LETTER : Black American sounds better than English

Click to follow
The Independent Online
I object to John Carlin's description of Ebonics as a "term employed to dignify the grammatically anarchic English spoken by rebellious black American youths" ("x plus y = PC insanity", 25 May). You don't have to like the name or believe the subject should be taught in schools to accept that black Americans speak differently from white Americans: you just have to listen. This differs in no significant way from the fact that people in Penzance speak differently from those in Glasgow.

Nor is it fair to describe black American as "anarchic". Like all dialects and languages, Ebonics has its own consistent system of grammatical and phonetic rules. It has some stereotypical features which strike British ears as slovenly or incorrect - its supposed tendency to drop the final "g" in words like "runnin'", its use of "d" for "th" in words like "that"; but these cannot properly be described as inherently wrong.

Indeed to my Canadian ear, they often sound a lot better than some of the worst annoyances of British English: your odd difficulties with "r" in words like "arm" (where it ought to be) and "law" in "law and order" (where it ought not); and your archaic use of "whilst" instead of "while" are two of the more irritating.

Daniel Paul O'Donnell

York

Comments