Are we still using that word? The Smoking Gun is still using it. Because the FEDERAL GOVERNMENT is STILL USING IT. TSG is reporting that the Justice Department is trying to higher Ebonics experts.
The Department of Justice is seeking to hire linguists fluent in Ebonics to help monitor, translate, and transcribe the secretly recorded conversations of subjects of narcotics investigations, according to federal records.
A maximum of nine Ebonics experts will work with the Drug Enforcement Administration’s Atlanta field division, where the linguists, after obtaining a “DEA Sensitive” security clearance, will help investigators decipher the results of “telephonic monitoring of court ordered nonconsensual intercepts, consensual listening devices, and other media”
The DEA’s need for full-time linguists specializing in Ebonics is detailed in bid documents related to the agency’s mid-May issuance of a request for proposal (RFP) covering the provision of as many as 2100 linguists for the drug agency’s various field offices. Answers to the proposal were due from contractors on July 29.
Ebonics has widely been described as a nonstandard variant of English spoken largely by African Americans. John R. Rickford, a Stanford University professor of linguistics, has described it as “Black English” and noted that “Ebonics pronunciation includes features like the omission of the final consonant in words like ‘past’ (pas’ ) and ‘hand’ (han’), the pronunciation of the th in ‘bath’ as t (bat) or f (baf), and the pronunciation of the vowel in words like ‘my’ and ‘ride’ as a long ah (mah, rahd).”
Detractors reject the notion that Ebonics is a dialect, instead considering it a bastardization of the English language.
Of course the detractors do. Because detractors of ebonics, the ones who called it a “bastardization”, are probably viewing ebonics through the racist lens in which it has been discussed in the US media and wider public. I mean, the government is hiring these Ebonics experts in Hot-lanta and to work with narcotics. You know, because there are lots of black people in Atlanta (and the general SE region of the US) and black people control (or at least greatly populate) the narcotics trade. And they speak a different language. There is so much wrong with this whole thing. Ugh.
But there are actual linguists, I guess, who study something like “ebonics” but call it something else (and certainly don’t think it is the worst thing to happen to the English language since Spanish entered the US illegally across the Arizona border). According to the Center for Applied Linguistics:
The term Ebonics (a blend of ebony and phonics) gained recognition in 1996 as a result of the Oakland School Board’s use of the term in its proposal to use African American English in teaching Standard English in the Oakland Schools. The term was coined by Robert Williams in 1973, but it wasn’t until the Ebonics controversy that Ebonics became widely used. Most linguists prefer the term African American English as it aligns the variety with regional, national, and sociocultural varieties of English such as British English, Southern English, Cajun English, and so forth.
AAE is a systematic language variety, with patterns of pronunciation, grammar, vocabulary, and usage that extend far beyond slang. Because it has a set of rules that is distinct from those of Standard American English, characterizations of the variety as bad English are incorrect; speakers of AAE do not fail to speak Standard American English, but succeed in speaking African American English with all its systematicity. Linguists are less concerned with whether or not AAE is a language or a dialect (terms that are more important socially and politically than linguistically) than with recognizing the systematic nature of AAE.
But beyond all of that, the federal government needs to stop using the word “Ebonics.” The word itself is pregnant with a history of racism (a modern one, like last decade, at that). It takes only about four seconds to Google and find that. If you look for ten seconds, you can find gems like this, this, or this [trigger warning for fucked up racist shit – shocker! Ebonics and racist crap?]. And if you twitter right now to see what people are saying about this Smoking Gun report (which Drudge tweeted), you get fun things like this.
Why, Justice Department, why?