African-American Vernacular English

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African American Vernacular English (AAVE) is a name for the way that some African-American people talk.[1] Linguists named AAVE, which is used by some non-black people. Some of the dialect's pronunciations and grammar are similar to how people talk in West Africa.

AAVE first came about in the 16th and the 17th centuries.[2] It became famous in 1996, when some educators in Oakland, California, said they wanted to use AAVE to help teach black kids. They called it Ebonics, but the term often has a negative connotation.

There are many rules that govern how the sounds of AAVE are different from Standard English. Some have to do with pronunciation and vocabulary (or lexicon), but most have to do with grammar, including verb tenses and sentence structure.

Hip hop music has made AAVE more famous since the 1980s. Some people think it is cool and try to speak or learn it even if they are not really familiar with it. Some non-black people speak it well.

Phonology[change | change source]

Many features set AAVE apart from other forms of American English (particularly, General American). McWhorter argues that what truly unites all AAVE accents is a uniquely wide-ranging intonation pattern or "melody", which characterizes even the most "neutral" or light African-American accent.[3]

Many multisyllabic words in AAVE differ from General American in their stress placement. For example, police, guitar, and Detroit are pronounced with initial stress instead of stress on the last syllable or neutral stress.[4]

Related pages[change | change source]

References[change | change source]

  1. Mufwene, Salikoko 2001. What is African American English? In Lanehart, Sonja Sociocultural and historical contexts of African American English: varieties of English around the world. Amsterdam: John Benjamins Publishing Company, pp. 21–52.
  2. Kautzsch, Alexander 2004. Earlier African American English: morphology and syntax. in Edgar W. Schneider et al (eds) A handbook of varieties of English. Berlin & New York: Mouton de Gruyter, pp. 341–355.
  3. McWhorter, John H. 2001. Word on the Street: debunking the myth of a "pure" standard English: p162, 182. Basic Books. ISBN 9780738204468
  4. Green, Lisa J. 2002. African American English: a linguistic introduction. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, p131. ISBN 0-521-89138-8