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African American Vernacular English

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African American Vernacular English (AAVE) – also called African American English; less precisely Black English, Black Vernacular, Black English Vernacular (BEV), or Black Vernacular English (BVE); or controversially Ebonics – is an African American variety (dialect, ethnolect and sociolect) of American English. Its pronunciation is in some respects common to Southern American English, which is spoken by many African Americans and many non-African Americans in the United States. There is little regional variation among speakers of AAVE.[1] Several creolists, including William Stewart, John Dillard, and John Rickford argue that AAVE shares so many characteristics with Creole dialects spoken by black people in much of the world that AAVE itself is a creole.[2] It has been suggested that AAVE has grammatical structures in common with West African languages or even that AAVE is best described as an African based language with English words.[3] Speakers of AAVE are typically bidialectal. As with all linguistic forms, its usage is influenced by age, status, topic and setting. There are many literary uses of this variety of English, particularly in African-American literature.



AAVE shares several characteristics with Creole English dialects spoken by people throughout much of the world. AAVE has pronunciation, grammatical structures, and vocabulary in common with various West African languages.[4]

Many features of AAVE are shared with dialects spoken in the Southern United States. While these are mostly regionalisms (i.e. originating from white speech), a number of them—such as the deletion of is—are used much more frequently by black speakers, suggesting that they have their origins in black speech.[5] The traits of AAVE that separate it from Standard American English (SAE) include:

  • changes in pronunciation along definable patterns, many of which are found in creoles and dialects of other populations of West African descent (but which also emerge in English dialects uninfluenced by West African languages, such as Newfoundland English);
  • distinctive vocabulary; and
  • the use of tenses.

Early AAVE contributed a number of words of African origin to Standard American English, including gumbo,[6] goober,[7] yam and banjo. AAVE has contributed slang expressions such as cool, hip and bling.

Grammatical features


Please help improve this article or sectionby expanding it.
Further information might be found on the talk pageor at requests for expansion. (May 2008)

The near uniformity of AAVE pronunciation, despite vast geographic area, may be due in part to relatively recent migrations of African Americans out of the South as well as to long-term racial segregation.[8] Phonological features that set AAVE apart from forms of Standard English (such as General American) include:

