schools How group's students feel about English courses Parents' communication problems with teachers Group's English at school Reactions to dialect denigration Perceptions and reactions to dialect differences Code switching No perceptions of dialect differences Multiple views of dialect differences How to overcome dialect differences in school No perceptions of dialect differences causing problems Parents see need for basics Parents' opinions of English courses How dialect differences affected informants Learning and using standard English Learning English for a non-native speaker Speaking Spanish at school Group members "acting White" Parents 17 23 14 10 0 0 24 7 14 3 12 23 3 15 0 7 0 0 44 Students 16 4 41 0 3 2 22 9 3 0 8 14 0 0 13 25 0 0 106 159 Downloaded from http://aerj. DD05. N04. DDll. P09. P14. DD16. P12.
whereas. and attitudes. Both parents and students agree that some members. For example. and behaviors of people in the Lafayette speech community. 2009 . others can speak only slang English: Parent 9L: We. The same procedure was followed in the analysis of the students' code.aera. was based partly on the Lafayette people's point of view and partly on the impressions they gained about dialect over the long period of participant observation.. but Blacks will not feel threatened. I am presenting the researchers' (and my) understanding of the dialect beliefs and attitudes of Lafayette adults and students. Bidialectalism and Diglossia in Lafayette It is c o m m o n knowledge among adults and children in Lafayette ~3that there are two English dialects in the community: slang English and proper English (Figure 2). Black English. and behaviors. But the conclusions were also based on the researchers' construction of the big picture of the dialect situation in Lafayette. White Talk Versus Black Talk Adults and children alike describe the way White people talk ~4 as proper English or correct English and the way Black people talk as slang. and some people use their own regular English. Some people speaks proper. During the summary of a subcode or the entire code. as parent 9L notes.g. Findings There are three findings 12 in the Lafayette speech community that will show how the Type 5 speech community differs from others. dominant patterns of beliefs. The trends for the two subpopulations (e. can speak proper English. a Black person may say something that sounds harsh. accent. attitudes. The first is how the people perceive the diglossia relationship between the standard English and their English dialect. slang English. White people's proper English differs from Black people's slang in vocabulary. This construction. I guess it's okay. The researchers' understanding of the Lafayette people's beliefs and attitudes came from paying attention to the cognitive distinctions the people themselves made about their o w n and White people's attitudes. In this article.net at INDIANA UNIVERSITY OF PENNSYLVANIA on December 8. the second is the dialect dilemma of the Lafayette people due totheir incompatible beliefs about proper English. The search for trends or patterns was guided by the theoretical framework. I mean. The comparison of the trends allowed the researchers to reach some conclusions about the dialect beliefs. parents and students) were subsequently compared. or behaviors in the data were noted. beliefs. s o m e . . and the third is their equivocal attitude toward mastering and using proper English. in turn. Furthermore.Ogbu were summarized. if a White person utters the same 160 Downloaded from http://aerj. attitudes. . Whites and Blacks tend to interpret the same statements differently. and so forth.
. . . they believe that the most important difference is that White 161 Downloaded from http://aerj. . . . . THE DIALECT DILEMMA I INCOMPATIBLE BELIEFS I ABOUTPROPER ENGLISH [I n s t r u m e n ~ m b o l i c Endorsement I I Rejecti°n I \ f EquivocalAbout Learning I & Using ProperEnglish ] I Figure 2. ..Beyond Language BIDIALECTALISM AND DIGLOSSIA IALIAS: "SLANGENGLISH" "BLACKENGLISH" + "RAPTALK" ]"PLAINENGLISH" . .. . It makes you feel comfortable. . . . 2009 . . . . ." they don't mean only that their speech is more informal and nonstandard. 1~ When Lafayette people say that White Americans talk more proper they do not mean only that White speech is more formal. . . Like their parents. What they mean by these statements is that proper English is White-American English dialect and "plain English" is Black-American English dialect or mother tongue.net at INDIANA UNIVERSITY OF PENNSYLVANIA on December 8. . . ."B_LACK_~___~__~_~__G_LJS_H_'L_ + . Bidialectalism. well. . believe that there are differences b e t w e e n White-American English and Black English. . We're "sitting. Likewise. diglossia. I call s o m e b o d y up. . . . and collective identity in the Lafayette speech community statement. . . you know. . . Plain talkin'. . . I guess. w e ' r e talkin'. . like their parents. With [us]. and not all of us but a lot [off u s . . . . . . just be plain talkin' English . . . you tell that o1' motherfucker to go to hell . . . . just talk the way you feel comfortable. . . Lafayette children. . . . . . 'Ah. .6 Parent 24L: They're. . . . Only in 3 of the 65 excerpts did Lafayette children deny that the two dialects are different.aera. . more proper lin their speechl. . . . . . . . . . and we're talkin' [with] my friends. . . Parent 28K illustrates this difference with the following hypothetical example. J . and. . man.. . w h e n they say that their o w n speech is "just plain talkin'. a White audience is likely to assume that there is a real threat of harm. . .]5 The difference most c o m m o n l y mentioned is that White-American English is more proper or more correct: . .. . . say. . . "FOREIGN"/ HIGHERLANGUAGE: WHITEMOTHER-TONGUEENGLISHOR "PROPER ENGLISH" "CORRECTENGLISH" "STANDARDENGLISH" . .
" Parent 28L: U m . was born talkin' like that. where they come f r o m . As they grew. they talk slang dialect." Five students and several adults explicitly called Black English slang. . the slang when they talk. They're not puttin' on. White people just seem to be born with that culture baby talk. US. to learn how to better it. even the oldest White person.net at INDIANA UNIVERSITY OF PENNSYLVANIA on December 8. and they speak polite. The most distinguishing feature of Black English is that it is "slangier. a little lower form of you know. they learned to use their dialect better. . we've grown. uh-huh. . There's a lotta slang.. as can be seen in the following excerpt. Yeah? Slang. Student 434 provides a g o o d example of how Lafayette children perceive Black dialect in their speech community: Interviewer: Student 4 3 4 : Interviewer: Student 4 3 4 : How about dialect and ways of speaking? Dialect? Slang. slang]. Lafayette p e o p l e feel that their slang English is "natural to them. whereas I do believe. Student 420 is representative of this category. whereas Blacks speak slang English. In n o n e of the 65 student interview excerpts on dialect differences did a n y o n e mention that Lafayette Blacks use proper English in the community. Interviewer: Student 446: Um-hm." whereas "Black p e o p l e have to learn it. and Blacks. And I believe that colored was born with a more. but proper English has c o m e to be seen as a better dialect to which people should aspire to speak: 162 Downloaded from http://aerj. they speak." whereas White proper English is "natural" to White Americans. correct English.aera. Society Ranks the Two English Dialects The majority of Lafayette adults and children think that society accords White p r o p e r English a higher social value than Black slang. slang English and proper English are just different ways of talking. you know. According to Parent 28L. But we grow. According to him. Is there a difference in dialect or ways of speaking? Yes. 2009 . It's just their natural way. you know.e. Lafayette children explicitly disguished standard English from slang English in 17 of the 65 excerpts.Ogbu Americans speak proper or correct English. speech [i. "White p e o p l e are born to talk proper English. Blacks. you know. It's just a way. some Black people they was born with that way. but I did. .
