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By Charles DeBose (auth.)

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Extra resources for The Sociology of African American Language: A Language Planning Perspective

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The ability of linguists Linguists as Visionaries 29 to approach stigmatized language varieties in a cool and rational manner, and reach conclusions that are scientifically defensible, but contrary to common sense is befitting of the title, visionary. Our willingness to treat all languages equally places us ahead of our times. Persons seeking better understanding of the visionary perspective of linguists, may begin by focusing on the term grammar and the special meaning that it has as a technical linguistic term.

There is nothing in the traditional grammar book that prohibits a combination of verbs like “needs washed,” but for many Americans it just doesn’t sound right, and for them, the alternative My car needs washing sounds much better. Yet another specific way in which there is nothing wrong with African American language comes into view when we shift our perspective from the manner in which a linguistic system is organized, to the 36 The Sociology of African American Language ways in which it changes over time.

In addition to the ways just noted in which the stigmatization of Black identity has been constructed and maintained at the level of commonsense knowledge, there has been a dominant tendency for academic knowledge pertaining to persons of African descent in the Western Hemisphere to employ modes of analysis and exposition that appeal to various kinds of deficiencies and pathologies in order to explain, and ultimately justify, the typical situations in which Black people find themselves. It is a stream of academic work that interfaces in several ways, noted in the next section, with the academic scholarship identified specifically with the Ebonics phenomenon.

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