  • Word-final devoicing of /b/, /d/, and /ɡ/, whereby for example cub sounds like cup.[9]
  • Reduction of certain diphthong forms to monophthongs, in particular, /aɪ/ is monophthongized to [aː] (this is also a feature of many Southern American English dialects). The vowel sound in boil (/ɔɪ/ in Standard English) is also monophthongized, especially before /l/, making it indistinguishable from ball.[10]
  • AAVE speakers may not use the dental fricatives [θ] (the th in thin) and [ð] (the th of then) that are present in SE. The actual alternative phone used depends on the sound's position in a word.[11]
    • Word-initially, /θ/ is normally the same as in SE (so thin is [θɪn]).
    • Word-initially, /ð/ is [d] (so this is [dɪs]).
    • Word-medially and -finally, /θ/ is realized as either [f] or [t] (so [mʌmf] or [mʌnt] for month); /ð/ as either [v] or [d] (so [smuːv] for smooth).
  • Realization of final ng /ŋ/, the velar nasal, as the alveolar nasal [n] in function morphemes and content morphemes with two syllables like -ing, e.g. tripping is pronounced as trippin. This change does not occur in one-syllable content morphemes such as sing, which is [sɪŋ] and not *[sɪn]. However, singing is [sɪŋɪn]. Other examples include wedding → [wɛɾɪn], morning → [mɔɹnɪn], nothing → [ˈnʌfɪn]. Realization of /ŋ/ as [n] in these contexts is commonly found in many other English dialects.[12]
  • A marked feature of AAVE is final consonant cluster reduction. There are several phenomena that are similar but are governed by different grammatical rules.
    • Homorganic final consonant clusters (that is, word-final clusters of consonants that have the same place of articulation) that share the same laryngeal settings are reduced. E.g. test is pronounced [tɛs] since /t/ and /s/ are both voiceless; hand is pronounced [hæn], since /n/ and /d/ are both voiced; but pant is unchanged, as it contains both a voiced and a voiceless consonant in the cluster.[13] Note also that it is the plosive (/t/ and /d/) in these examples that is lost rather than the fricative or nasal. Speakers may carry this declustered pronunciation when pluralizing so that the plural of test is [tɛsəs] rather than [tɛsts].[14] The clusters /ft/, /md/, are also affected.[15]
    • More often, word-final /sp/, /st/, and /sk/ are reduced, again with the final element being deleted rather than the former.[16]
    • Clusters ending in /s/ or /z/ exhibit variation in whether the first or second element is deleted.[17]
  • Similarly, final consonants may be deleted (although there is a great deal of variation between speakers in this regard). Most often, /t/ and /d/ are deleted. As with other dialects of English, final /t/ and /k/ may reduce to a glottal stop. Nasal consonants may be lost while nasalization of the vowel is retained (e.g, find may be pronounced [fãː]). More rarely, /s/ and /z/ may also be deleted.[18]
  • Use of metathesised forms like aks for "ask"[19] or graps for "grasp".
  • AAVE is non-rhotic, so the rhotic consonant /r/ is usually dropped if not followed by a vowel. Intervocalic /r/ may also be dropped, e.g. SE story ([stɔri]) can be pronounced [stɔ.i]. /r/ may also be deleted between a consonant and a back rounded vowel, especially in words like throw, throat, and through.[20]
  • /l/ is often deleted in patterns similar to that of /r/ and, in combination with cluster simplification (see above), can make homophones of toll and toe, fault and fought, and tool and too. Homonomy may be reduced by vowel lengthening and by an off-glide [ɤ][21].
  • Before nasal consonants (/m/, /n/, and /ŋ/), /ɛ/ and /ɪ/ are both pronounced as [ɪ], making pen and pin homophones.[22] This feature is also present in other dialects.
  • The distinction between /ɪ/ and /iː/ before liquid consonants is frequently reduced, making feel and fill homophones. Before /r/ specifically, /uː/ and /oʊ/ also merge.[23]
  • Dropping of word initial /d/, /b/, and /ɡ/ in tense-aspect markers, e.g., the pronunciation of don't as own.
  • Lowering of /ɪ/ to /ɛ/ or /æ/ before /ŋ/ causing pronunciations such as [θɛŋ] or [θæŋ] for thing.

Aspect marking

The most distinguishing feature of AAVE is the use of forms of be to mark aspect in verb phrases. The use or lack of a form of be can indicate whether the performance of the verb is of a habitual nature. In SAE, this can be expressed only using adverbs such as usually.[24] It is disputed whether the use of the verb "to be" to indicate a habitual status or action in AAVE has its roots in various West African languages. (See also African languages.)

Example Name SEMeaning / Notes He workin'. Simple progressive He is working [currently]. He be workin'. Habitual/continuative aspect He works frequently or habitually. Better illustrated with "He be workin' Tuesdays." He stay workin'. Intensified continuative He is always working. He been workin'. Perfect progressive He has been working. He been had dat job. Remote phase (see below) He has had that job for a long time and still has it. He done worked. Emphasized perfective He has worked. Syntactically, "He worked" is valid, but "done" is used to emphasize the completed nature of the action.[25]He finna go to work. Immediate future He's about to go to work. Finna is a contraction of "fixing to"; though is also believed to show residual influence of late 16th century archaism "would fain (to)", that persisted until later in some rural dialects spoken in the Carolinas (near the Gullahregion). "Fittin' to" is commonly thought to be another form of the original "fixin' (fixing) to", and it is also heard as fitna, fidna, fixna, and finsta.[26]I was walkin' home, and I had worked all day. Preteritenarration. "Had" is used to begin a preterite narration. Usually it occurs in the first clause of the narration, and nowhere else.

Remote phase marker

The aspect marked by stressed 'been' has been given many names, including perfect phase, remote past, remote phase[27] This article uses the third. Been here is stressed; in order to distinguish it from unstressed been (used as in standard English), linguists often write it as BIN. Thus the distinction between She BIN running ("She has been running for a long time") and She been running ("She has been running").[28]

With non-stative verbs, the role of been is simple: it places the action in the distant past, or represents total completion of the action. A Standard English equivalent is to add "a long time ago". For example, She been told me that translates as, "She told me that a long time ago".