it's accepted. But I think if Black people would. Black people use slang. 2009 . I can't say it's good. when they don't speak proper English." society ranks the White slang higher than the Black slang and it differently. They themselves rarely use the term standard English to describe how White people talk or to refer to the English in school. Slang English and Proper English Have Separate Functions Black slang English is used for everyday communication in the family and community. But when Black people don't. Speaking slang English makes Lafayette p e o p l e "feel more comfortable. uh. Everybody has a way of.net at INDIANA UNIVERSITY OF PENNSYLVANIA on December 8. No. it's not. Although American interprets slang but some White people also speak slang English. The few w h o speak proper English and can relate to the English courses are called "Oreos. Yeah? And I think that's." The people do not initiate communication a m o n g themselves in the family and community in proper English. you know? Black people are more slang. For example. Student 10: Interviewer: Student 10: White Proper English Is Equated With Standard English Both Lafayette adults and children equate White proper English with standard English or school English. In the words of Student 10. I wouldn't say they speak English . White people do the same thing except it's not considered slang." implying that they are talking like White people. you know what's up. expressing themselves. what is English really? Proper English." w h e n questioned. Student 442 explains that most children cannot relate to English courses at school because they do not s p e a k proper English. So what you're saying is that. it's not accepted. they usually say that they "just talk the way they feel comfortable. And they use incorrect English. like. I mean. 163 Downloaded from http://aerj. then we would relate to what White people are talkin' about.aera. Uh-huh. But the equation is readily seen w h e n parents or students discuss required English courses. speak better or speak with a better vocabulary. It's not.Beyond Language Interviewer: Student 420: Interviewer: Student 420: How 'bout dialect or ways of speaking. It's considered "valley talk" or "prep talk" or "half-way talkin'" and "Boopsie and Mittens" and "oh-my-gawd" and "gag me with a spoon" and all that kind of stuff and it's blood. and I'm not gonna say that's bad. society equates Black not White slang with ignorance. called "valley. It's considered slang and ignorant. White people.
Certain [White] people don't really know who they're talking to. 2009 . . They are criticized or ignored if they speak proper English with p e o p l e from their community. they are 164 Downloaded from http://aerj. Thus. And it works on my nerves . use p r o p e r English to disguise their racial identity in situations where they anticipate discrimination: Parent 419L: ]Talking properly] is not a problem for me because I can change my tone of voice and speak in a different. Some parents express annoyance w h e n their children talk proper to them. Cultural Rules for Using Slang and Proper English There are separate rules for using slang English and p r o p e r English in Lafayette. The community believes that slang English is the appropriate dialect for everyday life.aera. it is mainly because p e o p l e need proper English to succeed in school that parents and children e m p h a s i z e the need to learn proper English in school. they also include p e o p l e w h o s e job brings them to Lafayette or w h o c o m e to "distribute flyers. . Yeah. because of the Afro. Whereas if they were to see me." The community prefers that people use proper English w h e n c o m m u nicating with "outsiders. well. "That's not the w a y the teacher say we should say it.net at INDIANA UNIVERSITY OF PENNSYLVANIA on December 8. Mastering p r o p e r English also increases one's chances of getting a g o o d job. like Parent 419L.Ogbu They consider proper English more appropriate for school. Parent 25L2 cites job opportunity as the reason for learning to speak properly." especially at school and other White controlled institutions. they would not [have agreed to what I said]." Lafayette children sometimes make fun of the p r o p e r English of the visitors. especially if the children try to correct the parents' slang English by telling them to use the proper English expressions they learned in school. Outsiders include Black and other representatives of White institutions: teachers." Parent 17L says that it gets on her nerves w h e n her child continues tO s p e a k at h o m e the w a y she learned to talk at school: "The teacher teach the kids h o w to talk p r o p e r . and communicating with outsiders. Some. One example given by parents is w h e n a child says to his or her mother. When Lafayette adults visit school or other White institutions. .. workplace. appear to speak in a different--with an accent. . 'Cuz w h e r e I c o m e from. People are expected to talk slang with m e m b e r s of their families and with relatives. Interviewer: Parent 419L: Children's e n d o r s e m e n t of proper English for education and jobs will be discussed later. police officers. we all got our o w n voices. As we shall see later. Okay. and other Lafayette people. friends. social workers. neighbors.. Perhaps the most important rule is about where each dialect should be used.
. Children k n o w the rules of dialect-switching. . you and the fellas might just be rappin. I like to talk the way. and you start reading your textbook. and I'm talkin'. .aera. . in a public place and around a lot of White p e o p l e . you know.Beyond Language o b l i g e d to listen to p r o p e r English. and then go in and read [in proper English]. . you know.net at INDIANA UNIVERSITY OF PENNSYLVANIA on December 8. you know. The way that y'all were rappin' and the way you know it in the textbook. Interviewer: Student 448: D i a l e c t . say. b u t . And she answers the phone in a little high-pitched v o i c e . t y p e o f job o r profession.] Depends on who she's talking to? Yeah. And it kills us because we start laughing. Yeah.' and then you go down. [Laughs. d e p e n d i n g o n their level o f e d u c a t i o n . Both Parent 30L a n d Parent 37L s p e a k to this: 165 Downloaded from http://aerj. I can talk to my buddies on the phone and stuff. . she changes her voice everywhere she's talking. It's definitely two different l a n g u a g e s . and for some people it's cool. . and you know. I use proper . My own mother. . she was talkin' real crazy slang s t u f f . it seems like two different dialects there. . speak my language . . w i t h s t u d e n t s u s i n g p r o p e r English in the c l a s s r o o m a n d slang English in the hallway. H e r m o t h e r also s w i t c h e s codes. Rarely d i d Lafayette i n f o r m a n t s u s e p r o p e r English w h e n w e i n t e r v i e w e d t h e m in their c o m m u n i t y . ain't nobody gonna be watchin' me but them. and. . . Student 436: S t u d e n t 448 s w i t c h e s dialects with different a u d i e n c e s o r situations. like the way you know. Six o u t o f n i n e s t u d e n t s a d d r e s s i n g this rule r e p o r t practicing i t . I can s w i t c h . Like for me. . 2009 . and her voice is like very deep . Student 436 explains. . . . it's about time people talk the way we talk. . But when I'm around my friends. go on .s w i t c h i n g also g o e s o n at school. T h e y m a y r e s p o n d in s l a n g English o r p r o p e r English. and I'm around my neighborhood.IS More e d u c a t e d residents o c c a s i o n a l l y initiate c o m m u n i c a t i o n in p r o p e r English outside the community. S o m e p a r e n t s d o not t h i n k that their c h i l d r e n h a v e l a n g u a g e p r o b l e m s in s c h o o l b e c a u s e their c h i l d r e n k n o w w h e n to use slang English or p r o p e r English. . . . Interviewer: Yeah. In other words. . what I mean by that is. . Interviewer: Student 448: How do you feel about learning proper English and using proper English? I use proper English when I'm around.s p e a k i n g slang English at h o m e a n d p r o p e r English at school.
