Response to James Baldwin’s “If Black English Isn’t a Language, Then tell me, What Is?”

What is Language? What does it do? It is a means to allow people to communicate with one another. In James Baldwin’s “If Black English Isn’t a Language, Then Tell me, What Is?”. Baldwin reveals the way language shapes and is formed by life’s circumstances. You can feel the anger of the author in his writing, the emotional content of his prose is more powerful than the actual words. Culture affects how language is used, it allows one to identify with or separate from a different culture. Baldwin reveals this when he writes, “Language…is the most vivid and crucial key to identity, it reveals the private identity, and connects one with, or divorces one from, the larger, public, or communal identity” (Baldwin 89).Baldwin reveals how important a language either sets people apart or brings a people together. Baldwin describes the purpose of language and how it used to control reality. “People evolve a language in order to describe, and thus control their circumstances, or in order not to be submerged by a situation that they cannot articulate” (Baldwin 89). Baldwin explains that language evolves so people can understand and communicate with each other. Thus, allowing people to participate in something greater than themselves and give people a sense of belonging that every human being craves: to be apart of society. By definition, Black English is a language.

Works Cited

Baldwin, James. “If Black English Isn’t a Language, Then tell me, What Is?” The Mercury Reader. Ed. Janice Neulieb, et al. Boston, MA: Pearson, 2005. 88-91

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One thought on “Response to James Baldwin’s “If Black English Isn’t a Language, Then tell me, What Is?”

  1. I don’t know that the origin of the Beat Generation comes from a Black English phrase like Mr. Baldwin asserts, but I do agree that Black English is a language very different from Standard English.

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