However, when been is used with stative verbs or gerund forms, been shows that the action began in the distant past and that it is continuing now. Linguist John R. Rickford (1999) suggests that a better translation when used with stative verbs is "for a long time". For instance, in response to "I like your new dress", one might hear Oh, I been had this dress, meaning that the speaker has had the dress for a long time and that it isn't new.[29]

To see the difference between the simple past and the gerund when used with been, consider the utterances:

I been bought her clothes means "I bought her clothes a long time ago".
I been buyin' her clothes means "I've been buying her clothes for a long time".


In addition, negatives are formed differently from standard American English:[30]

  • Use of ain't as a general negative indicator. It can be used where Standard English would use am not, isn't, aren't, haven't and hasn't, a trait which is not specific to AAVE. However, in marked contrast to other varieties of English in the U.S., some speakers of AAVE also use ain't in lieu of don't, doesn't, or didn't (e.g., I ain't know that).[31] Ain't had its origins in common English, but became increasingly stigmatized since the 19th century. See also amn't.
  • Negative concord, popularly called "double negation", as in I didn't go nowhere; if the sentence is negative, all negatable forms are negated. This contrasts with Standard English, where a double negative is considered a positive (although this wasn't always so; see double negative). There is also "triple" or "multiple negation", as in the phrase I don't know nothing about no one no more, which would be "I don't know anything about anybody anymore" in Standard English.
  • In a negative construction, an indefinite pronoun such as nobody or nothing can be inverted with the negative verb particle for emphasis (eg. Don't nobody know the answer, Ain't nothin' goin' on.)

While these are features that AAVE has in common with Creole languages,[32] Howe and Walker use data from early recordings of African Nova Scotian English, Samaná English, and Ex-Slave recordings to demonstrate that negation was inherited from nonstandard colonial English.[33]

Other grammatical characteristics

Some of these characteristics, notably double negatives and the omission of certain auxiliaries such as the has in has been are also characteristic of general colloquial American English.

The linguist William Labov carried out and published the first thorough grammatical study of African American Vernacular English in 1965.

  • The copula BE[34] is often dropped, as in Russian, Hebrew, Arabic and other languages. For example: You crazy! ("You're crazy") or She my sister ("She's my sister"). The phenomenon is also observed in questions: Who you? ("Who're you?") and Where you at? ("Where are you (at)?"). On the other hand, a stressed is cannot be dropped: She is my sister.

The general rules are:

    • Only the forms is and are (which in any case is often replaced by is) can be omitted
    • These forms cannot be omitted when they are pronounced with a stress (whether or not the stress serves specifically to impart an emphatic sense to the verb's meaning).
    • These forms cannot be omitted when the corresponding form in Standard English cannot show contraction (and vice-versa). For example, I don't know where he is cannot be reduced to *I don't know where he because in Standard English the corresponding reduction *I don't know where he's is likewise impossible. (Though I don't know where he at is possible.)
    • Possibly some other minor conditions apply as well.[35]
  • Present-tense verbs are uninflected for number/person: there is no -s ending in the present-tense third-person singular. Example: She write poetry ("She writes poetry"). Similarly, was is used for what in standard English are contexts for both was and were.[36]
  • The genitive "-s" ending may or may not be used.[37] Genitive case is inferrable from adjacency. This is similar to many creoles throughout the Caribbean. Many language forms throughout the world use an unmarked possessive; it may, here, result from a simplification of grammatical structures and tendency to eschew particle usage. Example: my momma sister ("my mother's sister")
  • The word it or is denotes the existence of something, equivalent to Standard English there in "there is", or "there are". This usage is also found in the English of the US South. Examples Is a doughnut in the cabinet ("There's a doughnut in the cabinet") and It ain't no spoon ("There isn't a spoon", also "They ain't no spoon").
  • Altered syntax in questions: In Why they ain't growin'? ("Why aren't they growing?") and Who the hell she think she is? ("Who the hell does she think she is?") lack the inversion of standard English. Because of this, there is also no need for the auxiliary DO.[38]

