The Ebonics Factor: A Quick Addendum

In the previous post, I mentioned the divide between the accents of Detroit and neighboring Windsor, Ontario.  There is a complicating factor, however, that I neglected to mention:  African American Vernacular English (AAVE, or crudely, “Ebonics“).*

AAVE, for those who don’t know, is a dialect of English that largely derives from American Southern English, that is spoken in many Northern cities where African Americans migrated.

The majority of people in the Detroit metropolitan area probably speak with the accent I described in the last post:  a derivation of the Northern Cities Vowel Shift.  But the majority of people in the city of Detroit itself speak AAVE.  Hence, if somebody from Windsor were to walk over to Detroit, this is the accent they would most likely hear spoken on the street.

The take-home point is that not only is there a division between the English of Canada and the US, but there is often a division between the accents of the cities on the American side of the border!

I have no theory as to how this affects the Detroit English vs. Windsor English conundrum.  But it’s a factor worth consideration.

*I ask linguists’ forgiveness for using the hated Ebonics misnomer in the title of this post.  Alas, “African American Vernacular English” was a bit unwieldy and I hate putting acronyms in titles.  But to be clear to non-linguists: “Ebonics” is NOT the preferred term.

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About Ben

Ben Trawick-Smith launched his dialect fascination while working in theatre. He has worked as an actor, playwright, director, critic and dialect coach. Other passions include linguistics, urban development, philosophy and film.
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5 Responses to The Ebonics Factor: A Quick Addendum

  1. NemaVeze says:

    Ralph Fasold still calls it “ebonics.” I think this is because he doesn’t want to assume it’s a variety of English, or that it won’t diverge / hasn’t already diverged enough from English to be considered distinct.

  2. Consciousness says:

    The terms “AAVE,” “Black English,” “Ebonics,” and any of their synonyms are quite simply misnomers, in the sense that they are incorrect and unsuitable names that describe a dialect that is laden with mispronounciations and grammatical flaws. Although “AAVE” might have originated in uneducated, poor inner cities that are predominantly black, it does not mean that this particular dialect is representative of the way members of the black race communicate. It sickens me when I hear these term being used so carelessly in scholarly works because one would expect such works to denounce such defamatory terms. AAVE is not an innate form of communication exhibited solely and entirely by African Americans and therefore it should erased from the English lexicon (along with all its synonyms).

    • dw says:

      a dialect that is laden with mispronounciations and grammatical flaws

      Its phonology and grammar differ from those of Standard English. But so what?

      it should erased from the English lexicon (along with all its synonyms).

      “It should erased”? Aah — I see you’re OK with nonstandard grammar after all.

      • Consciousness says:

        Obviously, I meant to type, “it should BE erased.” I don’t think you grasped the gist of my argument. I am against the name of the dialect—not the dialect itself. If some individuals are comfortable using the inappropriately coined “Ebonics” dialect, well fine by me. I just condemn the actual name of the dialect because it insinuates that this particular dialect is used solely and entirely by blacks, which, needless to say, is not true. That is why I believe the term “Ebonics” is a misnomer. Have I expressed myself clearly sir?

  3. Consciousness says:

    Also, to further elucidate my argument, I said that the terms “Ebonics” and the likes should be erased from the English Lexicon. I never said anything about eradicating the actual dialect.