Great video on The Linguistics of African American vernacular.

Discussion in 'The War Room' started by Jose Aldo, Feb 22, 2016.

  1. Jose Aldo

    Jose Aldo Double Yellow Card Double Yellow Card

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    I found it amazing. I am not African American either.
     
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  2. dontsnitch

    dontsnitch Steel Belt

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    He lost me when he tried to say that Grammar is relative, and that "he be working" can be proper. Syntax It's a set of rules. You either follow it or you don't.

    He be wrong.
     
  3. phoenixikki

    phoenixikki Brown Belt

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    I understand that it is a difficult concept to understand, but the guy is right. I mean, what you learn in school, like a lot of things, is just a very simplified explanation of the world.
     
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  4. panamaican

    panamaican Senior Moderator Staff Member Senior Moderator

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    I was prepared to lampoon the video but it's actually really fascinating.
     
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  5. oldshadow

    oldshadow Steel Belt

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  6. Rod1

    Rod1 Titanium Belt

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    Language changes what sets right from wrong is popularity in language, if someone enters the vernacular and stays for good, it be good.
     
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  7. dontsnitch

    dontsnitch Steel Belt

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    Language, yes, but we're talking about grammar. I think grammar is established at this point, there's not much more evolution to be had. Language is another story, with that I agree.
     
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  8. Rex Kwon Do

    Rex Kwon Do ál-ḥámdúlílláh

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    No, dude, you're wrong. Prescriptivism has no place in the English language. We have no language-regulating academy like Spanish or French. That's part of why English is so dynamic.

    AAVE is actually quite complex and not a lesser form of English. It just developed on a different track from the other mainstream forms of American English. It's like saying Scottish English is improper English. If an entire speech community uses language the same way--black Americans in this case--it's not wrong, it's just different. It's essentially a dialect at that point.
     
  9. Rod1

    Rod1 Titanium Belt

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    grammar changes with language, so does orthography.
     
  10. Rex Kwon Do

    Rex Kwon Do ál-ḥámdúlílláh

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    Grammar evolves tremendously. English used to have a complex system of noun inflection that we've all but lost entirely. We have some vestiges of a genitive ("John's") an accusative ("him/her") and separate verbal conjugations ("I/thou/we/you eat, he/she/it eats") but other than that, we have changed a lot grammatically. Same for most of the Scandinavian languages. Compare Swedish or Norwegian to Icelandic, the last being very conservative grammatically, the former two having evolved a lot. They also lost their cases and their verb conjugations have simplified tremendously.
     
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  11. jgarner

    jgarner Red Belt

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    Are Americans really trying to tell people how to properly speak English? I'm pretty sure England would have something to say to us.

    Here's where it gets me. Human vocabulary has changed with every generation. Go back 100 years and people spoke English differently than we do today. Go back 100 years from then, and they spoke even more differently. Language evolves with the times, so to say that some large portion of the population is speaking incorrectly is flabbergasting. Language evolves. American black culture is one of the most imitated and influential cultures in the world. It's reached across the planet.
     
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  12. Zankou

    Zankou Muscle and Hate Staff Member Senior Moderator

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    I love linguistics, and it's a pretty good video, although a little more 'all the same' than I'd agree with. He's right that different dialects aren't 'wrong,' they just aren't speaking another dialect correctly. In our society, almost all speakers tend to conform to different dialects and registers in different contexts, and if you can't, you are seen as an incompetent speaker of that register/dialect. That's not because your own dialect/register is 'wrong,' it's because you literally aren't fluent in the dialect at issue.

    It's at best a very questionable proposition that all systems of human speech are equally good at all functions, however. Translation, for example -- it's just not true that the same ideas can be expressed adequately in all languages. Any translator of literature or technical texts will point this out.

    I am not sure about his argument on habitual tense either. In order to say that it communicates a different tense, I would expect to see it *conjugated* differently. That it can carry a broader meaning, including what he calls 'habitual,' would otherwise seem to just derive from a lack of differentiation in the conjugation, i.e. a type of simplification. So if "he be workin'" can mean both "he is working" and "he is in the habit of working," then the usage is really more a simplification and blurring together of distinct grammatical concepts, not a distinct new grammatical tense that is more specialized and specific.
     