a child has to write a composition. Good point. in different settings a n d from different p e o p l e . e s p e c i a l l y s c h o o l teachers. As p a r e n t s a n d c o m m u n i t y . t h e r e is a division of l a b o r in d i a l e c t socialization. you English class. if one was to write it out in raly---and you read it and listen to it.aera. It is the dialect t h e y h e a r a n d learn v e r y early in life b e c a u s e it is t h e d i a l e c t s p o k e n a r o u n d t h e m from birth. the majority. It is for t h e s e r e a s o n s Lafayette p e o p l e claim that slang English is their "natural dialect" o r m o t h e r t o n g u e ." Its's not a.o8~ Parent 30L: Yeah. I mean." "Hi. stopping'em from learning. you'd hear where that boy or girl is coming from. a paragraph or a couple of paragraphs. or a couple of pages of composition.y o u get in. F r o m the p o i n t o f v i e w o f Lafayette p e o p l e . we have a lot of slang words that we use. It is also t h e dialect t h e y l e a r n f r o m p e o p l e w i t h w h o m t h e y a r e m o s t intimate. that urn. "Give me five. as long as the person knows the correct English and the slang.. they don't want you to use at school. but. It's always wrote into the White language. man. P r o p e r English is like a n "alien dialect" h e a r d a n d u s e d o n l y o n certain o c c a s i o n s a n d o u t s i d e the h o m e a n d c o m m u n i t y . Lafayette c h i l d r e n learn slang English before t h e y l e a r n p r o p e r English. Every--read a composition. how doing?" or "Hello.net at INDIANA UNIVERSITY OF PENNSYLVANIA on December 8. they are r e s p o n s i b l e for 166 Downloaded from http://aerj. It's never wrote in rap. M o r e o v e r . And it's been said that many Black children write the same way they speak. you still [say]. and you say you in the school. And you k n o w . in a class. The majority do. But when you hallway. They prefer you to use the correct English. Because if you notice. they know when to use the[ir] language and when not to use it. you're talkin'. correct English? Yes. T h e y l e a r n slang English in their family a n d c o m m u n i t y . Lafayette c h i l d r e n learn p r o p e r English from outsiders. T h e y start l e a r n i n g it w h e n t h e y b e g i n s c h o o l at the age o f 5 or a little earlier if t h e y a t t e n d p r e s c h o o l . But I bet you. for an example. it's not Interviewer: Parent 30L: Interviewer: But do you think it affects---let's for. 2009 . Lafayette c h i l d r e n d o not l e a r n it in their family a n d c o m m u n i t y from birth. go into hit that It's not. Do you think that the majority of Black children know the difference between the slang and the correct language. Parent 30L: Interviewer: Parent 37L: W h e n a n d Where Children Learn Slang a n d Proper English Slang English a n d p r o p e r English are t e a m e d sequentially. No. t h e y a r e " b o r n w i t h it" a n d feel m o r e c o m f o r t a b l e s p e a k i n g it.
and what they talk about-And I had that happen sometimes. And I have a problem [withl school dialect. as has been noted. "Now. community. Interviewer: Parent 33L: Another barrier to communication is that Lafayette people suspect that speakers of proper English think they are ignorant because of their slang English. Our observation and general impression is that Lafayette parents do not usually and probably cannot teach their children proper English because they themselves do not speak it or do not speak it well enough. Problems Due to Differences Between Slang and Proper English Communication. Parents 38L and 33L have the following to say about these problems: Parent 38L: Interviewer: Parent 38L: Parent 33L: Yeah. a lot of times they don't say a whole lot. I've had . Teachers and the school are responsible for teaching proper English.Beyond Language teaching slang English to their children. Parents encounter problems in communicating with teachers because of dialect differences. Teachers might be thinking that they are ignorant and probably will not believe what parents tell them about their children) 9 167 Downloaded from http://aerj. and they don't understand what teachers talk about. they talk differently. I'll stop and ask 'era. But it's just--they're used to using that big vocabulary. Furthermore. The suspicion makes Lafayette people hesitant and ashamed to talk to speakers of proper English. some parents even discourage their children from practicing proper English at home. what did you mean when you said that?" That-And it's just something simple. As will be seen later. because--they use a lot of--letters. The problem is that they themselves do not understand teachers and other people who talk proper English. the way they talk. Parents say that they can express their ideas well in slang English and they expect teachers and White people to understand them. Because of the way they talk? Yeah. for several reasons: Speakers of proper English use "big vocabulary words". You know. 2009 . I've had some problems understanding teachers.aera. . Lafayette Blacks believe that society equates their slang English with ignorance. It is partly for this reason that parents are hesitant to talk with teachers about their children's education. We have already seen that Parent 17L complains when her child continues to talk at home the way she learned to talk at school. I say. . Another thing we observed is that the proper English Lafayette children learn in school and preschool is not reinforced by their dialect experience in the family and community because proper English is not the dialect of everyday communication in the family. or among peers.net at INDIANA UNIVERSITY OF PENNSYLVANIA on December 8.
write these papers and stuff. (b) but they also believe that mastering proper English threatens their slang English identity. furthermore. you know. There are suggestions from parents about reducing or eliminating learning problems caused by dialect differences. some problems will remain: Lafayette children will not fully express themselves or their ideas in proper English like they will in slang English. social perceptions. their bonafide membership in their community and racial solidarity.Ogbu School performance. when you get to school. both requiring proper English.net at INDIANA UNIVERSITY OF PENNSYLVANIA on December 8. difficulty with speaking and writing in proper English. Students are more specific in discussing the academic problems caused by the dialect differences. Lafayette parents and children report that the dialect differences cause learning problems at school. Interviewer: Student 437: In what ways have the dialect differences affected your own school work? Me. In 6 out of 16 interview excerpts. These include teaching children how to switch from slang English at home to proper English at school. you know. a° What follow next are the contradictory beliefs about proper English. and yet retain slang English identity. students' reported problems including poor grades. These incompatible beliefs raise the question of how to succeed in school and in the job market. you know. grammar. The dilemma is that Lafayette Blacks hold incompatible beliefs about proper English: (a) They believe on the one hand that it is necessary to master it for education and job success. The problem which the people of this community are not aware of I will call their dialect dilemma. mastering proper English for education and jobs is a requirement imposed on Black people by their White American oppressors. Student 437 explains how he struggled to minimize the interference of slang English in his written work. The Dialect Dilemma: Proper English and Identity The communication and learning problems described above are generally known to Lafayette adults and children and are due to differences in dialects per se: vocabulary. and learning difficulty in general. 2009 .aera. and so on. and then. Some parents not only believe that the school English is "White" but also suspect that White people set up the proper English requirement so that Black children will have problems. you have to put a little more efforts to make sure that the slang was out of it. personally? I speak. But as one parent points out. not once did they mention it to the researchers. bona fide membership in Lafayette community and racial solidarity as Black people in America. Beliefs Endorsing Proper English for Education and Jobs Throughout the study we did not know of anyone in Lafayette w h o did not 168 Downloaded from http://aerj. a lot of slang. But Lafayette Blacks face another dialect problem of which they are apparently not aware.
