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Talking Back, Talking Black

Truths About America's Lingua Franca
Narrated by: John McWhorter
Length: 4 hrs and 19 mins
5 out of 5 stars (25 ratings)

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Publisher's 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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Insightful but overall better read than listened to

John McWhorter is incredibly intelligent and his explanations are very thorough but I did find myself often wanting a companion written piece to go with the audio version given all of the minimal pairs and other linguistic features that he talks about. Overall on Black English; his points are well taken that it is its own dialect. And that racism is the primary reason it is not viewed as an alternative or might never be.

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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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Black English as a legit dialect

This is the first in depth look at black english I've ever encountered and it was done incredibly well. I have a vastly better understanding now and greatly appreciate it! John treats it as a legitimate dialect, which is a departure from how society sees it. I have an appreciation for it that i never had before. Thank you so so much, John!!!