African American Vernacular English
| We control what|
you think with
|Said and done|
|Jargon, buzzwords, slogans|
Origins of AAVE
Some aspects of AAVE are closely related to the accents and dialects of the southern states (Southern American English), with most African Americans being descended from the South's slave population of the nineteenth century, and a large concentration of African Americans still being resident in and around those states. Another strong influence have been the peculiarities of urban culture (and language) since the "Great Migration" of African Americans to industrial jobs in the North and West. The fact that some aspects of the speech of white urban poors are similar to AAVE is no accident.
Other characteristics are believed to have developed from commonalities taken from African languages brought over to the Americas, English Creoles, pidgin English, and urban slang. Several of the features of AAVE include grammatical aspects often seen as simply "lazy English" or "uneducated English", when it could be considered to represent different grammatical structures from standard English - just like any other English dialect. One such example is the use of imperfect "to be" (be Xing) which has come to act as the habitual aspect common in many African Languages.
Dialects of AAVE
Within AAVE, there are certain variances depending on the location of the speaker. In the southern United States, "finna" replaced "fixing" which replaced "going to".
- Standard English- "I'm going to leave."
- Southern English- "I'm fixin' to leave."
- Southern AAVE- "I'm finna leave."
In the mid-Atlantic states (primarily in Maryland), there are locale-specific words and linguistic elisions within AAVE.
- "Maryland" is replaced with "Murland," "Sheriff" is replaced with "Shurf," and so on.
AAVE, while often referred to as such, should not be confused with ebonics, which is a method of teaching English that starts with the presumption that a child speaks AAVE. The idea that AAVE is more than just "bad speech" but possesses a unique grammar is academically accepted.
Similar dialects in other languages
While the precise circumstances that led to the emergence of AAVE are unique, similar circumstances tend to give rise to similar dialects of the dominant language or even creole languages. One obvious example would be Cockney, a lower class London dialect of English that can be hard to understand for untrained ears. Other dialects (or even languages) that have similar origins are Haitian Creole or the peculiar wordings and grammatical structures of urban immigrants and their children and grandchildren in the big cities of Germany ("Alda ich mach dich Messer!"). Making fun of those dialects may locally be considered acceptable or the equivalent of blackface.
- African American Vernacular English Is Not Standard English with Mistakes, Geoffrey K. Pullum, Professor of General Linguistics at the University of Edinburgh.
- The Logic of Nonstandard English, by sociolinguist William Labov
- Academic Ignorance and Black Intelligence, abridged version of the above
- Unendangered Dialects, Endangered People, by William Labov
- Mock Ebonics: Linguistic racism in parodies of Ebonics on the Internet, by sociolinguist Maggie Ronkin and linguist Helen Karn
- African American English, Do You Speak American?, PBS.
- Seven Years Waiting for a Reply on Ebonics, Geoffrey K. Pullum, Language Log, May 20, 2004.
- John Rickford's Writings on the "Ebonics" issue, by John R. Rickford, Professor of Linguistics at Stanford University.
- Ebonic Need Not Be English, by Ralph W. Fasold, Professor Emeritus of Linguistics at Georgetown university.
- Tense and the Form Be in Black English, Ralph W. Fasold
- African American Vernacular English, Jack Sidnell.
- The Story of English, Episode 5, "Black on White", a documentary about the various kinds of English in the world. Includes interview with linguist J. L. Dillard.
- An experiment involving Cookie Monster and AAVE-speaking children
- Ebonics, Wikiversity