The essay by James Baldwin discusses the problem of Black English and its place in linguistics. The author states that Black English should be considered and accepted as a language of a community used for special purposes. The Baldwin’s main argument is that: “Language, incontestably, reveals the speaker” (Baldwin). The author proves that since the very beginning of its history, American ethnic identity has been developing and shaping in the increasingly controversial and ambiguous social conditions. American identity (including black and white people) has come to exemplify the gradual formation of self-consciousness, political power, and individuality. Black English is probably due to political pressures and social constraints that the people has been able to realize the value of their own identity, and it is due to the negative experiences and events the American people had to go through that the present ethnic identity comprises the features of cultural cohesiveness, solidarity, and transnational resistance. Traditionally, experiences of Black Americans result in the formation of the three distinct varieties of ethnic identity. Language as the main tool of communication and interaction, reflect ideologies and life of people in a particular community.
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Baldwin’s arguments are clearly and concise based on historical facts and data analysis. The author’s arguments matter in a large context because they propose a detailed analysis of two important aspects of language: national culture and identity. For instance, Baldwin makes a reference to slave trade and history of African Americans: “a language comes into existence by means of brutal necessity” (Baldwin). The American people obviously belong to the first type of ethnic identity, for whom immigration is equaled to and is associated with an exile. This identity is usually characterized by the expectation of culture which may not be realistic, and which also distances their cultural commitments from reality and present tense and moves them into the future, where the American people finally hope to find their home. Baldwin’s style and tone reveals negative attitude towards those people who diminish the role of language in identity formation. Africa-Americans have come to exemplify the unique combination of resistance and alienation, which in their turn united them in their new country. Using counterarguments, the author proves that Black English is a part of national culture and history of African-American community. Historical change results in the formation of the Black community; these identities are being continuously torn between the cultural commitments of their old and their new country due to the fact that they view language as the main tool of self-formation.
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