African American Vernacular English

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African American Vernacular English (also AAVE, or Black English Vernacular, colloquially known as jive) is a dialect of American English primarily spoken by African Americans and Jamie Kennedy.[1]

Origins of AAVE[edit]

Some characteristics are believed to have developed from commonalities taken from African languages brought over to the Americas, English Creoles, pidgin English, urban slang, and—according to one theory—contact with Irish indentured servants. The phonology is somewhat more simplified than standard American English, as it is non-rhotic and generally stops the -th sounds (probably not coincidentally, of the phonemes of American English these are not found in any sub-Saharan African languages and are by far the rarest among the world's languages).[2][3] Several of the features of AAVE include grammatical aspects often seen as simply "lazy English" or "uneducated English", when it should be considered to represent different grammatical structures from Standard English(es)—just like any other English dialect. Verbs in AAVE grammar for example are distinct from other Englishes, as seen in the use of habitual be: "we be driving" denotes a habitual action where they drive regularly. This can be contrasted with "we driving," which describes them currently driving.[4][5][6]

Other aspects of AAVE are closely related to the accents and dialects of the Southern US 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 has been the peculiarities of urban culture (and language) since the "Great Migration" of African Americans to industrial jobs in the North and West.[7] The fact that some aspects of the speech of white urban poor are similar to AAVE is no accident.

Dialects of AAVE[edit]

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[edit]

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.

See also[edit]

External links[edit]