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Re: Grammar

Poster: Stephen Mumford <redline@catharsis.com>

At 7:16 AM -0500 3/15/97, linneah@erols.com wrote:

>As for Ebonics,  I happen to support the teachers of Oakland in their
>efforts >to teach children English.  They termed it Ebonics, not so much
>because it is a
>separate language, but because there was federal money available if they
>did.  >I would, if pushed, say that it may well BE a different language.
>All human
>language developed because of the issolation of a population, and if that
>particular population is not issolated, then I don't like to sing at events!

To be honest, I had never thought about it in the sense that if it were
defined by the teachers as a seperate language, federal money would become

On the one hand, if that is indeed the way it was decided to term Ebonics a
language, I have to commend the teachers for getting money to further the
educations of their students in a clever way that skirts a lot of
beaurocratic red tape.  On the other hand, it is disturbing that what many
consider "proper english" may being compromised for the greater good.

My education in college was in Anthroplogy, and as such deals with
evolution of human culture, so I will caution all that my statements will
reflect that institutional bias.  I am not an English major, nor do I make
any claims to such (heck, most of the time I can't even spell things
correctly. :->)

"Ebonics", in my admidately narrow opinion, is in fact a dialect of
English, but I would hardly call it a seperate language.  To me, a language
does not ten years make.  When Ebonics has been around as a seperate,
distinct form of communication for a hundred years, then I'll concede and
say, sure, you may have yourself a seperate language there.

By classifying the local dialect of many of the students as a seperate
language, the teachers in question have artificially *created* that
language.  They have, for good or ill, 'institutionalized' in a matter of
years a process of linguistic evolution that history has generally shown us
to take centuries.  Even the name, "Ebonics", show a particular slant
towards Political Correctness (tm) and as such, further strengthens my
feeling that this is something that has been artificially created where
there shouldn't be.

>Another bone of contention is, why do we continue to teach the "grammar" that
>our grandparents learned?  Languages evolve and change over time.  Why do
>you think that people in England, the US and other "English" speaking
>countries speak so differently?  I believe that the rules need to change over
>time as well.  After all, in Old English each of the letters in the work
>>"knight" were pronounced, not far off from the Monty Python pronunciation
>in" >The Holy Grail".  Why then, would the rules of needing a noun and a
>verb in a
>sentence still apply?

Quite true -- you are absolutely correct, however, I feel the important
phrase that you just used was "over time".  The relatively short span of
time that this  dialect has been around does not induce me to give it the
same level of respect as I do towards French, German, Nahuatl, or the
Queen's English (as opposed to American English :->)

I would argue with you, however, in that the grammar children are currently
being taught (Ebonics not withstanding) are the same grammar that our
grandparents were taught.  Although I don't have any supporting evidence
beyond my own opinions based on period reading, I strongly suspect that
indeed grammar has changed somewhat since the beginning of this century.
As the internet and other means of communication allow people greater
contact with each other, I can see a surprising acceleration in the
evolution of language, but I don't see Ebonics as representative of that.

By Your Leave,
Julien de Montfort
Web Minister, Herald-in-Training and all-around opinionated kinda guy

  _   _   _   _
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