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
Recently added or updated
Lie Doggo; Fewmet; Dingbat; Kibosh; Caucus; Oryzivorous; Kick the bucket; Satisficer; Beside oneself; Words of the Year 2015; Peradventure; Sconce; Orchidelirium; How’s your father; Goon; Emoji; Thank your mother for the rabbits; Nonplussed; Bob’s-a-dying; Methinks; Bill of goods; Binge-watching; Codswallop; That’s all she wrote; Great Scott.
Support World Wide Words!
Donate via PayPal. Select your currency from the list and click Donate.
Buy from Amazon and get me a small commission at no cost to you. Select your preferred site and click Go!