Article published In:English World-Wide
Vol. 29:1 (2008) ► pp.70–95
The Ebonics controversy revealed surprising public rejection of the ideas of academic linguists. The intellectual history of the situation provides a reasonable explanation. Linguists lack consensus themselves, while the public consensus includes inherent contradictions. Academic and public ideas of language came into conflict over Ebonics in part because linguists attempted to impose their own ideas on the public, in part because of confusion over terminology, and in part because the situation was entangled in social politics. The lessons of the affair suggest an approach to language and public policy in which linguists come to terms with public views of language.