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African-American Vernacular English (AAVE). Carlos Pacheco Mayra L. Vargas INGL4205 L-91. African-American Vernacular English. Is a variety of language also called Black English and Ebonics. Not all African-Americans speak AAVE. People who speak AAVE may not speak it all the time.

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african american vernacular english aave

African-American Vernacular English (AAVE)

Carlos Pacheco

Mayra L. Vargas

INGL4205 L-91

african american vernacular english
African-American Vernacular English
  • Is a variety of language also called Black English and Ebonics.
  • Not all African-Americans speak AAVE.
  • People who speak AAVE may not speak it all the time.
  • People influenced by African-Americans can also learn the language.
  • Is not a monolith; there are regional varieties.
origins of aave
Origins of AAVE

There are two main theories about the origin of AAVE:

    • Dialectologist hypothesis
    • Creole hypothesis
  • Research since 1980s suggest a middle way between these theories.
  • New issues imply the fact that AAVE may be diverging from Standard American English (SAE).
dialectologist hypothesis
Dialectologist hypothesis
  • Intends to explain AAVE as an archaic form of British dialects, because East Anglia dialect and AAVE have no third person singular s in the present tense.
    • Examples: He go.
  • Anglo-Irish and Scottish dialects also form part in the construction of AAVE. Examples:
    • He be working everyday. (Anglo-Irish)
    • He done worked. (Scottish dialect)
weaknesses of the theory
Weaknesses of the theory
  • Southern Whites haven’t kept these features in their dialect.
  • AAVE has features from a variety of British dialects.
  • Expressions used by SAE and AAVE speakers are not the same. This has been called camouflage.
    • Example: She been married. To an AAVE speaker the person is still married, but to an SAE speaker she no longer is.
creole hypothesis
Creole hypothesis
  • AAVE came from a West African pidgin.
    • Pidgins come out of contact situations.
  • In 1500s a pidgin arose in Africa out of maritime contacts between West Africans and the early explorers and merchants and then slave traders.
  • This pidgin was competing with Wolof.
    • Wolof was an African language used as a lingua franca in the area.
  • The pidgin and Wolof were carried to the new world by Africans with the first slaves.
creole hypothesis1
Creole hypothesis
  • During slavery, African languages, pidgin English, plantation creole English and Standard English were in competition.
  • Frequent contact between speakers of Standard English and creole English, made the creole became decreolized, more like the standard form.
  • This decreolized language is thought to be the base for AAVE.
  • Is a variety of AAVE spoken on the coastal islands of South Carolina and Georgia.
  • Due to the isolation of the islands, the language spoken has remained very conservative.
  • This is a general rule: The language of outlying areas is less prone to change than the language of central areas.
  • Gullah and West African languages have many similarities.
  • West African influence Gullah from the phonology to the semantics of the language.
  • Gullah and Mende (African language) has words that begin with gb-.
    • Examples: gban meaning tightly (Gullah)
    • gbaa meaning to sigh (Mende)
  • Many gullah words come from West African languages.
some grammatical features of aave found in other creoles and in west african languages
Some grammatical features of AAVE found in other creoles and in West African languages:
  • Repetition of subject
    • John, he live in New York.
  • Do questions
    • What it come to?=What does it come to?
  • Same form for singular and plural
    • one girl, two girl
  • No tense on verb
    • I know it good when he ask me.
  • Verb not inflected for person
    • I know, he know
  • Done to indicate completion
    • I done go.
recent debate about the origins of aave
Recent Debate about the origins of AAVE

New Evidence since 1980s has led linguistics to reevaluate the dialectologist and the creole hypothesis. These new data include:

  • Studies on the historical and social conditions of the slaves in the plantations.
  • The emergence of written and audio recording of AAVE speakers.
  • “Diaspora” recordings.
  • Other creoles, especially the English-based Atlantic ones.
new evidence
New Evidence

