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Dissin' "the Standard": Ebonics as Guerrilla Warfare at Capital High

Signithia Fordham
Anthropology & Education Quarterly
Vol. 30, No. 3, High School Identity Games (Sep., 1999), pp. 272-293
Published by: Wiley on behalf of the American Anthropological Association
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/3196022
Page Count: 22
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Dissin' "the Standard": Ebonics as Guerrilla Warfare at Capital High
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Abstract

This article analyzes the discourse styles, including the linguistic practices, of a group of African American high school students and offers a twofold conclusion: (1) Ebonics or Black English is the norm against which all other speech practices are evaluated by the students at the research site and (2) "the standard"-that is, the standard English dialect-is constructed as a vernacular. As a vernacular, this discourse is not privileged; indeed, it is "dissed" (disrespected) and is only "leased" by the students on a daily basis from nine to three. This linguistic practice is centrally implicated in the postulated guerrilla warfare at the school. With data from a predominantly African American high school in Washington, D.C., the effects of this practice on African American academic achievement are documented. Several policy implications are also noted.

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