and so when we go to English class we get our English corrected." Lafayette p e o p l e say emphatically that they w a n t the public school to teach their children p r o p e r English. "Why you think you qualified?" But you know and then they. ." They w a n t schools to begin teaching p r o p e r English in the early school years. The children also e n d o r s e d p r o p e r English for e d u c a t i o n and job opportunity. 'Cuz we usin' like outside and things. I mean you know. . . and slang w o r d s out. you know. I like to learn proper English like if we go in our English class. Interviewer: Do you agree that many Black students feel that going to school is really a waste of time because they will not get good jobs when they finish school? Yes. Interviewer: Student 446: Okay. they ask how high. . you ain't gonna know the proper English or nothing• That's why you not gonna get a job. But to me. most think like that. you know. when you graduate from school you know. Uh-hm. you know. Student 446: Interviewer: Student 446: Beliefs Opposing Proper English for Various Reasons Lafayette o p p o s i t i o n to or ambivalence about p r o p e r English stems partly 169 Downloaded from http://aerj. and you know they be asking you. So going to school is not a waste of your time. when did you drop out of. you know. Student 446 e c h o e s the general students' desire to learn p r o p e r English and to be corrected. did you graduate? And you don't wanna say you dropped out 'cuz they. Again. you come in. Parent 22L expresses the c o m m u n i t y sentiment w h e n she says: "As far as I [am concerned] they [the teachers] s h o u l d teach the kids the p r o p e r w a y s [to talk] and vocabulary. if you don't go to school. some of the • . 2009 . they have some that look . in some job. it's not a waste of time. 'cuz then you might really don't get the job. We talk. Students e n d o r s e p r o p e r English for job opportunities in 10 o f the 25 excerpts a b o u t w h y they s h o u l d learn and use p r o p e r English. 'Cuz. . we talk different. T h e y should be firm in correcting children's speaking and writing.Beyond Language e n d o r s e mastering p r o p e r English for education and jobs. job interviews. Parent 5L speaks for m a n y w h e n she states: "I think w e s h o u l d be taught p r o p e r English and go forth o n that a n d leave j a r g o n .aera. .net at INDIANA UNIVERSITY OF PENNSYLVANIA on December 8. we get corrected. how do you feel about learning and using standard English or proper English? Yes. Teachers s h o u l d teach children h o w to switch b e t w e e n Black English at h o m e and p r o p e r English at school. you know. But you know.
I don't want listen to this thing or that.. According to them. p r o p e r English b e c a m e their mother tongue. Because they're trying to [show that they arel better than they a r e . White Americans b e g a n to feel that they w e r e superior to and better than Black p e o p l e w h o were not educated and could not talk proper. Lafayette people are o p p o s e d to talking p r o p e r in the c o m m u n i t y because the speaker is suspected of thinking like White p e o p l e that he or she is superior to or better than other Blacks.net at INDIANA UNIVERSITY OF PENNSYLVANIA on December 8. According to them. 2009 . Parent L12: Interviewer: Parent L12: Interviewer: Parent L12: You know. Because Blacks lacked these two attributes. and they would probably make an assessment on that person's character as being Parent 27L: Parent 38L: 170 Downloaded from http://aerj.aera. and 8K describe h o w their community would react to m e m b e r s w h o talk p r o p e r in the community.The reader is reminded that the following accounts of the origins of proper English and slang English are not factual but folk beliefs of Lafayette people. Origins of proper English and White superiority attitudes. talking--so people would not be interested in that. 27L. talkin' all--you know. talking proper b e c a m e the White w a y of talking or their natural talk. White people. talkin' like White people. White p e o p l e went to school and learned to talk p r o p e r w h e n Black p e o p l e were slaves and could not go to school. Ignore t h e m . People in the community will say. or he thinks he's White. more knowledgeable. Under this circumstance. .Ogbu from their interpretations of (a) the origin or history of proper English and (b) what p r o p e r English stands for in contrast to their slang English. talking proper was a symbol of being educated and knowledgeable. The folk histories of the dialects in Lafayette are based on the people's memories of the language experiences of their forebears under slavery and subsequent oppression. No. The following are their contradictory beliefs about proper English. thus. They [other Lafayette Blacksl would probably tend to be somewhat prejudicial of someone speaking very proper English. how would they treat them? Probably stand-offish . White Americans concluded that Black Americans were inferior and ignorant. Maybe that type of attitude.. In those days. Several p e o p l e like Parents 12L. . Well. Eventually. had the opportunity first to be educated and then to learn to talk proper. talking p r o p e r is the clearest evidence of acting White." We don't want to listen to this. . . . . . Oh. "He thinks he's smarter than everyone else. and better than other Blacks. Tal~'ng proper English among Blacks signifies adopting White attitudes of superiority. The Black speaker of p r o p e r English probably thinks that he or she is m o r e educated. which is not a p p r o v e d by the community. Ok.
l gotta go in a couple of minutes. the advice given to Student 434 by his father about how to behave and talk before White people to avoid being looked d o w n on: Student 434: Interviewer: Student 434: Interviewer: Student 434: My father would say. Some children and parents worry about the denigration of their dialect. w h e n a Lafayette person speaks slang he or she is not puttin' on or pretending.Beyond Language Parent38L: "uppity" or . Equally important. goin'. So. layin' back over and Iookin'. community. it is his or her natural w a y of talking." Uh-hm. These excerpts also indicate that some children have internalized the invidious distinctions. Iookin' around. 2009 . "You have to dress a certain way for the White man. When a White person is talking proper he or she is not "puttin' o n " . . they also worry about what White people think of Blacks w h o speak slang. he or she is puttin' on or pretending to be White or 171 Downloaded from http://aerj. . talking proper is the natural way for Whites. proper English is the mother tongue of White children and their natural dialect. Instead of sittin' down. man.net at INDIANA UNIVERSITY OF PENNSYLVANIA on December 8.t h a t is. and yo man. Like the adults. and stuff like t h a t . Therefore.. . sit down and write. you know. and peer g r o u p where he or she hears slang English from birth.. Lafayette people are not born to speak proper English." People object to talking proper because it is not the natural way of talking for Lafayette Blacks. "What can you offer?". White Americans are born to talk proper bcause it is a dialect they hear from birth in their family. For this reason. Take. Children's awareness of the different meanings of proper and slang English is evident in 22 interview excerpts on the meanings of the dialects. and when he asked you like. that wouldn't work. a dialect they learn later in life from outsiders. right! "Put on slacks and stuff. or something like that. talk to him like you got some sense. Talking proper English is "puttin' on. the Black slang speaker is not claiming to be superior to other Blacks. . community. They can never learn to s p e a k proper English like White people. Hurry up with these answers". I can offer my talents.aera. for example. slang b e c o m e s his or her natural dialect. I contrast a Lafayette child born into a family. w h e n a Lafayette Black is talking proper. not pretending to speak proper English. Lafayette children also disapprove of talking p r o p e r because it signifies that one feels superior to or better than other Blacks. "Yo. urn. These worries affect h o w some parents prepare their children for participation in White controlled institutions. "How can you help this firm for us?" you know.. she is trying to be White." Right. and a m o n g their peers. Say. For this reason. it is his or her natural way of talking.