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  13. machidafan99

    machidafan99 Silver Belt

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    No. Ebonics is not as rich and complex as any language. That's a lie.
    Russian is 10x more complex than English let alone this ratchet slang of the hood.
     
    Last edited: Feb 22, 2016
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  14. dontsnitch

    dontsnitch Steel Belt

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    I understand language evolves, but is it right to say because evolution takes place that there can never be a wrong? He concludes the video by implying just that. Speak like you want to communicate and it's right...
     
  15. Zankou

    Zankou Muscle and Hate Staff Member Senior Moderator

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    He isn't saying that, dontsnitch. He is saying that a consistent usage which follows the rules in *one* speech context isn't wrong just because it doesn't follow the rules of *another* context. It's just different, like speaking French relative to German. German speech patterns can be "wrong" if you are using them while trying to speak French, but they are not in themselves wrong.

    The issue with AAV is not that it's wrong, it's that its speakers may not acquire competence in the other registers/dialects of English. It takes enormous practice to develop fluency in high-register literate English (nobody speaks it all the time, not white people or otherwise), and if you don't practice it from a relatively young age, it's never going to happen. You are always going to speak 'wrong' when you attempt to use that register/dialect. And that really is an error, not just different use, because you are not following the correct rules of the register/dialect you are trying to speak.

    So it's akin to the common issue, much more severe in many other countries, of mastering a common language that isn't your native dialect. In Arabic and Chinese, this contrast is particularly severe, since written Arabic is radically different than the spoken Arabic dialects (it is vaguely akin to us English speakers being forced to write everything down in Anglo-Saxon), and Mandarin Chinese is radically different than the dialects that many Chinese speak natively. But if you don't make the effort to become proficient in Modern Standard Arabic/Mandarin Chinese, and are living in these societies, you are going to be treated as an uneducated bumpkin for the rest of your life.

    In India there are periodic Hindu nationalist pushes to raise Sanskrit to this level of function.
     
    Last edited: Feb 22, 2016
  16. dontsnitch

    dontsnitch Steel Belt

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    Maybe I've misunderstood him. He said, "When you hear someone say something that sounds wrong to you, before you correct them, maybe take a moment to ask yourself, if instead of a mistake, it might be a different way to get your ideas across."
     
  17. NelmarksGhost

    NelmarksGhost Brown Belt

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    The narrator speaks a dialect of English called Annoying.
     
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  18. Rod1

    Rod1 Titanium Belt

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    You can certainly speak a language wrong, but a sufficient number of people speak it wrong, then it becomes right.
     
  19. Rex Kwon Do

    Rex Kwon Do ál-ḥámdúlílláh

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    Pretty much, yes. Living languages mostly aren't guided in their evolution. Certain things are "wrong" at one point in time, but if people in a speech community persistently and consistently use it in a certain way, it's not wrong anymore. And why would it be? What is the point of language--to communicate. If, by and large, the members of a speech community can communicate with minimal barriers to comprehension, its goal is being fulfilled. "Right and "wrong" don't really factor in.

    English is a bizarre bastard of a language. If we applied a prescriptivist mindset to it, then we'd have to claim the early speakers of Middle English were all "wrong," since they were flagrantly violating the way Old English was spoken. And then of course early Modern English was quite different from Middle English, so all those people were wrong. And contemporary English is quite different from Middle English, so we're all wrong. Etc.
     
  20. Zankou

    Zankou Muscle and Hate Staff Member Senior Moderator

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    Actually it's not far from the truth to say that many academic contexts function as their own dialects, often for the purpose of guild protection -- you have to learn the lingo, the speech, to be accepted as somebody who knows what they are doing. Learning distinctive speech patterns is an important way to signal competence. In the case of academics, it's often so intensively tied to showing superiority that it's hard not to be irritated by it. The worst offender probably being post-modern slang, which from the outside appears to be gibberish, but which signals your belonging in a community desperate to signal its special insight. Hilarious to hit repeat on this website, which automatically generates fake postmodern articles according to the discourse rules:

    http://www.elsewhere.org/journal/pomo/
     

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