British Eubonics

Charles Wells charles at FREUDE.COM
Thu May 9 14:05:17 UTC 2002

I don't agree about Americans always recognizing black speakers.  I know
many African Americans here in NE Ohio who sound just like white NE
Ohioans.  I have also met Aftican American New Yorkers who sounded like
white New Yorkers, among them a student at Oberlin College.  We once had a
high school class mate of our son live with us for awhile.  He was black
and our son is white, but they had identical bass voices and NE Ohio
accents.  When one of us called home and one of them answered, we couldn't
tell which one we were talking to.

Our son's schools were quite integrated.  We noticed when he was younger he
would talk to some classmates, including all the white ones, in standard NE
Ohio teenagerese, and some others, including SOME of the black ones, in a
mild black dialect.  He switched codes according to the way they talked,
not according to their color.  (I have occasionally heard white teenagers
trying to talk black, but I didn't think they succeeded.)

I also know many educated African Americans born and raised in NE Ohio who
have a slight southern accent, but who cannot be described as speaking
ebonics.  I believe I can tell that they are black in contrast to whites
with a southern accent, but I have never been subjected to a double blind
test of this and I could be fooling myself.

--Charles Wells

>Some of the subjects have been Black Brits. A few months back there was a
>discussion about linguistic profiling here. Regardless of the legal
>issues, I think most of us can recognize a Black speaker with something
>like 90 percent accuracy, regardless of what part of the country they
>grew up in. A typical Black Alabaman is easily differentiated from a Good
>Ol' Boy as is a Black NYC resident from a white Mahattanite of whater

Charles Wells
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