that usin' standard English should be a put-on? To me it would.. [like you're] feeling that bad about being Black that you want to hide it. So d o y o u . And to see s o m e b o d y else who's Black actually put it d o w n and try to hide it. angry] too. they're proud of their being Black. I just talk the way I talk. . Yes. outside of ourselves? Well.e. tryin' ta be proper and use big words. so are you saying that. .Ogbu to talk like W h i t e p e o p l e . d e s c r i b e s h o w t h e c o m m u n i t y w o u l d r e a c t to s u c h a person: Parent 25L2: I t h i n k . I mean. . like P a r e n t 38L. you know. . .. P a r e n t 25L2 says that it is insane to pretend to be White a n d .aera. . this. . l don't try ta put on a fake. Because if you ever step into a White man's world. Ok. Very a n g r y . You [know] what you're really doing is to hurt yourself. . o r fake. cuz Student 217: Interviewer: Student 217: Interviewer: Student 217: Interviewer: Student 217: 172 Downloaded from http://aerj. B e c a u s e . . b u t . . . Yes. not standard English. . Don't do that to us . Because I feel that way [i. . . A lot. he's gonna think what? What a White man gonna appreciate you w h e n you don't appreciate your o w n people? English because t h e y a l s o t h i n k it is a Interviewer: Parent 25L2: Interviewer: Parent 25L2: Interviewer: Parent 25L2: Interviewer: Parent 25L2: Students oppose talking proper p r e t e n s e . T h e c o m m u n i t y o b j e c t s t o p u t t i n ' o n b y t h o s e w h o try to talk p r o p e r . Being proper you mean? Or using big words? Tryin' ta. But I'm sayin'. . .. Interviewer: Do you think Blacks' English should be included? You think Black. • . well. . Um hum. not standard .net at INDIANA UNIVERSITY OF PENNSYLVANIA on December 8. [We] get very angry [when s o m e o n e pretends] to be White by talkin' proper . me myself. I mean that we should be able to speak Black English outside among ourselves? We do speak it a m o n g ourselves. . in all this. A n g r y . . [for] a lot lot'] Black people w h o are Black it is literary insane and stuff [to] see Black p e o p l e w h o pretend to be White. . 2009 . It's . . .
But you know. They strongly hold onto it because it has always been a part of their collective identity--what gives them a sense of w h o they are and where they belong. w h o n o w talk proper English and no longer talk slang. but how could you want to act White when you were born and raised in a Black place? And you had a Black family. For these reasons community puts pressures on its members against using proper English. . including family members. if necessary. you're used to hearing it f r o m . Their accounts of the origins of proper English and slang as well as the meanings of these dialects lead me to speculate that. but say when I go ta college.net at INDIANA UNIVERSITY OF PENNSYLVANIA on December 8. I say. you acting 173 Downloaded from http://aerj. how can you talk like that? You know. And I met them. Interviewer: Student 460: What do you think of the way they act? I hate them.. we could talk very properly. It is also partly because proper English is a symbol of White people and partly out of fear of community reactions that some people w h o can talk proper do not do so readily. Parent 30L claims that she has been Black long enough to k n o w that Black people have always spoken slang English and will always speak it.Beyond Language Student 217: I wasn't taught that. Because students interpret acting White as rejecting "your color" or "your race". 2009 . but. after many generations. . And we could. some Blacks w h o master proper English prefer to hang out with White p e o p l e or e v e n m o v e out of the community. . We will see later that the fear of some Lafayette p e o p l e that accommodating proper English threatens their slang identity and racial solidarity is real.aera. the dialects have b e c o m e symbols of collective oppositional identities and boundary-maintaining mechanisms. They point to Blacks. White p e o p l e . talk that way. . Student 421 wonders why anyone would want to reject his or her color by talking proper like White people. you k n o w . many unequivocally c o n d e m n those w h o talk proper. You only go to school with these people six hours a day. . as Parent 37L explains: They [White people] talk very properly. . And you know. . Talking proper is discussed in 21 of the 106 students' excerpts on the conflict b e t w e e n acting White and group identity. you know. Accommodation of proper English is a displacement process. and she is smart. I know one of them. why [do] they want to be like that? You know. and you're talking like them. being friends with them. it's p r o b . I can understand them going to school with all these Whites. I can see you having your slang.. But they are gettin' the same education we are gettin'. . They don't fit too well. and learn more. Lafayette Blacks claim that they inherited slang English from their forebears. She walks around. Furthermore. hard to say. She is fake.
: When one get a certain degree of education and they get into this White system because see. you know. do you think the dialect differences are causing problems for Black children in school? Oh. They start talkin' like other races. or at least suspect. the White man sets up the education system. Valley talk. The public school is singled out as an agent of dialect assimilation. A related belief is that learning proper English is a one-way dialect assimilation. you're automatically being taught to be like White people. and they don't talk like us. it is an institution which replaces slang identity with proper English (White) identity.Ogbu like them. that's because of what White folks say. that this the way. Here you've got a Black man that's born and raised in the ghetto usin' "ain't". Many children were fully aware of the negative perceptions of and treatment of their community by those w h o talk proper in the community. Because it's their system." and whatever. And you just rejecting your own color. and you're not supposed to do that.. If I could just. that the real reason the school requires proper English is that White people want to make Black people "civilized before they can be acceptable to Whites. you see what l'm saying? That's because of what they say. it's fine for you to have White friends and your Black friends. So. Not like. You see what I'm saying? So. This [is] the rules of the English dialect. when you get into this educational mode. That's not like you. Lafayette people have proof that mastering proper English results in loss of slang English. when you're raised and born in the ghetto and you're talkin' the slang and blah blah and whathave-you. Lafayette people believe. you say. You know. Grandparents like 26L report that their grandchildren growing up in predominantly White communities no longer talk like them: "Well. sometimes they [children] change.aera. You see. ''2~ One way of civilizing Blacks is to change the way they talk by replacing their slang English with proper English. just like you. you Black people is like White people. Learning proper English results in dialect assimilation." and you're not supposed to do this. You talk that White slang." Hanging around mostly White people also results in loss of slang English. Parent 14I. and then you. dangling participles and everything else. Parent 14L explains how the school successfully performs this function on behalf of White Americans. when you start. 'Cuz I have some grandchildren out in the southern part of California. As to what the White man say. "what. and then you get into the college. they talk like Whites. 2009 . You're not supposed to use "ain't. you know. the thing of it is.. He finds out that's Interviewer: Parent 14L: 174 Downloaded from http://aerj. you know. but don't reject your people that way. But anyway.net at INDIANA UNIVERSITY OF PENNSYLVANIA on December 8. Then he gets into the school.
