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Justice Department Seeks Ebonics Experts 487

In addition to helping decipher their Lil Wayne albums, the Justice Department is seeking Ebonics experts to help monitor, translate and transcribe wire tapped conversations. The DEA wants to fill nine full time positions. From the article: "A maximum of nine Ebonics experts will work with the Drug Enforcement Administration’s Atlanta field division, where the linguists, after obtaining a 'DEA Sensitive' security clearance, will help investigators decipher the results of 'telephonic monitoring of court ordered nonconsensual intercepts, consensual listening devices, and other media.'”
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Justice Department Seeks Ebonics Experts

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  • by MRe_nl ( 306212 ) on Monday August 23, 2010 @01:56PM (#33344460)

    on your merry way towards the ve-nak-u-lar

    "Damn- that shit is DOPE".
    That is a wonderful concept/object/action.
    "Can't FADE that".
    I am unable to comprehend or assimilate that concept at this time.
    "Shante ain't havin' it".
    This is not something that Shante will allow to occur.
    "Homey- Boo was dropping PHAT beats".
    Our friend Boo was playing some wonderful music.
    "YO!- Let me GAFFLE that BLUNT"!
    Might I be able to indulge in your marijuana cigarette?
    "JIMMY was on and I was HITTIN' it"!
    I had in my possession a condom, which was used in my engagement of sexual activity. []

  • by kurisuto ( 165784 ) on Monday August 23, 2010 @02:10PM (#33344698) Homepage

    Actually, it appears that AAVE is a product of the Great Northern Migration of African-Americans in the early 20th century. Prior to that time, there was little to no distinction between the dialects of southern whites and southern blacks.

    The pieces of evidence for this claim include:

    • Phonograph recordings made in the 1930's of former slaves
    • Diaries and letters written by semi-literate slaves and former slaves in the 19th century. Since the writers were semi-literate, the spelling is a better indication of the pronunciation than standard spelling would be.
    • Something which linguists call "age grading". If you take speakers of AAVE today and compare younger speakers with older speakers, the younger speakers actually have a higher percentage occurrence of the distinctive features of AAVE. This suggests that AAVE is becoming increasingly distinct from standard American English over time.

    There are other pieces of evidence as well, but those are some of the important ones.

  • by snowgirl ( 978879 ) on Monday August 23, 2010 @02:16PM (#33344822) Journal

    Call it the dialect of majority if you want propriety.

    Afrikaans was not the "language of the majority" in South Africa, yet it remained the "language of power".

    I spoke correctly, and used the pedantically correct term.

  • by snowgirl ( 978879 ) on Monday August 23, 2010 @02:27PM (#33345000) Journal

    Ever notice how "professional terms" just get really long and add hyphens everywhere? I just call it the "black accent" and leave it at that. And since I know someone's thinking it, no that's not being racist. Racism implies that I implied something derogatory towards them. I haven't. Don't mind the people; the accent is just difficult to understand, just like any other strong accent.

    Ok, accepting your definition of "racism", it's not racist. It's still factually wrong though.

    AAVE has different mood, tenses, and aspects on its verbs, some of which are not expressible in Standard American English.

    It is a "dialect", not an "accent". An accent is a different way of pronouncing words. For instance, the British speak a different dialect of English from Americans, but if a British person were to say a sentence with American word choice, they would still pronounce it in a British Accent.

    Likewise, one can pronounce Standard American English with an AAVE accent, but "they ain't be doin' that."

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday August 23, 2010 @02:34PM (#33345116)

    LJ doesnt talk ebonics. He's jamaican, he speaks what is called "Jamaican Patois". Badman is even worse, I can understand maybe a word in ever 10, or so.

  • Re:I'm curious... (Score:3, Informative)

    by Eristone ( 146133 ) * <> on Monday August 23, 2010 @02:38PM (#33345154) Homepage

    Second, if you had this expertise, how would you keep it current? Spend an hour a day riding public transportation in Oakland?

    Probably a little more than that, but essentially, yeah. You need to speak to the people in question on a regular basis. Social workers might be good candidates.

    Black: Check.
    Work Downtown Oakland: Check.
    Ride Public Transport: Check.
    For One Hour: (roundtrip) Check.
    Ability to Translate: Sporadic at best. Happily references UrbanDictionary as needed.

