Why has Black English not been standardized? A cross-cultural dialogue on prescriptivism

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This paper contrasts radically differing views of linguistic prescriptivism in two societies, American and Israeli, by applying them to consideration and discussion of a familiar problem, that of the status of Black English in the United States. Since the mid-1960s, academic linguists in the United States have devoted considerable effort to arguing for the legitimacy of Black English. However, these efforts have not involved the development of a standard, a fixed writing system, and the writing of comprehensive and authoritative reference grammars and dictionaries which can be used as a basis for prescribing 'correct' and 'incorrect' usage. From the American viewpoint, it is evidently natural that academic linguists should not have taken these steps; for Israelis, on the other hand, this not only seems unnatural but difficult to understand, because to date all language legitimization programs have involved taking such steps. These differing views are shown to follow from differences in the nature and conceptualization of linguistic prescriptivism in American and Israeli society.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)27-56
Number of pages30
JournalLanguage Sciences
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2004


  • Black English
  • Language standardisation
  • Linguistic
  • Prescription

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Language and Linguistics
  • Linguistics and Language


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