This is not a new term — the earliest reference I can find is from 1975, and it is said to be older still — but it has until now been a specialist one among some writers for what mainstream linguists prefer to call the Black English Vernacular or African-American Vernacular English and has not commonly been found in dictionaries. The word is a rather infelicitous blend of Ebony, a near-synonym for “Black”, and phonics, “the science of sound or of spoken sounds”; it is as much a political as a linguistic term. It is used to emphasise the distinctive grammar and vocabulary of African-American speech, which, it is argued, derive at least in part from various Niger-Congo African languages and are a relic of slavery. Whether Ebonics is a dialect of English, a creole or a separate language is open to argument, though the first of these is the received view. It has suddenly hit the headlines world-wide as a result of the decision by the Oakland School Board in California in December 1996 to recognise Ebonics as a separate linguistic entity whose speakers need assistance in becoming fluent in standard American English.
Search World Wide Words
Support this website!
Donate via PayPal. Select your currency from the list and click Donate.