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Books by John R. Rickford

More Books by John Rickford

He is the author of numerous scholarly articles, and several books, including

  • Editor of A Festival of Guyanese Words (1978)
  • Dimensions of a Creole Continuum (1987)
  • Co-editor of Analyzing Variation in Language (1987)
  • Sociolinguistics and Pidgin-Creole Studies (1988)
  • Co-editor of African American English (1998)
  • Co-editor of Creole Genesis, Attitudes and Discourse (1999)
  • Co-editor of Style and Linguistic Variation to appear (2001)
  • Co-editor of Language in the USA to appear (2001)
Spoken Soul by John Rickford

Spoken Soul:
The Story of Black English
by John R. Rickford, Russell J. Rickford (Contributor)

American Book Award for 2000 from the Before Columbus Foundation.

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Editorial Reviews
In 1996, an America Online poll about Ebonics sparked more responses than did its survey on O.J. Simpson. And that's just a taste of the controversy and debate that Black English has provoked over the years. Called "Spoken Soul" by Claude Brown, author of Manchild in the Promised Land, the dialect of African Americans has been lauded, derided, questioned, and discussed for decades, but never so comprehensively and fairly as in this historic, sociologic, and linguistic overview and analysis by John Russell Rickford (the Martin Luther King Jr. Centennial Professor of Linguistics at Stanford University) and Russell John Rickford (a journalist, formerly of the Philadelphia Inquirer).

They discuss the attitudinal impact of socioeconomic factors, as well as the effect of generation and gender. They look at the place of black vernacular in literature and family, identity and culture, education and politics. And they track previous debates, from Paul Laurence Dunbar's considerations in the late 1800s to the black intelligentsia of the Harlem Renaissance to the issues raised by the civil rights movement of the 1960s to the recent Ebonics discourse.

Part 2, entitled "This Passion, This Skill, This Incredible Music," takes a close look at the richness of Spoken Soul, as recorded in literature (both black and white), from John Leacock's 1776 play The Fall of British Tyranny to DMX's rap lyrics of today. They look at the language of preachers and comedians, actors and singers, and scores of writers, and then they delve deeper, into the components of the living language, examining the vocabulary, pronunciation, grammar, and history of the black vernacular. And finally, the Rickfords discuss the role of Spoken Soul in terms of African American identity. The result? A thoughtful, erudite, and provocative narrative that lifts the discussion of Black English out of the knee-jerk negativity that arose from the Ebonics controversy of 1996 and into the loftier and more appropriate realms of linguistics, literature, and culture.
--Stephanie Gold

Book Description
A leading expert explores the roots of African-American Vernacular English, which is the first language of millions of African-American children and the signature sound of informal conversation among the generations. Claude Brown, author of the classic Manchild in the Promised Land, called black English "spoken soul." In this book John Rickford traces its history, use influence and America's love/hate attitude toward it.

Reviews of Spoken Soul (all positive to date) are increasing in number--we've been in the Philadelphia Daily News, the Chicago Defender, the San Francisco Examiner, in addition to the ones from Kirkus Reviews etc. on our site. Moreover, we heard two days ago that Spoken Soul has been awarded an American Book Award for 2000 from the Before Columbus Foundation. Award ceremonies are June 3 in Chicago as part of the Book Expo America convention. 4/2000

About the American Book Award:

"The American Book Awards were established in 1978 by the Before Columbus Foundation to recognize outstanding literary achievement by contemporary American authors, without restriction to race, sex, ethnic background, or genre. The purpose of the awards is to acknowledge the excellence and multicultural diversity of American writing."

African American Vernacular English Readings

How Linguists Approach the Study of Language and Dialect (Word Format) The Vocabulary and Pronunciation of Spoken Soul (Word Format)

Language in Society May 1999 - 6 x 9 - 416 Pages

preface by William Labov
0-631-21244-2 - hardcover $59.95
0-631-21245-0 - paperback $26.95

Praise for African American Vernacular English

'At long last, the brilliant, insightful essays by a leading scholar of Black Language in an easily accessible collection.
Rickford's AFRICAN AMERICAN VERNACULAR ENGLISH (Ebonics) Has it all - history and description of African American Speech, analysis of the issues, and educational implications. A major achievement that must be read by those who wish to know the facts about Ebonics.'
-Geneva Smitherman, University Distinguished Professor, Michigan State Univerity, author, Black Talk: Words and Phrases from the Hood to the Amen Corner

Dr. John Rickford, Ebonics, CreoleAfrican American Vernacular English Features, Evolution, Educational Implications by John R. Rickford Stanford University
An informed view of the MVE/Ebonics controversy
'AFRICAN AMERICAN VERNACULAR ENGLISH (Ebonics) (Blackwell 1999), is a landmark in the study of African-American speech. No one is in a better position to address the full range of issues concerning African-American Vernacular English from the minute details of history and description to the broad-based sociopolitical and educational implications of African-American speech. The perfect text on this topic."
- Walt Wolfram, North Carolina State University, author, American English: Dialects and Variation

_African American Vernacular English_

Part 1: Features and Use
1. Phonological and Grammatical Features of African American Vernacular speech. The perfect text on this topic.'
-Wait Wolfram, North Carolina State University, author, American English: Dialects
2. Carrying the New Wave into Syntax: The Case of Black English BIN
3. Preterit Had + V-ed in the Narratives of African American Adolescents (with Christine Theberge Rafal)
4. Rappin on the Copula Coffin: Theoretical and Methodological Issues in the Analysis of Copula variation in African American Vernacular English (with Ametha Ball, Ren6e Blake, Raina Jackson, and Nomi Martin)
5. Ethnicity as a Sociolinguisfic Boundary
6. Addressee- and Topic-influenced Style Shift: A Quantitative Sociolinguistic Study (with Faye McNair-Knox)

Part II: Evolution
7. Cut-Eye and Suck-Teeth: African Words and Gestures in New World Guise (with Angela E. Rickford)
8. Social Contact and Linguistic Diffusion: Hibemo English and New World Black English
9. Copula Variability in Jamaican Creole and African American Vernacular English: A Reanalysis of DeCamp's Texts
10. Prior Creolization of AAVE? Sociohistorical and Textual Evidence from the Seventeenth and Eighteenth Centuries
11. Are Black and White Vernaculars Diverging?
12. Grammatical Variation and Divergence in Vernacular Black English

Part III: Educational Implications
13. Attitudes Toward AAVE, and Classroom Implications and Strategies
14. Unequal Partnership,, Sociolinguistics Linguistics and the African American Speech

15. Suits for Ebony and Phonics
16. Using the Vernacular to Teach the Standard

This book brings together sixteen essays on African American Vernacular English (AAVE) by a leading expert who has been researching and writing on the subject for a quarter of a century.
Written in response to the flood of interest in African American Vernacular English (AAVE) following the recent controversy over "Ebonics,' the book covers the three central areas from which questions continue to rise from teachers, students, linguists, the news media, and interested members of the public. In particular, it examines the features of AAVE/Ebonics and how it is used, its evolution and future and its educational implications.

Rickford's essays--written between 1975 and 1998--provide an informed commentary based on Systematic research rather than the opinionated misinformation that dominates media commentary on Ebonics.