Ebonics: The Subject Still Stirs Strong Feelings

Harold Schiffman haroldfs at gmail.com
Thu Jul 26 00:49:46 UTC 2007

This goes back even further, I think; Bourdieu shows how when public
education finally got going on a national scale in the 1880's, the goal of
teachers became one of replacing patois (which was an inherently deficient
linguistic system) with standard French, so that  the famous 'lucidity,
clarity and logic" of the French language could then restructure the minds
of young French persons.

I quote from an article of mine on the subject:

"*Bourdieu and Whorf*:  It is also interesting to note that Bourdieu
specifically discerns a kind of folk-Whorfian (Mertz 1982) world-view at
work in the imposition and functioning of this model. Teachers in French
schools are on the front lines, as it were, working constantly to
``inculcate a clear faculty of expression and of each emotion," i.e. through
language. They work to replace the *patois*, which is nothing but a jumble
of confusion, with standard French, itself the only ``clear and fixed" thing
that deserves to be in their heads, and trying to get them to perceive and
feel things in the same way. The work of the teacher is ``to erect the
common conscience of the nation." Bourdieu calls this a Whorfian or
Humboldtian theory of language, which sees scholarly action as
``intellectual and moral integration." (Bourdieu *op cit.*p.32.) Teaching
language, therefore, is a kind of mind control;' instilling the standard
language in the heads of children will reprogram them to think clearly."

(From a paper entitled "French Language Policy: Centrism, Orwellian
dirigisme, or Economic Determinism?" in a volume edited by Li Wei, Jean-Marc
Dewaele, and Alex Housen, entitled *Opportunities and Challenges of
Bilingualism.* published in *Contributions to the Sociology of Language.(87)
* 2002, pp. 89-104. On-line at:

On 7/25/07, Dennis Baron <debaron at uiuc.edu> wrote:

> This goes back -- in the linguistic literature -- at least to the 1960s
> with the work of Engelmann and Bereiter on the language of disadvantaged
> African-American children in preschool  (?headstart) programs in Urbana IL
> -- as I recall, that report claimed that these four year olds came to school
> with no language at all, and it was what Labov was reacting against in "The
> Logic of Nonstandard English" and his 1966 report on language in the inner
> city.
> Dennis
>  On Jul 25, 2007, at 12:00 PM, Anthea Fraser Gupta wrote:
> On 7/25/07 12:19 PM, "Anthea Fraser Gupta" <A.F.Gupta at leeds.ac.uk> wrote:
> Can anyone explain why all this literature refers to 'language
> acquisition'
> and not to 'the learning of Standard English'? Using 'language acquisition
> makes it sound as if children are coming to school without any language!
> Ron wrote "And that's exactly what the dominant US folk ideology assumes
> about the
> language of African Americans."
> Exactly -- is anyone challenging the terminology?
> Anthea
> *     *     *     *     *
> Anthea Fraser Gupta (Dr)
> School of English, University of Leeds, LS2 9JT <
> www.leeds.ac.uk/english/staff/afg>
> NB: Reply to a.f.gupta at leeds.ac.uk
> *     *     *     *     *
>  ------------------------------
> *From:* owner-lgpolicy-list at ccat.sas.upenn.edu [
> mailto:owner-lgpolicy-list at ccat.sas.upenn.edu<owner-lgpolicy-list at ccat.sas.upenn.edu>]
> *On Behalf Of *Ronald Kephart
> *Sent:* 25 July 2007 17:22
> *To:* lgpolicy-list at ccat.sas.upenn.edu
> *Subject:* Re: Ebonics: The Subject Still Stirs Strong Feelings
> Ron


Harold F. Schiffman

Professor Emeritus of
Dravidian Linguistics and Culture
Dept. of South Asia Studies
University of Pennsylvania
Philadelphia, PA 19104-6305

Phone:  (215) 898-7475
Fax:  (215) 573-2138

Email:  haroldfs at gmail.com

-------------- next part --------------
An HTML attachment was scrubbed...
URL: <http://listserv.linguistlist.org/pipermail/lgpolicy-list/attachments/20070725/ef036629/attachment.html>

More information about the Lgpolicy-list mailing list