McWhorter on "Negro English"

Wilson Gray hwgray at GMAIL.COM
Thu Jan 14 22:44:10 UTC 2010

Stick to your guns, Terry! I'm with you. If people feel that the
opinion of any random BE speaker from the 'hood fails to meet their
academic standards, let them talk to to the Johns, Baugh and Rickford.

McWhorter is the academic equivalent of Michael Steele, the titular
head of the Republican party. They both probably sleep with The Bell
Curve under their pillows and cry themselves to sleep.

As I've said before, considering Obama's background, IMO, his speech
patterns are surprisingly black, whatever the circumstances under
which he may have cause to open his mouth in public. The fact that I
don't like McWhorter for my own reasons doesn't prevent me from
acknowledging that his more-or-less pointing out that, for most
non-blacks, a black person who doesn't sound like Steppin  Fetchit,
Andy Brown, or Willie Best is speaking the
non-existent-except-in-Fowler "standard" English is spot on. Have the
speech patterns of Gen. Colin Powell already been forgotten? Did
nobody pay attention to the way that he spoke as well to what he
spoke? In contrast to Powell, Obama sounds downright Chicago
inner-city, beyond any doubt. You don't have to see him in order to
notice this. His speech is, therefore, unworthy of any special notice
as though it were, somehow, distinct from the speech of any relatively
well-educated Northern black man. But, somehow, the speech of Powell,
IMO, all but non-distinct from the speech of any well-educated
Northern *white* man, drew - and draws - no comment, AFAIK.

If you, as a white person, find anything "articulate" in the speech of
Obama distinct from the speech of any other black person, but notice
nothing worthy of note WRT about the pattern of Powell's speech, you
are, then, consciously or subconsciously, racist WRT your concept of
what constitutes black speech or maybe even WRT what constitutes a
black person. Isn't Powell a well-known speaker of English generally
regarded as a black man and not as a white man? So, where's the
discussion, the comparison and contrast, of their speech patterns?

'N' why *didn'* none a yawl never notice nuthin' special 'bout Powell speech?

Well, as a reasonably late-comer to the set, perhaps I should search
the archives before posting. But, like Willie, I gits ti'ed.


On Wed, Jan 13, 2010 at 3:05 PM, Terry Irons <t.irons at> wrote:
> ---------------------- Information from the mail header -----------------------
> Sender:       American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
> Poster:       Terry Irons <t.irons at MOREHEADSTATE.EDU>
> Subject:      Re: McWhorter on "Negro English"
> -------------------------------------------------------------------------------
> I retract my comments about his view on AAVE.  It is more his
> conservative views on victimology  and race that I find troublesome. In
> that context, citing the passage from Matthew is appropriate for him.  I
> think he fails to see that sometimes the log in the other guy's eye is
> more the problem than the speck in my own.
> Gordon, Matthew J. wrote:
>>I'm not sure where you got that impression, Terry. McWhorter's views are pretty much in line with the received wisdom within linguistics. For example in the  piece linked in this thread, he says, "Black English is as systematic as standard English, and what we hear as "mistakes" are just variations, not denigrations."
>>-Matt Gordon
>>On 1/13/10 1:13 PM, "Terry Irons" <t.irons at MOREHEADSTATE.EDU> wrote:
>>See Matthew 7:4-6 or Luke 6: 41-42.
>>While McWhorter is well published, he views AAVE as a degenerate form of
>>standard English, not a legitimate variety of language.
>>The American Dialect Society -
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