Date: Fri, 03 Jan 1997 09:12:26 -0500 (EST) From: (Wade Tarzia) Subject: Re: Ebonics Sender: To: MIME-version: 1.0 Precedence: bulk

>...I'm fairly confident that any teacher can understand "She be home" to mean "She is at home". Granted there are nuances such as the habitual meaning involved with AAVE "be", but these could be explained in a memo to all teachers, not costing the school board more than the cost of the paper.

--- While confessing I don't know too much about these matters, I tentatively agree with this statement. What I am wondering is this: when non-AAVE speakers propose that AAVE/Ebonics is a language in itself, are they narrowly focusing on some aspect of the dialect that seems the most esoteric? (i.e., are failing to view all aspects of a language and weigh them in some ultimate decision of "otherness"?) For example, the metaphoric level, in a phrase such as "We be hangin." Each of these words is an English word but the useage is dialectal so that the phrase does not imply that 'we are hanging [from a rope].' Now if you habitually focus on such useage, the language may seem 'foreign' or different but only if you *ignore* a similar level and type of useage in your own dialect. I work with people from many nationalities who have learned a proper English as a second language, and yet I can easily drop into my Blue Collar New England dialect and lose them, and essentially "seem" like another language. For example, what would my friend Ya Yun make of the following motorcycle anecdote: "So I dropped a gear and got kinky on my gas tank and blew the fuckin doors off this fuckin swamp yankee in his pickup, man, did he eat my dust." That's a screwy self-conscious dialect, but you get my idea? (the real problem is falling into un-selfconscious dialect and not knowing it, then struggling to explain what you did when a blank expression falls on a foreign visitor's face!).

So in a nutshell -- but not literally! ;-) -- I'm wondering if the failure to look critically and broadly at both AAVE and your own dialect hastens some people into concluding that AAVE is another language? This isn't to say that the various dialects don't themselves vary in degrees from some broadly recognized speech called "English" -- perhaps my Blue Collar New England dialect varies less from this nebulous benchmark than does AAVE? But at what point then would a dialect AAVE vary so much as to warrant a new status on purely linguistic grounds? It seems to this ignorant writer here that the differences would have to be majorly structural and not metaphorical.
-- accepting instruction -- wade tarzia