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  • Talking Back, Talking Black

  • Truths About America's Lingua Franca
  • By: John McWhorter
  • Narrated by: John McWhorter
  • Length: 4 hrs and 19 mins
  • Unabridged Audiobook
  • Categories: History, Americas
  • 5.0 out of 5 stars (9 ratings)

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Summary

Linguists have been studying Black English as a speech variety for years, arguing to the public that it is different from Standard English, not a degradation of it. Yet false assumptions and controversies still swirl around what it means to speak and sound "Black." In his first book devoted solely to the form, structure, and development of Black English, John McWhorter clearly explains its fundamentals and rich history while carefully examining the cultural, educational, and political issues that have undermined recognition of this transformative, empowering dialect. 

Talking Back, Talking Black takes us on a fascinating tour of a nuanced and complex language that has moved beyond America's borders to become a dynamic force for today's youth culture around the world.

©2017 John McWhorter (P)2019 HighBridge, a division of Recorded Books

Critic reviews

“Superb.” (Steven Pinker)

“An explanation, a defense, and, most heartening, a celebration.... McWhorter demonstrates the ‘legitimacy’ of Black English by uncovering its complexity and sophistication, as well as the still unfolding journey that has led to its creation.... [His] intelligent breeziness is the source of the book’s considerable charm.” (New Yorker)

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McWhorter brilliant as always

I always look forward to hearing John McWhorter's take on any subject of linguistics and this book did not disappoint. Finally I got the opportunity to hear a reasoned and thorough take on this extremely divisive subject.

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  • Bella
  • 11-08-19

Truly Informative

Well done, John McWhorter! I enjoyed the approach of this book. As a black woman from Mississippi, I always cringed when people often said, “You don’t sound like you’re from Mississippi.” I know they mean, “You don’t sound black and southern.” Thank you for helping me understand MY language and my roots.

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  • Ambariffic
  • 16-05-19

Very interesting look at Language Dialects in USA

I find the subject of linguistics super interesting and was very happy to find McWhorter several books ago, as he has a flair for explaining linguistic concepts in a way that is easy to grasp while still containing nuance. With that standard set, I'm happy to say that his insight in this book does not disappoint. Black English (or African-American Vernacular English, AAVE) is a complicated subject, socially speaking, and McWhorter helps frame it as the normal language phenomenon that it is by comparing its emergence to the existence of non-formal languages/dialects in other parts of the world. One particular point I found interesting was how McWhorter touches on the racist undertones of the idea that AAVE is 'broken' or 'wrong' English. While validating the racist undertones, he says (essentially) that accusations of racism are not conducive to the conversation on AAVE, and the linguistic arguments are the stronger arguments that it is a legitimate dialect of English. If you feel in your gut that AAVE/Black English is wrong, I really think giving this book a read is a good idea. It's short, to the point, and McWhorter's overall tone is knowledgeable while being accessible.

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  • Frank
  • 20-12-20

Helped me understand a little better

I'm ashamed to admit that I genuinely thought ebonics was just gutter talk and a bastardization of the English language. I never made the mistake of complimenting a Black person on their "normal" speech, but I harbored the prejudice.

This book helped me understand that Ebonics is just as valid as any other version of English. It has rules of grammar and a variety of dialects. This knowledge has helped me accept Black people without the extra energy of overcoming my prejudice against their speech. After all, one's speech is at the very core of one's being. I can't truly respect and accept someone if I'm being judgemental about their mode of expression.

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  • Kindle Customer
  • 03-12-20

Excellence

Highly recommend this book for all black people to read! I have been teased for speaking a certain way, pronouncing words differently most of my life. As black people we are always taught to shun the way we speak amongst our family and friends. "Speak proper!". This book helps give you some pride in Black English. This book will help arm you with the tools to explain WHY the way we talk is not improper or bad English. It's an alternate form of English.

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  • Zirrus
  • 26-09-20

A delightful listen!

I love McWhorter for his intelligence, humor and rational yet humanistic approach to reality. My parents were civil rights activists in Rochester, NY when I was born there in the 60s, and we lived in numerous places in the city that had a healthy population of Blacks, and though I often appreciated the rhythm and soulfulness of “Black American” language, I never realized how complicated and rule-following it was until listening to this audiobook. I had sung in the Gospel Group in college there, and although I could hold my own and belt it out if I had a strong singer near me that I could literally resonate with, I could have never taken a solo without embarrassing the hell out of myself (no pun intended). We went to a statewide Gospel choir gathering and this huge auditorium of people were in a big hall learning the new songs we were to perform the next day, and I was completely lost in the flurry. I could not believe how quickly they moved onto the next song! I went to the choir leader to express my frustration, and he chuckled and told me that most of the folks (I was one of only a handful of Whites involved) grew up singing these type of songs in church from when they were just babies, and I should just sit back and clap along and enjoy the experience. It was excellent advice.
Black culture has given so much to our American culture, it is time for us to be raising each other up for all of our contributions rather than letting extremists on both ends of our political spectrum divide and destroy us. Thank you for an excellent book, I’m eagerly awaiting your next!!

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  • Anonymous User
  • 26-01-21

Great Book!

As an educated African American man, I found this book enlightening in more ways than one. The depth of research and attention to details used to formulate the conclusions astounded me. He did his thang 4 sho...

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  • Shaun
  • 07-10-20

Eye opening and educational

Prof. McWhorter lays out the case as to why Black English is not only NOT bad grammar, but a language in and of itself. wonderful reading of his own work.

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  • W. Norman
  • 21-08-20

QED. Case closed.

The tools from historical and comparative linguistics will be familiar to fans of McWhorter’s other books and Great Courses. He applies them here to misconceptions about Black English that are still almost universally held by Americans of all ethnic origins. The case here for the utter normalcy of Black English as a real dialect is so thorough and accessible, there is no excuse — especially among policy makers and educators — for continued ignorance or disrespect. Tour de force.

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  • Timmy the G
  • 08-07-21

Excellent

McWhorter's intelligent explanation of this subject is enlightening. I learned a lot and will likely listen at listen at least once more.

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  • Bill Pennock
  • 24-06-21

Successful in his goal for this listener

Before: I knew black people sometimes talked differently among themselves. To me, a white guy with limited exposure, it sounded sloppy. After: I understand it is a validly different dialect with nuances standard English doesn’t have and a lack of some of standard English nuances that don’t really change the ability of the listener to understand. And it now has a name for me the is, for me, more direct and less loaded with weighed down with controversy than Ebonies, Black English. In today’s suddenly increasingly intolerant world I think this is a step in the direction of an understanding of the reality of race today rather than the politics of race today. Bill Pennock