but they have no choice and are forced to learn it. a parent would declare emphatically that he or she wants the school to teach children proper English so that they achieve academic success and later get good jobs. The point here is that some Lafayette parents apparently do not see learning proper English as acquiring another dialect in order to achieve a goal. however. they believe that proper English will displace their slang English w h e n e v e r the two meet.Beyond Language Parent 14L: not the right [way]. that Lafayette people hold incompatible beliefs about proper English. Later in the same interviews. They say that the school wants Black students to learn proper English only and does not teach them African languages. he reports telling his children that slang English would not help them succeed in school or get g o o d jobs. it is necessary for them to learn proper English. Instead. Later in the interview. Equivocal Attitude Toward Learning Standard English O n e sees. Proper English is an imposition on Blacks by White people.aera. Parents strongly endorse it for education and jobs and communicate the importance of learning it to their children. 175 Downloaded from http://aerj. cited earlier. then. In the early part of our interview. reflects the belief that even the English requirement at school is a White imposition. 22 Some children also believe that learning proper English is a White imposition. If Lafayette Blacks had a choice. The statement by Parent 14L. Parent 28L is a m o n g those w h o fear that in the contest of dialect socialization teachers will win over parents. including dialect learning. He admonishes them to treat it as a g a m e for survival in the White man's world. He's reading this White man's book that he devised as to what he feels like the English dialect is supposed to be. His equivocal attitude can be seen in the following statement: Parent 1 4 L : Getting back to (the dialect thing)--you know. . he reports telling his children that proper English is imposed on Black people by White Americans. Lafayette children will end up preferring to talk White proper English. Parent 38 laments that displacement of Black culture and dialect by the superior White culture and dialect is inevitable. For example. Still another reason for opposing talking proper is that proper English is White people's dialect which the Whites impose on Black people. The equivocal attitudes of parents show u p w h e n they discuss their children's English courses. So now you are talking like White folks .net at INDIANA UNIVERSITY OF PENNSYLVANIA on December 8. Due to these incompatible beliefs. . 2009 . But they also communicate to their children opposing beliefs about school or White English. Some also do not believe that proper English can co-exist with slang English in the same individual. . they might not choose to learn it. Lafayette parents and children are ambivalent about learning proper English even at school. Speaking of cultural learning in school. the parent would express some fear that mastering proper English is an assimilation detrimental to slang identity. As a result. Take the case of Parent 14L.
. .]~4 Interviewer: Parent 28L: Later in the interview. s o m e children e n d o r s e learning p r o p e r English in school. But she'd come in and tell me. Black children are resisting learning White p r o p e r English.. unlike the immigrants.h u h . this parent recalls her a n n o y a n c e b e c a u s e she could not stop her d a u g h t e r from correcting her slang English: And she didn't catch on to what I'm talkin' about." IShe pronounces it like that. to m e . 23 T h e c o u n t e r m e s s a g e about p r o p e r English from Lafayette parents is probably p o w e r f u l e n o u g h to generate their ambivalence in their children about learning a n d using p r o p e r English. . imitating a White teacher. to make life easier for yourself. like Parent 28L. "Nicky lher daughter]. . s o m e d o not. As noted earlier." And. Lafayette children w h o share the contradictory beliefs o f their c o m m u nity are also equivocal about learning and using standard English. "Now Mama. Parent 28L: It can [be a source of conflict]. proves true that (proper English] is imposed on Black people. "I shall not. We say it this way lin school]. . just like Monopoly (emphasis added).aera. . you know. "It's not because. this is [the White man's] dialect. This is what I tell my cbadren: "If this is what you have to do [i. the child will come home and tell the parent.. go through these rituals." And I'll be sayin' to myself. "You don't say it that way Mama. ~I just told her [not to correct me] the other day!" Parent 33L complains that the school is pulling a w a y Black children and immigrant children from their m o t h e r t o n g u e s but is glad that.Ogbu Parent 14L: Seriously. The interviewer and the parent both laugh. "I don't care what she Ithe teacher] told you at school. don't do that. Some parents. says things like. learn proper English]--okay. Okay? Because--Right now. students feel g o o d 176 Downloaded from http://aerj. his lingo and his s y s t e m . . T h e researchers did not observe parents e n c o u r a g i n g their children to practice p r o p e r English at home. and the teacher tell her. actually object to children s p e a k i n g p r o p e r English at h o m e b e c a u s e it causes conflict in parent-child c o m m u n i c a t i o n ." Well. 2009 . and learn the game [how to talk properly]. because the Black parent might be teachin' the Black child one way and he goes to school and the White teacher." And the Black parent will say.net at INDIANA UNIVERSITY OF PENNSYLVANIA on December 8." So it's causing conflict in the home sometimes? U h .e. I'll say. it's becooz. she might go to school. you do [say it] this way. In 18 o f 41 interview excerpts o n English courses. that. You say it so-and-so way. Get into his system [schooll. don't say it that way.
but you don't know what I am talkin' about. we don't have to read that much. .. But most of them don't like English. when you are doing a paper or something? How does it affect you? We used to have that when we used a little small slang words. as far as avoiding them. you know. Most o f the others c o n s i d e r the English classes b o r i n g . American Government. . . . . u h . ok. b u t . most of them don't have that much of a choice. Yeah. because it's on the curriculum to graduate. . I will not jump over the bus. So therefore.aera. . urn. you've got to be like: "Oh. . they--they usually read slow. .. If I am adjustin' to what you are doin'. they don't like t o . S t u d e n t 460 s u m s u p t h e attitude o f s u c h s t u d e n t s as follows: Interviewer: In what ways have the dialect differences affected your own schoolwork? In other words. t h e y dislike the c o u r s e s b e c a u s e t h e y d o n ' t like the t e a c h e r o r t h e curriculum. . and I don't want to change my ways.. U r n . In 10 others. . A n d . so they don't like to read. I won't jump over the bus. S o m e s t u d e n t s resist l e a m i n g p r o p e r English b e c a u s e t h e y feel that t e a c h e r s s h o u l d learn a n d t e a c h t h e m in slang English. urn. Interviewer: Student 452: Are there certain classes that Black students do not like and try to avoid? U h . . instead of me tryin' to adjust to what you are doing. simple. u h . we have---more people transferred [outl to avoid--I forgot. . they don't like to read. but.. or somethin'. I think you should just know what I am talkin' about. . when you come in class. You are here. That's it. 177 Downloaded from http://aerj.w h e n we do have to read. you know. I am adjustin' my ways. because. but more people transferred in from American Government . . . And we a r e n ' t . Student 460: Interviewer: Student 460: T h e beliefs a n d attitudes e x p r e s s e d b y p a r e n t s a n d their c h i l d r e n in t h e s e interview excerpts. because of lack of practice. t o g e t h e r w i t h the e t h n o g r a p h e r s ' o b s e r v a t i o n s . just like Black English.a n d also.Beyond Language a b o u t their English c o u r s e s b e c a u s e t h e y like the t e a c h e r a n d t h e curriculum." That's how I am going to talk to you.net at INDIANA UNIVERSITY OF PENNSYLVANIA on December 8. I know what I am talkin' about. S o m e s t u d e n t s ( a n d p a r e n t s ) r e p o r t that m a n y Lafayette s t u d e n t s d o not like English c o u r s e s b u t t a k e t h e m b e c a u s e t h e y are required. Well. You will have to come down to my level or find another way to teach me. but. . and we are usin' these slang words every day. . 2009 .
