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Black English Overview

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Black English is a tool used by racists Whites to attack the self-esteem of Black people. Racists advertise it as an indicator of poverty, ignorance, or stupidity while pointing to formal English as the language of the “cultured,” classier, and more elegant -- particularly when used with an educated USA northeast coast British-type accent.

These racist are correct in saying that words people speak and how they speak them tend to mark their social position and often determine how much social mobility is to be had within that position. But racists are “dead wrong” when they “do bad name calling” on Black English speakers.

Just Because They Say Is It Bad Does Not Make It True! In fact, there may be advantages of Black English when used in times of stress -- “hey man, it is what it is’” translation: “do not get upset over things you cannot change.” Furthermore, it has a certain rhythm that soothes or prevents ruffled emotions.

Compared with any other language in the world, Black English is no better and no worse. All Languages Are Creoles because they developed by a combination of isolation and invasion. The first humans to develop language were Africans, perhaps starting through the imitation of sounds they heard in nature. As members migrated and formed a new tribe, they created a Dialect (a recognizable variant of the original).

Overtime, the old language underwent changes away from the new tribe’s language. In this way they became “cousins” (i.e. Cognate Languages) based on the same historical mother tongue.

Eventually, hundreds of African languages developed in Central and Southern Africa, each traceable to Bantu -- a large group of Negro tribes including the Zulus (southeastern Africans, chiefly in Natal), Basutos (of Lestro and the western border of Natal), Xosas (in the Transkei east of Cape Province in South Africa), Swazis (Southeast Africa, Zulu related) and Bechuanas (Botswana in Southern Africa).

The languages of these tribes represent a family and a family feature is the great use of prefixes in inflection. The Bantu nations extend from the Swahili of Zanzibar (Tanzania) below Kenya all the way south to include the many tribes of South Africa. In turn, the Bantu languages are part of the higher Niger-Congo family.

After invasion by the Europeans into Africa, there was a fast and dramatic creation of new languages.

Traditionally, the European languages have been divided into the Teutons (English, Germans, Dutch, Flemings, Danes, Norwegians, and Swedes); the Latins (French, Spanish, Portuguese, Belgians, Italians, Romanians, and Greeks); and the Slavs (Russians, Poles, Slovenes, Slovaks, Czechs, and Serbs). French, Portuguese, Spanish, Italian, and Romanian, are called Romance languages because they are variants of Latin, sired by Roman conquests. The Romans invaded each of the areas where those languages are now spoken and colonized them with veterans of the Imperial Legions.

They intermingled with the local folks, communicating at first by a pidgin of Latin and the local tongue. The pidgin, used in making seduction and business trades, was mostly Latin since conquerors always do most of the talking and the people they enslave do most of the listening. This jumbled pidgin language subsequently expanded to crowd out the language of both the conquered and the conquerors and, in its new capacity of a mother tongue, became a Creole language as, for example, by the Portuguese.

Obviously, this process took place over hundreds of years. In the mid 15th century, when the African slave trade was begun by the Portuguese, their language was the “seed” for all European-based pidgins and Creoles -- despite later contributions from all other languages. Hence, Portuguese, English, Spanish, French, Arabic, and African form the core of Black English.

Joseph A. Bailey, II, M.D

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