    With all do respect to some posters (and not the ones I'm replying to here) - skin pigmentation does not denote linguistic ability or accents.

  • by Americano ( 920576 ) on Monday August 23, 2010 @02:50PM (#33345316)

    I think that's exactly the point he was trying to make - the characterization of AAVE & "Standard English" as "incompatible" dialects is probably a little overblown, when people are less likely to understand a contract written in "standard english" than they are to somebody speaking a vernacular form.

  • by Naked Jaybird ( 1190469 ) on Monday August 23, 2010 @03:09PM (#33345606)
    In Oakland, CA, ebonics originated because some educators were making a point that language was evolving in some communities, and the education system must recognize that the common language young people are speaking is changing. The goal of these educators was to get the educational funding they need to teach these students English and English grammar, not to legitimatize yet another language the California educational system would have to support.
  • by snowgirl ( 978879 ) on Monday August 23, 2010 @03:10PM (#33345626) Journal

    Saying "2+2=5" is proper mathematical syntax, however it is factually incorrect.

    Saying that blacks don't speak properly is a factually incorrect statement.

    Your insane ranting does nothing to change this.

  • by shoehornjob ( 1632387 ) on Monday August 23, 2010 @03:18PM (#33345720)
    I don't think he was just speaking ebonics. He sounded a lot like a guy I used to work with who spoke Jamaican Patois [] It's a subtle mix of the two maybe.
  • by shutdown -p now ( 807394 ) on Monday August 23, 2010 @03:27PM (#33345864) Journal

    Quebecois need to GTFO of Canada. (Wait, they want that already, and Canada won't let them.)

    Actually, the Supreme Court of Canada ruled [] that, while Quebec cannot secede unilaterally, it is not inseparable, and should the majority in it vote for independence in a referendum, the federal government cannot deny them the right to secede outright, and shall negotiate the precise terms of separation with the Quebec government.

    So all they need now is a successful referendum - and in the two they had so far, the majority was not in favor of separation, albeit by a margin of less than 1% in the most recent one.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday August 23, 2010 @03:51PM (#33346172)

    There's a big difference with Black "Culture" in America and your examples is that this group is entirely artificial, put itself apart from "whitey" simply to defy integration. All the groups you mentioned have distinctive cultures that arose from fully established functioning societies. This culture could simply not survive if it had to establish it's own laws and societal constructs instead of suckling at the teat of wellfare and distributors of crime and violence. Example: compare blacks born in America versus blacks born in Africa versus blacks born in the Caribbean.

    There is a whole generation of black adults that are collectively spitting in the faces of those who have sufferred and endured so much to ensure their freedom. A whole generation of black adults that calls anyone successful with their genotype as "Uncle Tom". A whole generation of black adults that glamorizes raping bitches, drinking fourties, and shooting their rivals above science and philosophy and the greater good.

    Willfully ignoring this makes YOU the idiot.

  • by Grishnakh ( 216268 ) on Monday August 23, 2010 @05:17PM (#33347282)

    The thing you're missing about the jive-speakers is that they don't have a historical claim on their "language" or "culture". These things were created in the last few decades only, not some type of historical holdover. It's not like the Scots wanting to preserve Scots Gaelic and wearing kilts, things that go back many centuries or more.

    Basically, it's a certain economic class of people trying to differentiate themselves. It would be like a bunch of southern rednecks making up their own version of English (even more different than Southern dialect), and whining about "preserving" their "historic culture" of driving big pick-up trucks and having tractor pulls, monster truck rallies, and "professional wrestling" events.

    The black people in America aren't really even black; they (and a lot of the white people too) are mixed-race. A huge portion of the white American population has a black person in their family tree somewhere, and a lot have a Native American in there too. Black people are the same way; there's white people in most of their family trees, which is why many are so light-skinned compared to real Africans. Here in America, most of us are mutts (and this is a good thing, genetically speaking; purebred animals always have too many genetic problems).

    Trying to "preserve" Ebonics is like trying to "preserve" Klingon, or argue about it from a historical viewpoint. There's nothing historical about Ebonics, it's just a collection of modern slang used by one socioeconomic group.

    And no, we don't call our language American, but it is a different dialect, with different word usage, different spellings, different pronunciations, etc. There's many dialects of English: UK, American, Indian, South African, Australian, etc. They're all different from each other.

Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from a rigged demo.