Start writing a post
Student Life


The Discourse of Language


Ebonics has always been a stylistic form of language that attracts negative connotations. It has been widely popularized as an African American Vernacular English, and, at a literal level, can mean "black speech". When most people hear Ebonics for the first time, they associate it as a form of slang. In his book Tough Boy Sonatas, a collection of poems that focus on the minority community in Gary, Indiana, Curtis Crisler critiques the negative stigma that people ascribe to Ebonics in his poem "Ebonics". He includes the everyday experiences of those who use Ebonics. His poem shows how language can be used to construct a hegemonic discourse. In her essay on Ebonics, Monica Heller states:

Hegemonic discourses about language itself are often seen as ways of producing or reproducing relations of power; they naturalize inequities which go far beyond who gets to define what counts as legitimate language, since the definition of legitimate language is a means of regulating the distribution of control over and access to many other symbolic and material domains. (261)

This discourse of language that is viewed as a way of producing or reproducing relations of power is evident in Crisler’s “Ebonics”. The poem states, “There’s another voice/ held in your mouth, the one taught to you/ by grade school teacher. She fills up space/ in head with great ways of white provider/ and how to dream white dreams and all/ chambers connected with it” (68).

Ebonics is seen as an inferior language, and the language taught in schools is seen as superior because of its white construct. This language has buying power, and formulates white supremacy ideologies. Language is seen as a means of control according to Heller, and this is evident in the poem. It states, “If you handle second language correctly, with vibrancy, teachers will label you different, call you mimic, special” (69). This shows that when one speaks accordingly to the language that is taught you are labeled. Crisler also shows how language that is deemed inappropriate can be suppressed. The author states, “The voices, exchangeable-the gauge you trust remains a non-speaking role slaves never performed, masters never heard” (69), showing that there is a systemic language that is deemed dominant and others are viewed as inferior, which establishes a hegemonic discourse within language.

Language is an important element in Crisler’s Tough Boy Sonatas. The author uses the art of code-switching to alternate between a colloquial language and a standard formal language in his poems. These transitions is evident throughout various poems, and is highlighted more through his poem “Ebonics”. “Ebonics” shows the systemic structure of language and how it can be used as a form of oppression.

Report this Content
This article has not been reviewed by Odyssey HQ and solely reflects the ideas and opinions of the creator.
the beatles
Wikipedia Commons

For as long as I can remember, I have been listening to The Beatles. Every year, my mom would appropriately blast “Birthday” on anyone’s birthday. I knew all of the words to “Back In The U.S.S.R” by the time I was 5 (Even though I had no idea what or where the U.S.S.R was). I grew up with John, Paul, George, and Ringo instead Justin, JC, Joey, Chris and Lance (I had to google N*SYNC to remember their names). The highlight of my short life was Paul McCartney in concert twice. I’m not someone to “fangirl” but those days I fangirled hard. The music of The Beatles has gotten me through everything. Their songs have brought me more joy, peace, and comfort. I can listen to them in any situation and find what I need. Here are the best lyrics from The Beatles for every and any occasion.

Keep Reading...Show less
Being Invisible The Best Super Power

The best superpower ever? Being invisible of course. Imagine just being able to go from seen to unseen on a dime. Who wouldn't want to have the opportunity to be invisible? Superman and Batman have nothing on being invisible with their superhero abilities. Here are some things that you could do while being invisible, because being invisible can benefit your social life too.

Keep Reading...Show less

19 Lessons I'll Never Forget from Growing Up In a Small Town

There have been many lessons learned.

houses under green sky
Photo by Alev Takil on Unsplash

Small towns certainly have their pros and cons. Many people who grow up in small towns find themselves counting the days until they get to escape their roots and plant new ones in bigger, "better" places. And that's fine. I'd be lying if I said I hadn't thought those same thoughts before too. We all have, but they say it's important to remember where you came from. When I think about where I come from, I can't help having an overwhelming feeling of gratitude for my roots. Being from a small town has taught me so many important lessons that I will carry with me for the rest of my life.

Keep Reading...Show less
​a woman sitting at a table having a coffee

I can't say "thank you" enough to express how grateful I am for you coming into my life. You have made such a huge impact on my life. I would not be the person I am today without you and I know that you will keep inspiring me to become an even better version of myself.

Keep Reading...Show less
Student Life

Waitlisted for a College Class? Here's What to Do!

Dealing with the inevitable realities of college life.

college students waiting in a long line in the hallway

Course registration at college can be a big hassle and is almost never talked about. Classes you want to take fill up before you get a chance to register. You might change your mind about a class you want to take and must struggle to find another class to fit in the same time period. You also have to make sure no classes clash by time. Like I said, it's a big hassle.

This semester, I was waitlisted for two classes. Most people in this situation, especially first years, freak out because they don't know what to do. Here is what you should do when this happens.

Keep Reading...Show less

Subscribe to Our Newsletter

Facebook Comments