Lexical features

For the most part, AAVE uses the lexicon of SAE, particularly informal and southern dialects. There are some notable differences, however. It has been suggested that some of this vocabulary has its origin in West African languages, but etymology is often difficult to trace and without a trail of recorded usage the suggestions below cannot be considered proven, and in many cases are not recognized by linguists or the Oxford English Dictionary.[39]

AAVE also has words that either are not part of Standard American English, or have strikingly different meanings from their common usage in SAE. For example, there are several words in AAVE referring to white people which are not part of mainstream SAE; these include the use of gray as an adjective for whites (as in "gray dude"), possibly from the color of Confederate uniforms, possibly an extension of the slang use for "Irish",[44] "Ofay," which is pejorative, is another general term for a white; it might derive from the Yoruba word ofe, spoken in hopes of disappearing from danger such as that posed by European traders. However, most dictionaries simply refer to this word as having an unknown etymology.[45] Kitchen refers to the particularly curly or kinky hair at the nape of the neck, and siditty or seddity means snobbish or bourgeois.[46]

AAVE has also contributed various words and phrases to other varieties of English; including chill out, main squeeze, soul, funky, and threads[47]

Social context

AAVE's resistance to assimilation into Standard American English or other more standard dialects is a consequence of cultural and historical differences between blacks and whites (Romaine 109). Any language used by isolated groups of people is likely to split into various dialects. Thus, language becomes a means of self-differentiation that helps forge group identity, solidarity and pride. It is "intricately bound up with his or her sense of identity and group consciousness".[48]

AAVE has survived through the centuries also as a result of varying degrees of isolation from Southern American English and Standard American English — through both "self-segregation from and marginalization by mainstream society" (Trudgill 108). Still, most speakers of AAVE are bidialectal, since they use Standard American English to varying degrees as well as AAVE. This method of linguistic adaptation in different environments is called code switching. Each dialect, or code, is applied in different settings. Generally speaking, the degree of exclusive use of AAVE decreases with the rise in socioeconomic status (although it is still used by even well educated African Americans).[49] As with the case of many nonstandard varieties, almost all speakers of AAVE (at any socioeconomic level) fully understand Standard American English.[citation needed] Thus use of AAVE, as with the use of SAE, can be a conscious choice. The level of usage of any dialect is subject to the speaker's volition.[citation needed] In certain situations, speakers of AAVE may deem it more appropriate to use SAE, and in other instances (most likely among other African Americans) use AAVE.

The preponderance of code switching indicates that AAVE and SAE are met with different reactions or discernments. AAVE is often perceived by members of mainstream American society as indicative of low intelligence or limited education. Furthermore, as with many other non-standard dialects and especially creoles, AAVE sometimes has been called "lazy" or "bad" English, although among linguists there is no such controversy, since AAVE, like all dialects, shows consistent internal logic and structure.[50]


While it is clear that there is a strong relationship between AAVE and Southern American English, the unique characteristics of AAVE are not fully explained and it is unclear exactly how they arose.

One theory is that AAVE arose from one or more slave creoles that arose from the trans-Atlantic African slave trade and the need for African captives to communicate among themselves and with their captors. During the Middle Passage, these captives (many already multi-lingual speakers of dialects of Wolof, Twi, Hausa, Yoruba, Dogon, Akan, Kimbundu, Bambara and other languages[citation needed]) developed what are called pidgins, simplified mixtures of two or more languages. As pidgins form from close contact between members of different language communities, the slave trade would have been exactly such a situation. Dillard quotes slave ship Captain William Smith[51]:

As for the languages of Gambia, they are so many and so different, that the Natives, on either Side of the River, cannot understand each other.… [T]he safest Way is to trade with the different Nations, on either Side of the River, and having some of every Sort on board, there will be no more Likelihood of their succeeding in a Plot, than of finishing the Tower of Babel.