These new data lead to several facts:

  • AAVE may not have developed from a creole in the United States.
  • It may have been imported by slaves from areas where Atlantic creoles were spoken.
  • The difference between AAVE and SAE are not primarily categorical but more a matter of degree.
  • The creole and the dialectologist hypothesis do not exclude each other: there may had been a (British) dialect influence on a prior creolized variety.
divergence hypothesis
Divergence Hypothesis
  • Labov and others formulated a hypothesis that reverses the emphasis on the difference between SAE and AAVE.
  • They assume that AAVE and SE are converging, that AAVE has undergone a process of decreolization.
some features of aave appeared recently and are distinct from sae including
Some features of AAVE appeared recently and are distinct from SAE, including:
  • Be done (resultative)

-My ice cream’s gonna be done melted by the time we get there.

-Don’t do that ‘cause you be done messed up your clothes!

  • -s (narrative present)

-The lil’ boy, he comes and hit me right? I hits him back now.

  • Be V-ing (habitual)
SAE and AAVE divergence is found in segregation and socioeconomic disparity between AAVE and SAE speakers, which leads to the formation of a specific African-American identity reflected in a separate linguistic variety.
  • AAVE is best considered a dialect of English Because it is mutually intelligible with SAE.
the principal differences between sae and aave
The principal differences between SAE and AAVE


Phonological rules for AAVE:

  • No consonant pairs: jus (for just) men (for mend).
  • Few diphthongs: (aka monophthongization) rat (for right).
  • No /r/ in middle or final position: mow (for more).
  • Th goes to d in initial position and to f in final position: dem (for them) souf (for south).
AAVE is not the same as southern English.
  • AAVE has consonant cluster reduction.
    • Test reduces to tes in southern English and AAVE.
  • When there is a suffix, southern English (SE) cannot reduce.
    • Tester is still testerin SE but tesser in AAVE.
tense and aspect
Tense and aspect

Aspect is a optional way of describing whether the action is continuing or completed.

  • I was watching TV when the phone rang. (Continuing)
  • I have been to Disneyland twice. (Competed)
aspect actual be
Aspect: Actual Be
  • In AAVE aspect is obligatory and tense is optional.
  • You making sense, but you don’t be making sense.

What you say makes sense in the context, but usually you are not so intelligent.

  • The absence of be in the first clause is known as zero copula.
  • The coffee be cold.

Is a every day complain while

The coffee cold.

Means its only today that it is a problem.

be can also be used in the future
Be can also be used in the future.
  • She be there later.
  • I be going home tomorrow.

Be does not work in past tense or tag questions.

He was my teacher last year.

You ain’t sick, is you?

aspect completed been
Aspect: Completed Been
  • Indicates recently completed action (perfective). Also indicated an ungrammatical sentence in a language.
  • She been tardy twice this semester.
  • She been tardy twice last semester.
been works something like standard english have has had been
Been works something like standard English have/has/had/been.
  • He been there before.
  • They been there and left before I got there.

It can be used when time doesn’t matter’.

He been there.

aspect completive done indicates recently completed action
Aspect: Completive DoneIndicates recently completed action
  • I done my homework yesterday/ today.

When used with other verbs, donefocuses on the recentness of the action.

  • I done finished my homework (today).
  • I done finished my homework yesterday.
relative clauses
Relative Clauses
  • He got a gun sounded like a bee.
  • I had uncle was one of the world’s heavyweight contenders.
  • My youngest sister, what live in Georgia…

In SAE a relative clause is introduced by which, that, who, whose and whom as in the following phrase: The women who won the prize.

summary and difference between aave and sae
Summary and difference betweenAAVE and SAE
  • AAVE is a dialect of English with its own set of phonological and syntactic rules that are similar to the rules of other dialects.
  • AAVE in turns has affected the dialects of the south where there has been contact.
  • It has a distinctive aspect system, which makes it different from other dialects of English.