(c) school should teach students how to switch between slang dialect at home and proper English at school. (d) students should try harder to keep slang English from interfering in their speaking and writing lessons. that the contradictory messages and incompatible beliefs about proper English that Lafayette parents communicate to their children about proper English are not due to bad or faulty language socialization.aera. which they leam before they start school. the incompatible beliefs about and equivocal attitudes toward proper English are a part of the normal dialect situation in Lafayette speech community. Students themselves report that their slang English interferes with their ability to speak or write proper English. I suspect that neither parents nor students are aware that they hold incompatible beliefs about proper English and the effects of such beliefs on their attitudes toward mastering proper English or their ability to do so. Both parents and students suggest the following solutions: (a) school should introduce programs to teach children proper English from their early years. They recommend that teachers should use simpler words and talk in a way that parents and teachers can understand one another. Implications Lafayette people themselves identify two problems arising from dialect differences.Ogbu lead me to conclude that the dialect dilemma makes Lafayette people equivocal about learning the standard English. In order to become competent speakers in their community. 2009 . The dilemma lies in the incompatible beliefs about proper English. I believe that the dialect dilemma must be recognized and addressed in order to enhance the standard English proficiency of Lafayette children and Black children from similar communities. The second problem is that dialect differences cause some leaming problems for students. as Slang English is the children's mother tongue. From a sociolinguistic perspective. Lafayette children acquire not only the dialects in their community but also the beliefs and attitudes associated with slang English and proper English. They acquire proper English as a second dialect after they 178 Downloaded from http://aerj. The Task Force on Black Students' Education in Oakland and the participants in the national discourse on the "ebonic resolution" did not address the dialect dilemma because they were probably not aware of it. like their parents and other members of their community. grow up with these contradictory beliefs and. are equivocal about mastering and using proper English at school. like them. (b) teachers should correct children when they use slang English in school. One prerequisite for resolving the dialect problem is to recognize that Lafayette and similar Black communities are bidialectical speech communities. The children. One is a communication problem with teachers and other speakers of proper English.net at INDIANA UNIVERSITY OF PENNSYLVANIA on December 8. and (e) parents who can should teach their children proper English. Sending their children contradictory messages about proper English is a normal course of dialect socialization and acquisition in Lafayette speech community. Note. and they also suggest how these problems should be solved. however.
the W.. Notes The preparation of this article was supported by the University of California faculty research funds and by grants from the Carnegie Corporation of New York. the q u e s t i o n for the s c h o o l a n d for the Lafayette p e o p l e is h o w to h e l p Black c h i l d r e n learn a n d use p r o p e r English for s c h o o l s u c c e s s a n d g o o d job o p p o r t u n i t y a n d still k e e p their slang English a n d r e m a i n b o n a fide m e m b e r s o f their c o m m u n i t y . 6Ferguson and other scholars use language in their discussion of diglossia. Hymes (1967. However. parents. 9Data were also collected on Black Americans outside the two communities but not consistently or in great details. T. February 3. Ultimately. p. will be replaced by dfalect and bid¢alectaltsm in the next section describing the case study of a Black-American speech community. U. a n d the c o m m u n i t y s h o u l d b e c o m e a w a r e o f their i n c o m p a t i b l e beliefs a n d their c o n s e q u e n c e s . Berkeley. The way Blacks in Oakland talk is the same Black talk that linguists.Beyond Language b e g i n s c h o o l o u t s i d e their family a n d c o m m u n i t y . educators. Children. etc. 179 Downloaded from http://aerj. and S. This r e c o g n i t i o n s h o u l d result in a p p r o p r i a t e p r o g r a m s to e l i m i n a t e the c o n t r a d i c t o r y beliefs.t h i s is n o t t h e dialect t h e y h a v e b e e n d e v e l o p i n g . and the Spencer Foundation. have called other names. 2009 . 1983. 4D. Brice-Heath. O n e i m p l i c a t i o n o f the s e q u e n t i a l dialect l e a r n i n g r e c o g n i z e d b y Lafayette p e o p l e b u t p r o b a b l y not b y t h e s c h o o l o r s t u d e n t s of l a n g u a g e acquisition. YI'he exceptions include S. Philips. 1997. It should not be construed in any way to reflect the views of either Oakland Unified School District or its task force. W o u l d it n o t b e an error to c o n c l u d e that t h e y lag in dialect d e v e l o p m e n t . 1 will adhere to his discussion of bilingual situations partly because I do not have appropriate examples of bidialectical situations for his typology. Nor is sharing speech rules sufficient. but whose message escapes me. the Russell Sage Foundation.aera. ~In discussing Fishman's (1967) typology. If m a i n s t r e a m W h i t e c h i l d r e n w e r e a s s e s s e d o n d e v e l o p m e n t o f slang English o n e n t e r i n g school. °Ebonfcs is a term that the Oakland Task Force used to designate the way Black Americans in Oakland talk. t h e y w o u l d p r o b a b l y not p e r f o r m well. is that Lafayette c h i l d r e n d o n o t lag in d e v e l o p i n g s t a n d a r d E n g l i s h . Grant Foundation. 21 am a member of the Oakland Unified School District Task Force on the Education of African American Students. This author is using dialect instead of language because his focus is on the relationship between the varieties of the same language." ~The concepts language and btlfngualism used in the theoretical discussion here. I also wish to thank my research assistants and other staff members of the Minority Education Project. 18) writes: "The sharing of code rules is not sufficient: there are many persons whose English 1 can interpret. sociolinguists. b e c a u s e slang English is not the dialect t h e y h a v e b e e n d e v e l o p i n g f r o m birth? A n o t h e r p r e r e q u i s i t e is to r e c o g n i z e the i n c o m p a t i b l e beliefs a b o u t p r o p e r English. this paper is written from my perspective as a researcher. For example. sociolinguists call it BEV or Black English vernacular (see Labov. 1983. The loci of the study were the Howard and Lafayette communities. English. T h e y s h o u l d p a r t i c i p a t e in s e a r c h i n g for w a y s to a d d r e s s the p r o b l e m . University of California. found in the same speech communities. 1972).net at INDIANA UNIVERSITY OF PENNSYLVANIA on December 8. tThis is an expanded version of a paper presented at the Faculty Seminar. He assumes that the diglossia relationship between co-existing languages is similar to the diglossia relationship between two dialects of the same language. Department of Anthropology.