Some slave owners preferred slaves from a particular tribe. For consigned cargoes, language mixing aboard ship was sometimes minimal. There is evidence that many enslaved Africans continued to use fairly intact native languages until almost 1700, when the Wolof language became one of the bases of a sort of intermediary pidgin among Africans. It is Wolof that comes to the fore in tracing the African roots of AAVE.[citation needed] By 1715, this African pidgin had made its way into novels by Daniel Defoe, in particular, The Life of Colonel Jacque. Cotton Mather claimed to have been very familiar with his slaves' speech, knowing enough to affirm that one of his slaves was a Coromantee, a general term applied during slavery to the Akan, Ashanti and Fanti peoples of the Gold Coast, whom slaveholders commonly regarded as particularly rebellious in nature.[citation needed] Mather's imitative writing shows features present in many creole languages and even in modern day AAVE.

By the time of the American Revolution, varieties among slave creoles were not quite mutually intelligible. Dillard quotes a recollection of "slave language" toward the latter part of the 18th century[52]:

Kay, massa, you just leave me, me sit here, great fish jump up into da canoe, here he be, massa, fine fish, massa; me den very grad; den me sit very still, until another great fish jump into de canoe; but me fall asleep, massa, and no wake 'til you come…

It was not until the time of the Civil War that the language of the slaves became familiar to a large number of educated whites. The abolitionist papers before the war form a rich corpus of examples of plantation creole. In Army Life in a Black Regiment (1870), Thomas Wentworth Higginson detailed many features of his soldiers' language. In particular, this book contains the first reference to the distinction within AAVE "been" between stressed BÍN and unstressed bin.[citation needed]

After Emancipation, some freed slaves traveled to West Africa, taking their creole with them. In certain African tribal groups, such as those in west Cameroon, there are varieties of Black English that show strong resemblances to the creole dialects in the U.S. documented during this period.[citation needed]

In education

AAVE has been the center of controversy about the education of African American youths, the role AAVE should play in public schools and education, and its place in broader society. Educators have held that attempts should be made to eliminate AAVE usage through the public education system. Criticisms from social commentators and educators have ranged from asserting that AAVE is an intrinsically deficient form of speech to arguments that its use, by being considered unacceptable in most cultural contexts, is socially limiting.[53] It is often argued that incorporating AAVE in schools would only impede the academic progress of young African American children.[citation needed] The harshest criticisms of AAVE have come from other African Americans.[54] Most notably, Bill Cosby, in his Pound Cake speech, criticized members of the African American community for various social behaviors including exclusive use of AAVE.

Changes in formal attitudes regarding the acceptance of AAVE as a dialect correlated with advancements in civil rights. One notable shift in the recognition of AAVE came in the "Ann Arbor Decision" of 1979 (Martin Luther King Junior Elementary School Children et al., v. Ann Arbor School District). In it, a federal judge ruled that a school board, in teaching black children to read, must adjust to the children's dialect, not the children to the school.[55]

Prior to this, the Conference on College Composition and Communication (CCCC), a division of National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE), issued a position statement on students' right to their own language.[citation needed] This was adopted by CCCC members in April 1974 and appeared in a special issue of College Composition and Communication in Fall of 1974. The resolution was as follows:[56]

"We affirm the students' right to their own patterns and varieties of language—the dialects of their nurture or whatever dialects in which they find their own identity and style. Language scholars long ago denied that the myth of a standard American dialect has any validity. The claim that any one dialect is unacceptable amounts to an attempt of one social group to exert its dominance over another. Such a claim leads to false advice for speakers and writers and immoral advice for humans. A nation proud of its diverse heritage and its cultural and racial variety will preserve its heritage of dialects. We affirm strongly that teachers must have the experiences and training that will enable them to respect diversity and uphold the right of students to their own language."

