A Review of The Logic of Non-Standard English by William Labov

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Today I am going to talk about the Logic of nonstandard English written by W. Labov. In older days, with the help of the government, there are a lot of researches about the education problems of the children in the ghetto areas. Ghetto means a city which Jews lived or which members of a minority group live , isolated group. Most of the psychologists try to figure out the needs of education from poorly environment. This paper use example as Negro people.

Most of the psychologists said that the problems occur bcoz of the verbal deprivation( they said Negro children from ghetto areas have very little verbal stimulation so they cannot speak complete sentences don’t know the names of the common objects and cannot think of concepts) But those psychologists don’t know much about language and Negro children. In fact, Negro children receive great deal of verbal stimulation hear more well formed sentences than middle class children … they have the same basic vocab, possess the same capacity for learning.

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It told here that myth of verbal deprivation can lead to the hypothesis of the genetic inferiority of the Negro children, that means they feel ashamed that they are Negro . But that is originally designed to avoid In the findings of many psychologists, it seem that children have a very poor understanding of the nature of the language. They are treated as if they have no language in their own. Labov explain how the verbal deprivation has become and other facts about language which are known to linguists. He also explained about the relation between concept formation and dialect differences.

This theory of verbal deprivation occurs because of some facts that we all know, ( that Negro children do badly on school subjects mostly arithmetic and reading) They are doing worser and worser. ( they do worse in fifth grade than in first grade) Reports show that most of the isolated ethnic groups seem to do worse than others ( for example like Indian, Mexican-American and Negro) If one separate the isolated or peripheral individual from the members, other group members show even worse reading records. The term “ low class” is often used to represent the children in the urban ghetto areas.

This means that “ Lower class families” are mostly with no father to provide the economic support. But there is no evidence that father presence or absence is related with educational improvemet. The research from this paper include both family types ( lower and middle class). One notion of the thing that prevent children from learning to read is the culture deprivatio. It is sadi that the Negro children are said to lack the favorable factors in their home environment where middle class children can do well in the school.

These factors include development of various cognitive skills through verbal interaction with adults( the ability to reason abstractly, speak fluently). From the literature, it was found very little observation of verbal interaction in the Negro home. The most extreme view from this research is that lower class Negro children have no language at all( as now everyone being widely accepted) This assumption is from the Basil Bernstein writings. His views pay more attention to working class behavior so middle class language is more superior in every respect..

But when Carl Berieter programmed an academically oriented preschool, he said that Negro children must have a language with which they can learn. In his work with 4 yr old Negro children Berieter reports that their communication was by gerstures single words such as “ They mine “ and “ me got juice”. It is found that negro children could not ask ques, that they cannot even make statements ( for example like when they were asked where is the book they cannot even look at the table where the book is lying in the order to answer)… So he decided to treat as if the children has no language at all..

He teach the children by a limited series of questions like” Where is the squirrel” “ the squirrel is in the tree” His rule is that the children can use their vernacular language outside the class but if they are in the class, they are not allowed to use,, they have to ask and answer in the form he is given. This Bereiters observations give us a very clear view of the behavior of student and teacher which can be see in any classroom. In the paper as you can see there is an interview with the negro boy.. pg 184,185)… In this first interview, the child is in difficult situation where anything he/she says can held against them. He works very hard.. But this is not a measure of the verbal capacity of the child, there are other thousands of interviews of the child verbality and this lack of verbality explains the poor performance in school… ( then talk about the interview).. In the second interview here the child rarely gives response to the interviewer. In this interview, the interviewer is asking the kid about the fight he was in but the kid didn’t response anything.

But when the interviewer change the topic, the kids give response willingly. The interviewer is also the negro man who is raised in the same place as the child and who knew the neighborhood and these boys very well. So he changed the technique of the interview. ( He brought some food for the kids, he brought the kids friend, introduced taboo words and taboo topics to make the child more comfortable).. And as you can see in the interview, the result changed the kid is very willing to talk, active, no difficulty in using English language.

This is because the interviewer know the community the things that the kid has been doing, and the things that the kid would like to talk about. What we know from this is the social situation is the most powerful determintant of verbal behavior and an adult( a teacher) must enter into the right social situation with a child if he or she wants to find out what a child can do.. and this is what most teachers cannot do. They just do whatever they want.. The next part is verbosity.

Children from ghetto areas must learn a lot of verbal skills such as precision in spelling, practice in handling abstract symbols, ability to explain the meaning of the words, and more knowledge of the vocabulary. But are these really useful for the main work of genreralizing and analyzing. The work in the speech community makes it obvious that working class speakers are more effective narrators, reasoners and debaters than many middle class speakers temporize, qualify, and lose their argument in a mass of irrevelant detail.

But here is the examples of two speakers dealing with the same topic. The first one is Larry 15 year old being interviewed by john lewis. Larry is not very polite , his teachers don’t like him, he always say negative things.. And when you read the interview, you will see that his grammar shows a high concentration of characteristics non standard negro English froms such as( don’t nobody know, aint going to no heaven.. ) his interview gives many concise statements of NNE point of view.

In the interview, Larry answers are quick, creative and decisive… He does not wander, or don’t put meaningless verbiage in his answers. His answers to John Lewis is a complex argument.. The second speaker is upper middle class college educated negro man named Charles M.. He is a good speaker, well educated likeable… he is the kind of listener that middle class listeners rate very high on a scale of job suitability … his language is moderate and tempered.. He makes every effort to qualify his opinions and he seemed anxious to avoid any misstatements..

Charles m is more educated than Larry but is he more rational more logical?? Is he better at thinking out a problem to solution?? Does he deal easily with abstractions?? He is educated but we do not kow what he is trying to say and neither does he.. his answers are out of point.. From this interview, we can know that middle class language is not suited for dealing with abstract, logically complex and hypothetical ques.. We can see that these tests stimuli as requests for information, commands for action, threats of punishment.

The interviewer is unaware of the problem of interpretation,… so the best way we can do is to understand the verbal capacities of the children is to study them within the culture context in which they are developed.. so as a teacher,you need to know where your students growed up, what is their neighborhood, how they are like… Standard English is represented by a style that is simulataneoulsy over particular and vague.. The verbosity is the one which is most easily taught and most easily learned.. so that words take the place of thought,,

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A Review of The Logic of Non-Standard English by William Labov. (2016, Nov 09). Retrieved from


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