they did not try to audiotape speaking slang English a n d proper English in different settings to confirm or disconfirm their perceptions of which dialect they used with w h o m and under which circumstances. l~The insertions are the author's. 1974). namely. t3There is only one language in Lafayette. For example. See The Next Generation: An Ethnography of Education m an Urban Neighborhood (Ogbu. As ! note later in the text. p. For Lafayette Blacks and these professionals and advocates. Luster. But there are two dialects of the English language---slang English and proper English.. there exists more than o n e English dialect. It appears that some Black educators and authors share the incompatible beliefs about teaching the standard English to Black children. But Lafayette Blacks would not take the initiative to start the communication in proper English in the community. Including teachers. "Dialect Differences/Frames of Reference and Schooling. 2°There is some evidence that Blacks in some other communities hold similar incompatible beliefs about proper English a n d are faced with similar problems in learning the standard English in school (Fordham. w h o are genuinely c o n c e r n e d about the low school performance of Black students. 2tLafayette Blacks are not alone in interpreting learning proper English in school as 180 Downloaded from http://aerj. This included more than 1. there is a diversity of expression. But then. For example. not as his o w n conclusion. ~The Code Frequencies in Table 1 contains research subjects' responses for each subcode in Code P. Even within Lafayette speech community. 1997. tgThe author has encountered this suspicion among inner city Black parents for almost 30 years. 1992. 68-78) by the school. In this ethnographic study. The purpose is to make what the informant is saying more intelligible. which in Tables 1 and 2 are Black parents a n d Black students. slang English and proper English. English. To begin with. And it is not necessary to carry out such an experiment to discover their beliefs and attitudes about o n e dialect or the other. the realtty is that school demands and rewards only a certain way of speaking. But there are different rules for using the two dialects. 1974). This author has heard a similar criticism from some other Black a n d White professionals and advocates." The subcodes are given meanings and are organized for each population in the study. I*rhe beliefs and attitudes of the informants about slang English and proper English were obtained in the same interview. if the latter initiate the communication in proper English. standard English. References to language in our interview excerpts have b e e n replaced by dialect." The community. they interpret learning the standard English by Black children as resulting in a loss of Black dialect and criticize the school for requiring the mastery of standard English because that is dialect assimilation and a threat to Black English identity a n d racial solidarity (L. the author is describing the beliefs of Lafayette Blacks or what they perceive as the major differences in their speech and the speech of White Americans. 154). Steele (1992) says that asking Black children to master the standard English in order to succeed in school is an "assimiiationist offer" (pp. He presents the statement simply as an example of what Lafayette Blacks belteve." The frequencies in Table 2 are their responses to each subcode in Code DD. the reality of the situation is a dilemma: As Luster points out. and the advocates strongly endorse standard English for school success and job opportunity. 18Lafayette Blacks may also communicate in proper English with outsiders visiting their community. many of the informants do not speak proper English or speak it well. Luster. I will use the term dialect rather than language for the variety of English spoken in Lafayette community.300 students from Lafayette and other Black-speech communities. ~6To reiterate.net at INDIANA UNIVERSITY OF PENNSYLVANIA on December 8. 2009 . 1992. that is definitely the "White way. L.Ogbu ~°There was also a quantitative part of the study. O n e reason for comparing responses of Black parents a n d Black students is to determine the extent to which the dialect beliefs and behaviors of the students at school are similar to those of their parents or adults in their community. ~For the remainder of this article. Ogbu. They do not affect the meaning of the passage. ~SThe author does not claim that the interpretation of this statement by Parent 28K varies along racial lines. The author is not claiming that there is no diversity of expressions among Black Americans.aera. as I show in the text. "Dialect Differences and Dialect Frame of Reference. the professionals. the researchers were not performing an experiment o n dialect perceptions.
400-80-0013). I can't go up to them and say. (1983). when he left here for college. The following scenario described by Becknell (1987) illustrates the community fear of the detrimental effect of college education.. Black in the workforce: A Black manager's perspective. . CA. Early c h i l d h o o d intervention: T h e social science b a s e o f institutional racism.. Stockton students resisted learning proper English because it ("White man's language") would displace their rap identity. Baratz. C. . . Chicago: Markham. 29-50. Becknell. A l b u q u e r q u e . It is generally believed that the process of language assimilation and displacement of Black English identity is most complete with college education. to act out with their language. I. National Institute of Education. Dialect differences a n d b i l i n g u a l i s m In J. 2009 . gentlemen. New York: Cambridge University Press. (1992).. S.). a psychologist at Stanford University. in an article in The Atlantic Monthly in 1992 implied that teaching Black children proper English in school is an assimilation. Crawford. C.. They'd think. Language and poverty: Perspectives on a theme (pp. Williams (Ed. 24Transcriber's insertions. not o n my membership o n the Task Force of Oakland Unified School District.e. DC: Author.. C. C.e. The language o f children reared in poverty: Implications f o r evaluation a n d intervention (pp.). B. S. What they say [is in] White people's language. They expect us to change our language.Beyond Language language assimilation. 40. In L. not [for them to) change it [their language] . New York: David McKay. Z~l am basing my conclusion here on my research findings. (Ed. W a s h i n g t o n ." Claude Steele. 231nsertions are the author's but they do not change the meaning of the excerpt.e. & Baratz. J. Baratz. When I encounter a group of Blacks on the street in my home community. Blank. and work in communities and classrooms. (1987).net at INDIANA UNIVERSITY OF PENNSYLVANIA on December 8. A Black school administrator in Stockton reported that he usually admonished the students: "Do your Black thing [rap identity] but know the White man's thing [proper English).. . Feagans & D. White educational institutions] done to him"[i. T e a c h i n g reading in a n u r b a n Negro school system. greet them in proper English]? They would laugh at me and then feel sorry for me. Fan'an (Eds. (We have] to learn their language and to speak their language. Harvard Educational Review. (1982). New York: Academic. they're in [it is in White people's] English. But now. Ways with words. NM: Horizon C o m m u n i c a t i o n . (1982). Roberts & S.. (1970). Educational Patterns and cultural configurations (pp. life. and we . Black people have to learn that language . look at what they've [i. Baingual education in a Chinese community:final research report (Contract No.). 245-252). because if you notice the way they write books.e. Language.). J. The author found the same belief a m o n g Blacks in Stockton. he talked like us in rap and had his Black identity intact]. In F. J. C. (1970). "Poor Charles.aera. E. M. "Good afternoon. 353-386). Moving b e y o n d the difference-deficit debate. . they have made him learn to "talk proper" and thereby destroyed his ability to "talk Black English" like us]! (p. . Cazden. 36) 22A Black parent in the GEE) program in San Francisco expresses a similar community belief that proper English is imposed on Black people by White people: Yeah. Language loyalties: A source book on the official English 181 Downloaded from http://aerj. Akinsanya (Eds. 11-24). he was ok [i. How are you doing today" (i. (1976). References ARC Associates.. Brice-Heath.
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