The formal recognition of AAVE was revisited when a controversial resolution from the Oakland, California school board on December 18, 1997, called on "Ebonics" to be officially recognized as a language of African Americans.[57] At its last meeting, the outgoing Oakland school board unanimously passed the resolution, before being replaced by the newly elected board. The new board's members held different views; the board modified the resolution then effectively dropped it. Had the measure remained in force, it would have affected funding and education-related issues.[citation needed]

The Oakland resolution declared that AAVE was not English or even an Indo-European language, asserting that the speech of black children belonged to "West and Niger-Congo languages and are not merely dialects of English."[58] This claim is inconsistent with the current linguistic theory that AAVE is a dialect of English and thus of Indo-European origin. Also, the differences between modern AAVE and Standard English are nowhere near as great as those between French and Haitian Creole, which are considered separate languages. The resolution was widely misunderstood as an intention to teach AAVE and "elevate it to the status of a written language."[59] The resolution gained national attention and was derided and criticized, most notably by Jesse Jackson and Kweisi Mfume who regarded it as an attempt to teach slang to children.[60] The statement that "African Language Systems are genetically based" also contributed to widespread hostility because it was popularly misunderstood to mean that African Americans have a biological predisposition to a particular language.[citation needed] In an amended resolution, this phrase was removed and replaced with wording that states African American language systems "have origins in West and Niger-Congo languages and are not merely dialects of English."[61]

Proponents of AAVE instruction in public education believe that their proposals have been distorted by political debate and misunderstood by the general public.[citation needed] The underlying belief is that black students would perform better in school and more easily learn standard American English if textbooks and teachers incorporated AAVE in teaching black children to speak Standard English rather than dismiss it as substandard.[62]

For students whose primary dialect was AAVE, the Oakland resolution mandated some instruction in that dialect, both for "maintaining the legitimacy and richness of such language... and to facilitate their acquisition and mastery of English language skills." This also included the proposed increase of salaries of those proficient in both AAVE and Standard English to the level of those teaching LEP (limited English proficiency) students and the use of public funding to help teachers learn AAVE themselves.[63] Teachers were to recognize that the "errors" in Standard American English that their students made were not the result of lack of intelligence or effort, and indeed were not errors at all but instead were features of a grammatically distinct form of English.[citation needed] Rather than teaching Standard American English by proscribing non-standard usage, the idea was to teach SAE to AAVE-speaking students by showing them how to translate expressions from AAVE to SAE.[citation needed]

Pedagogical techniques similar to those used to teach English to speakers of foreign languages appear to hold promise for speakers of AAVE. William Stewart experimented with the use of dialect readers—sets of text in both AAVE and SAE.[64] The idea was that children could learn to read in their own dialect and then shift to Standard English with subsequent textbooks.[65] Simpkins, Holt & Simpkins (1977) developed a comprehensive set of dialect readers, called bridge readers, which included the same content in three different dialects: AAVE, a bridge version that was closer to SAE without being prohibitively formal, and a Standard English version.[66] Despite studies that showed promise for such dialect reader programs, reaction to them was largely hostile[67] and both Stewart's research and the Bridge Program were rejected for various political and social reasons, including strong resistance from parents.[68][69][70] Opinions on AAVE still range from advocacy of official language status in the United States to denigration as "poor English."[citation needed]

In 2002, Lisa Delpit and Joanne Kilgour Dowdy edited and contributed to the book The Skin that We Speak: Thoughts on Language and Culture in the Classroom. It examines how classrooms deal with the issue in practice and what that can mean for students. While policymakers debate the issue, teachers have to make their own policies.[71]

Teaching children whose primary dialect is AAVE poses problems beyond those commonly addressed by pedagogical techniques, and the Oakland approach has support among some educational theorists. However, such pedagogical approaches have given rise to educational and political disputes. The American public and policymakers remain divided over whether to even recognize AAVE as a legitimate dialect of English. Though she had no standing in the school district, California State University, San Bernardino sociology professor Mary Texeira suggested in July 2005 that AAVE be included in the San Bernardino City Unified School District.[citation needed] The recommendation was met with a backlash similar to that in Oakland nine years before.

