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CAL Statement to the Media on Ebonics

January 13, 1997

The Center for Applied Linguistics has played a key role in work on the various dialects of English. This work is part of our mission, which is to apply the research of the linguistic sciences to the educational, social and cultural issues of U.S. society.

In light of the recent wide-ranging discussion about Ebonics, or African American Vernacular English (AAVE), we have prepared a small collection of information on the use of dialects in U.S. society.

The Digest and the Minibib were developed through the Educational Resources Information Center (ERIC) database and network. ERIC is a valuable source for information on dialects. Summaries of journal articles as well as full texts of papers, curricula and other publications are to be found in this database that is funded by the U.S. Department of Education. We encourage you to search the database to get a fuller understanding of the ongoing issues inherent in the debate about this topic.

Also included is a summary of an article on dialect readers by John and Angela Rickford of Stanford University, which includes information on some recent research conducted in the San Francisco area.

Two opinions about this debate are also included. Charles Fillmore, professor of Linguistics at University of California, Berkeley, takes a thoughtful look at the pedagogically relevant assumptions of the Oakland Unified School District's Ebonics Resolution. And Carolyn Temple Adger, a sociolinguist who has conducted research on AAVE in schools, comments on language policy and public knowledge, and she suggests the Ebonics debate provides an opportunity to improve language instruction for all students, not only those who speak a dialect other than standard English.

Finally, a link to an approved resolution by the Linguistic Society of America which sets forth important language facts that bear on dialect programs is provided. The Society's Statement on Language Rights is also included because the resolution refers to it.

If you have questions about the materials provided here or about this topic in general, please do not hesitate to contact Carolyn Temple Adger or me at the Center.

Donna Christian