Help Wanted at DOJ: Ebonics Speakers

With unofficial unemployment in double digits, it’s good to know there are job opportunities at Eric Holder’s Department of Justice — if you’re conversant in the vernacular (spoken) Black English known as Ebonics. The DOJ needs you to decipher the Ebonics spoken by criminals whose phonecalls are being bugged by the government!
How long before Ebonics will be declared a separate language?
H/t beloved fellows May and Steve.
~Eowyn

Justice Department Seeks Ebonics Experts

The Smoking Gun – August 23, 2010
The Department of Justice is seeking to hire linguists fluent in Ebonics to help monitor, translate, and transcribe the secretly recorded conversations of subjects of narcotics investigations, according to federal records.
A maximum of nine Ebonics experts will work with the Drug Enforcement Administration’s Atlanta field division, where the linguists, after obtaining a “DEA Sensitive” security clearance, will help investigators decipher the results of “telephonic monitoring of court ordered nonconsensual intercepts, consensual listening devices, and other media”
The DEA’s need for full-time linguists specializing in Ebonics is detailed in bid documents related to the agency’s mid-May issuance of a request for proposal (RFP) covering the provision of as many as 2100 linguists for the drug agency’s various field offices. Answers to the proposal were due from contractors on July 29.
In contract documents, which are excerpted here, Ebonics is listed among 114 languages for which prospective contractors must be able to provide linguists. The 114 languages are divided between “common languages” and “exotic languages.” Ebonics is listed as a “common language” spoken solely in the United States.
Ebonics has widely been described as a nonstandard variant of English spoken largely by African Americans. John R. Rickford, a Stanford University professor of linguistics, has described it as “Black English” and noted that “Ebonics pronunciation includes features like the omission of the final consonant in words like ‘past’ (pas’ ) and ‘hand’ (han’), the pronunciation of the th in ‘bath’ as t (bat) or f (baf), and the pronunciation of the vowel in words like ‘my’ and ‘ride’ as a long ah (mah, rahd).”
Detractors reject the notion that Ebonics is a dialect, instead considering it a bastardization of the English language.
The Department of Justice RFP does not, of course, address questions of vernacular, dialect, or linguistic merit. It simply sought proposals covering the award of separate linguist contracts for seven DEA regions. The agency spends about $70 million annually on linguistic service programs, according to contract records.
In addition to the nine Ebonics experts, the DEA’s Atlanta office also requires linguists for eight other languages, including Spanish (144 linguists needed); Vietnamese (12); Korean (9); Farsi (9); and Jamaican patois (4). The Atlanta field division, one of the DEA’s busiest, is the only office seeking linguists well-versed in Ebonics. Overall, the “majority of DEA’s language requirements will be for Spanish originating in Central and South America and the Caribbean,” according to one contract document.
The Department of Justice RFP includes a detailed description of the crucial role a linguist can play in narcotics investigations. They are responsible for listening to “oral intercepts in English and foreign languages,” from which they provide verbal and typed summaries. “Subsequently, all pertinent calls identified by the supervising law enforcement officer will be transcribed verbatim in the required federal or state format,” the RFP notes.
Additionally, while “technology plays a major role in the DEA’s efforts, much of its success is increasingly dependent upon rapid and meticulous understanding of foreign languages used in conversations by speakers of languages other than English and in the translation, transcription and preparation of written documents.” (11 pages).

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Anonymous
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Anonymous

Fo’ shizzle? Word! (Really? Truly!)

igor
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igor

just recently kenosha,wi hired a new school superintendent (a black woman from oakland,ca) anyway she said because hispanic students have the choice of getting their tests in english or spanish and the white and asian students have the option of english. to help black students break the racial barrier of 70% on tests should have the option of having their tests given to them in ebonics. also in a previous life i worked for the govt at the great lakes navy base and across the hall from my office was (fast) a program that attempted to bring recruits up to… Read more »

Anonymous
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Anonymous

Ebonics: how to be ign’ant in two lang’ages.

microserf
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microserf

I can’t stand this. The massacre of the english language. Since when do we legitimize illiteracy and ignorance? Is this one of the great additions to society the black population has brought us, along with gangsta rap and fashion? Now we cater to the ignorant, illegals and criminals, what’s next? I guess Obama is looking for votes from his homeys.

Doc's Wife
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Doc's Wife

Was talking last week with daughter-in-law to be about understanding the language of some of the mountain people in our area. I was not insulting her, but she does come from generations in these mountains, and some are almost impossible to understand. She explained to me that it has beem proven that this language is the closest there is to the pure Elizabethan English spoken. She then went on to elaborate with certain words and phrases. I learned a lot. Quite a bit different from Ebonics, or whatever it is.

E.C. Everett
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E.C. Everett

I read an article several years ago now, if I recall correctly, written by Thomas Sowell, in which he cited a linguistics study of ebonics that concluded it was derived from the speech patterns of rural, white, and mostly illiterate segments of southerners during the antebellum era, and which was then inculcated/ taught to their slaves upon arrival from west Africa. In other words, the “black thing” is a remnant of an introduction to slave language, by their white, illiterate owners. No wonder they are so determined to keep it alive (sarcasm-meter alert). Of course, Rizzle (real), “dizzle” and the… Read more »