Ebonics aka African American Vernacular English (AAVE) is a distinctive lect of the English language spoken by many Blacks within America’s borders. It is the descendent of West African Pidgin English and Southern American English. Like all lects it is a regular, systematic language variety that contrasts with other dialects in terms of its grammar, pronunciation, and vocabulary. Therein lies the problem with Ebonics.
Language shapes thought because it shapes perception by defining the meanings of words, phrases and concepts. Simply put, a Black does not necessarily “hear” what a White is saying because the same word-sounds in Standard American English and Ebonics may have drastically different respective meanings.
A simple example is how a Black hears any statement by Whites about Black crime, whether it is Black-on-Black or Black-on-White. In many, though not all, cases members of the “Black Community” – native speakers of Ebonics – will not “hear” what the speaker is in their own minds saying. They derive a totally different meaning from it:
Around Blacks Never Relax
And that is the problem with Ebonics in a nutshell. It prevents us from having frank and open discussions about a plethora of serious topics and concerns. Not truly having a language in common means that Whites and the “Black Community” also do not have a basic cognitive framework in common within which to have such discussions.
Tags: AAVE | America | Blacks | Crime | Ebonics | English | Language & Idiom | Lera Boroditsky | Psychology | Sarcasm | Whites