According to Smitherman, the overwhelming controversy and debates concerning AAVE in public schools insinuate the deeper, more implicit deterministic attitudes towards the African-American community as a whole. Smitherman describes this as a reflection of the "power elite's perceived insignificance and hence rejection of Afro-American language and culture".[72] She also asserts that since African Americans, in order to succeed, are forced to conform to European American society, this ultimately means the "eradication of black language…and the adoption of the linguistic norms of the white middle class." The necessity for a "bi-dialectialism" (AAVE and SAE) has "some blacks contend that being bi-dialectal not only causes a schism in the black personality, but it also implies such dialects are 'good enough' for blacks but not for whites."[73]

See also

African American Portal


  1. ^ Labov (2001:506-508)
  2. ^ Wardhaugh (2002:341)
  3. ^ Smith and Crozier (1998:113-114)
  4. ^ See Howe & Walker (2000) for more information
  5. ^ Labov (1972:8)
  6. ^ Shorter OED, 5th edition, cf Bantu kingumbo
  7. ^ Shorter OED, 5th edition, Kikongo nguba
  8. ^ Wardhaugh (2002:339)
  9. ^ Green (2002:116)
  10. ^ Labov (1972:19)
  11. ^ Green (2002:117-119)
  12. ^ Green (2002:121-122) although her examples are different.
  13. ^ Rickford (1997:??)
  14. ^ Green (2002:107-116)
  15. ^ Labov (1972:15)
  16. ^ Labov (1972:15-16)
  17. ^ Labov (1972:17-18)
  18. ^ Labov (1972:18-19)
  19. ^ See Baugh (2000:92-94) on "aks" and metathesis, on the frequency with which "aks" is brought up by those who ridicule AAVE (e.g.Cosby (1997)), and on the linguistic or cognitive abilities of a speaker of standard English who would take "aks" to mean "axe" in a context that in standard English calls for "ask".
  20. ^ Labov (1972:14)
  21. ^ Labov (1972:14-15)
  22. ^ Labov (1972:19)
  23. ^ Labov (1972:19)
  24. ^ Aspectual be: Green (2002:47-54)
  25. ^ Green (2002:60-62)
  26. ^ For the meaning and use, although not the etymology see Green (2002:70-71).
  27. ^ Rickford (1999:??)
  28. ^ Green (2002:54)
  29. ^ Rickford (1999:??)
  30. ^ Howe & Walker (2000:110)
  31. ^ Labov (1972:284)
  32. ^ Winford (1992:350)
  33. ^ Howe & Walker (2000:110)
  34. ^ Lexemic notation: BE means any form of the verb be (in SE am, is, are, was, were, being, been, as well as be itself.
  35. ^ Seven conditions: Geoff Pullum, "Why Ebonics Is No Joke" Lingua Franca transcript, 17 October 1998, Australian Broadcasting Corporation.
  36. ^ Green (2002:38)
  37. ^ Green (2002:102-103)
  38. ^ Green (2002:84-89)
  39. ^ eg: OED, "dig", from ME vt diggen
  40. ^ Smitherman (2000:??) s.v. "Dig".
  41. ^ Rickford & Rickford (2000:146).
  42. ^ Rickford & Rickford (2000:146).
  43. ^ Smitherman (1977:??) cited in Rickford and Rickford, Spoken Soul, 240.
  44. ^ or of paddyroller Gray: Smitherman, Black Talk, s.v. "Gray". Paddy: Dictionary of American Regional English, s.v. "Paddy".
  45. ^ Smitherman (2000)suggests either a general West African or the Pig Latin origin. "Ofay".
  46. ^ Smitherman (2000:??) "Kitchen". Kitchen, siditty: Dictionary of American Regional English, s.vv. "Kitchen", "Siditty".
  47. ^ Lee (1999:381-386)
  48. ^ Smitherman (1977:71)
  49. ^ Coulmas (2005:177)
  50. ^ Labov (1997:?)
  51. ^ Dillard (1972:??)
  52. ^ Dillard (1972:??)
  53. ^ Wardhaugh & 2002 (p-343-348)
  54. ^ Lippi-Green (2000:200). Further, "Black critics [of Black English] use all the different arguments of the white critics, and spare us the more or less open embarrassment that all white Americans feel when publicly criticizing anything or anyone Black. So, of course, they can be even more wrong-headed and self-righteously wrong-headed than anyone else . . ." Quinn (1982:150-51).
  55. ^ Wardhaugh (2002:345)
  56. ^ Smitherman (1999:357)
  57. ^ Coulmas (2005:213)
  58. ^ Golden (1997:A10)
  59. ^ Coulmas (2005:214)
  60. ^ Morgan (1999:173)
  61. ^ Golden (1997:?)
  62. ^ Nonstandard language is not the same as substandard, as noted a point made for example by the cognitive scientist Steven Pinker in The Language Instinct (pp. 28 et seq.); (Pinker's comments on dialects in general and AAVE in particular go unmentioned by Geoffrey Sampson in Educating Eve, a book-length attempted debunking of The Language Instinct.) The same point is made in various introductions to language and sociolinguistics, e.g. Radford et al. (1999:17), Schilling-Estes (2006:312) et seq.; and also in surveys of the English language, e.g. Crystal (2003), sec. 20, "Linguistic Variation"
  63. ^ Morgan (1999:173)
  64. ^ Stewart (1975:??)
  65. ^ Wardhaugh (2002:345)
  66. ^ Simpkins, Holt & Simpkins (1977:??)
  67. ^ Morgan (1999:181)
  68. ^ Downing (1978:341)
  69. ^ Morgan (1999:182)
  70. ^ Wardhaugh (2002:345)
  71. ^ Delpit (2002:??)
  72. ^ Smitherman (1977:209)
  73. ^ Smitherman (1977:173)


