British Eubonics

Marc Sacks msacks at WORLD.STD.COM
Thu May 9 14:53:15 UTC 2002

Charles Wells wrote:

> 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.

All generalizations are inaccurate, including this one. Better to say
"many" or "most" African Americans sound recognizably "black." As an
Oberlin alumnus, I can also remember black students whose race you
couldn't identify from their voices. (Then again, stereotypes are made
to be broken. One of them was also a lousy pool player.)

Also, let's observe the distinction between accent and dialect. It's
possible to speak standard English with a black-American intonation. It
happens all the time, and it sounds fine. It's also possible to speak
Ebonics with an Oxford accent; but boy, it sure sounds silly.

Marc Sacks
msacks at


More information about the Ads-l mailing list