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Talking Back, Talking Black: Truths About America's Lingua Franca
     

Talking Back, Talking Black: Truths About America's Lingua Franca

by John McWhorter
 

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“Superb.” —Steven Pinker

“In Talking Back, Talking Black, John McWhorter, the maestro at communicating linguistics to the public, succeeds in helping the reader to ‘actually hear Black English in a new way,’ while hipping linguists to some features of this vibrant variety they might not have considered

Overview


“Superb.” —Steven Pinker

“In Talking Back, Talking Black, John McWhorter, the maestro at communicating linguistics to the public, succeeds in helping the reader to ‘actually hear Black English in a new way,’ while hipping linguists to some features of this vibrant variety they might not have considered before.” —John R. Rickford, former president of the Linguistic Society of America and coauthor of Spoken Soul: The Story of Black English

“McWhorter debunks some of our most persistent myths about language.” —NPR

“McWhorter makes all the right arguments, and he makes them clearly.” —New Yorker

“Do you think Black English is a ‘dialect’ full of ‘mistakes’? You’re likely to change your mind about its ‘languageness’ after reading Mr. McWhorter.” —Wall Street Journal

It has now been almost fifty years since linguistic experts began studying Black English as a legitimate speech variety, arguing to the public that it is different from Standard English, not a degradation of it. Yet false assumptions and controversies still swirl around what it means to speak and sound “black.” In his first book devoted solely to the form, structure, and development of Black English, John McWhorter clearly explains its fundamentals and rich history, while carefully examining the cultural, educational, and political issues that have undermined recognition of this transformative, empowering dialect. Talking Back, Talking Black takes us on a fascinating tour of a nuanced and complex language that has moved beyond America’s borders to become a dynamic force for today’s youth culture around the world.

John McWhorter teaches linguistics, Western civilization, music history, and American studies at Columbia University. A New York Times best-selling author and TED speaker, he is a columnist for Time and regular contributor to the Atlantic, Wall Street Journal, and Washington Post. His books on language include The Power of Babel, Our Magnificent Bastard Tongue, What Language Is, The Language Hoax, and Words on the Move.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

Praise for Talking Back, Talking Black

Talking Back, Talking Black is [McWhorter’s] case for the acceptance of black English as a legitimate American dialect. . . . He ably and enthusiastically breaks down the mechanics.” —New York Times Book Review

“Drawing on research, popular culture, and his own expertise as a linguist and black American, McWhorter conveys the roots and richness of the dialect that has come out of the experiences of black Americans. . . . [Talking Back, Talking Black] is an engaging look at the English language as spoken by many black Americans as well as the long history of stereotyping that has prevented an objective analysis of a rich language tradition.” —Booklist

“A vibrant separation of an African-American vernacular tradition from the thickets of contemporary racial debate.” —Kirkus Reviews

“Well suited for those who have an interest in black studies, education, history, language, or cultural studies.” —Library Journal

“Linguistics fans will be enthralled by McWhorter's fascinating and logically presented study.” —Shelf Awareness for Readers

“Superb.” —Steven Pinker

“In Talking Back, Talking Black, John McWhorter, the maestro at communicating linguistics to the public, succeeds in helping the reader to ‘actually hear Black English in a new way,’ while hipping linguists to some features of this vibrant variety they might not have considered before.” —John R. Rickford, former president of the Linguistic Society of America and coauthor of Spoken Soul: The Story of Black English

Praise for John McWhorter

“McWhorter debunks some of our most persistent myths about language.” —NPR

“McWhorter makes all the right arguments, and he makes them clearly.” —New Yorker

“McWhorter’s prose crackles, his pop-cultural references pop.” —San Diego Union-Tribune

“With his passionate eloquence, [McWhorter] makes readers glimpse the wonder of languages.” —Newsday

“McWhorter’s goal is to shine some light on topics he feels that authors of the typical ‘grand old history’ of English, with their ‘fetish’ for vocabulary at the expense of grammar, have left out.” —New York Times Book Review

“Do you think Black English is a ‘dialect’ full of ‘mistakes’? You’re likely to change our mind about its ‘languageness’ after reading Mr. McWhorter.” —Wall Street Journal

Kirkus Reviews
2016-10-11
A compact, lively defense of the grammatical legitimacy of "Black English."McWhorter (Linguistics, Music History, American Studies/Columbia Univ.; Words on the Move: Why English Won't—and Can't—Sit Still, 2016, etc.) has been involved in the controversies surrounding African-American Vernacular English for 20 years, when the news of Oakland, California's schools' consideration of an Ebonics curriculum provided him "fifteen minutes of modest media notoriety [as a] black linguist." Although the debate on Ebonics faded, McWhorter concluded, "racism is hardly the only thing standing between how linguists see Black English and how the public sees it." Thus, his approach focuses equally on discerning intricate grammatical principles within AAVE and on the larger mysteries of how shared culture affects seemingly individualized traits like speech patterns. He gradually expands his perspective over the book's five essays, first defusing the question of whether African-Americans can be said to "sound black." He notes that the issue's sensitivity may be "because Black English is so often associated with stupidity that one can't help wanting to disidentify from it." Meanwhile, even well-meaning white people are reluctant to explore their own assumptions for fear of appearing racist. Similarly, many black and white Americans cannot accept the legitimacy of Black English due to its apparent inappropriateness for certain social or professional situations, despite the fact that "no Black English advocate is calling for Black English to be allowed in [job] interviews." McWhorter notes that black Americans today are necessarily experts in code-switching, or utilizing both Standard and Black English in different contexts. "The two things do not cancel each other out: They coexist," he argues. Still, the enduring taint of minstrel culture continues to quash intellectual inquiry into black linguistics, as many are convinced "that a black way to talk has something to do with white racist caricature." The author confidently untangles these issues, writing in an accessible and wry yet precise style. A vibrant separation of an African-American vernacular tradition from the thickets of contemporary racial debate.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781942658207
Publisher:
Bellevue Literary Press
Publication date:
01/10/2017
Pages:
192
Sales rank:
103,420
Product dimensions:
5.10(w) x 7.60(h) x 0.70(d)

Meet the Author


John McWhorter teaches linguistics, Western civilization, music history, and American studies at Columbia University. A New York Times best-selling author and TED speaker, he is a columnist for Time and regular contributor to the Atlantic, Wall Street Journal, and Washington Post. His books on language include The Power of Babel, Our Magnificent Bastard Tongue, What Language Is, The Language Hoax, Words on the Move, and Talking Back, Talking Black.

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