  • Baugh, John (2000), written at New York, Beyond Ebonics: Linguistic Pride and Racial Prejudice, Oxford University Press, ISBN 0-19-515289-1
  • Cosby, William (10 January), "Elements of Igno-Ebonics Style", Wall Street Journal: P.A11
  • Coulmas, Florian (2005), Sociolinguistics: The Study of Speakers' choices, Cambridge
  • Crystal, David (2003), written at Cambridge, The Cambridge Encyclopedia of the English Language. (2nd ed.), Cambridge University Press, ISBN 0-521-82348-X
  • Delpit, Lisa & Joanne Kilgour Dowdy (2002), written at New York, The Skin that We Speak: Thoughts on Language and Culture in the Classroom., New Press, ISBN 1565845447
  • Dictionary of American Regional English. 5 vols. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1985–.
  • Dillard, John L. (1972), Black English: Its History and Usage in the United States, Random House, ISBN 0-394-71872-0
  • Downing, John (1978), "Strategies of Bilingual Teaching", International Review of Education 24 (3): 329-346
  • Howe, Darin M. & James A. Walker (2000), "Negation and the Creole-Origins Hypothesis: Evidence from Early African American English", in Poplack, Shana, The English History of African American English, 109-139
  • Golden, Tim (January 14), "Oakland Scratches plan to teach black English.", New York Times: A10
  • Green, Lisa J. (2002), written at Cambridge, African American English: A Linguistic Introduction, Cambridge University Press, ISBN 0-521-89138-8
  • Labov, William (1972), written at Philadelphia, Language in the Inner City: Studies in Black English Vernacular, University of Pennsylvania Press
  • Labov, William (2001), written at Oxford, Principles of Linguistic Change, II: Social factors, Blackwell, ISBN 0631179151
  • Lee, Margaret (1999), "Out of the Hood and into the News: Borrowed Black Verbal Expressions in a Mainstream Newspaper", American Speech: 369-388
  • Lippi-Green, Rosina (1997), written at London, English with an Accent: Language, Ideology, and Discrimination in the United States, Blackwell, 200
  • Morgan, Marcyliena (1999), Davis, Kathryn Anne, ed., Sociopolitical perspectives on language policy and planning in the USA., John Benjamins, ISBN 1556197357
  • Pinker, Steven (1994), written at New York, The Language Instinct, Morrow, ISBN 0-688-12141-1
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  • Radford, Andrew; Martin Atkinson & David Britain et al. (1999), written at Cambridge, Linguistics: An Introduction, Cambridge University Press, ISBN 0-521-47854-5
  • Rickford, John (1997), "Suite for Ebony and Phonics", Discover Magazine 18 (2)
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  • Rickford, John & Russell Rickford (2000), written at New York, Spoken Soul: The Story of Black English., John Wiley & Sons, ISBN 0-471-39957-4
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  • Wardhaugh, Ronald (2002), An Introduction to Sociolinguistics, Blackwell
  • Winford, Donald (1992), "Back to the past: The BEV/creole connection revisited", Language Variation and Change 4 (3): 311-357

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