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Standard English and AAVE. This lesson borrows heavily from Peter Trudgill’s paper “Standard English: What it isn’t” (in Trudgill, P. (2002). Sociolinguistic Variation and Change. Washington, DC George Washington University Press. How does a language becomes standardized?.

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standard english and aave

Standard English and AAVE

This lesson borrows heavily from Peter Trudgill’s paper “Standard English: What it isn’t” (in Trudgill, P. (2002). Sociolinguistic Variation and Change. Washington, DC George Washington University Press.

how does a language becomes standardized
How does a language becomes standardized?
  • Selection: Deciding what version of a language will be standardized
        • How did this happen in English?
  • Codification: giving a variety a publicly recognized form
        • How did this happen in English?
  • Stabilization: the fixing of a variety to contain less variation
        • How did this happen in English?
is standard english a language
Is Standard English a language?
  • Languages contain many varieties (dialects)
  • Standard English is a very important variety of English (found in most writing, it is the language of the Educated elite, it is the variety taught to non-native speakers of English)
  • Most native speakers of English are not standard English speakers
  • Standard English cannot be a language
is standard english an accent
Is Standard English an accent?
  • Accent is concerned with pronunciation
  • Take a well-recognized highly prestigious accent (RP)
        • Do RP speakers speak Standard English?
        • Do Standard English speakers speak RP?
  • Do newscaster speak standard English?
        • Do all newscasters have the same accent?
  • Given that people can speak standard English with different accents, then Standard English cannot be an accent.
is standard english a style of speech
Is Standard English a style of speech?
  • Styles are varieties of language that can be spoken in formal and informal contexts
  • Given this definition, then single speakers have a number of different styles that they use in different contexts. The same speakers could say:
        • I was exceedingly fatigued after this weekend’s copious consumption of alcoholic intoxicants
        • I was totally hung over from drinking too much this weekend
  • Is it possible to say either of these in a formal or informal setting? If so, then SE is not a style
so what is it a social dialect of english that
So…what is it? A social dialect of English that…
  • Has unusual and irregular present tense morphology
        • I go; you go; we go; they go…but he/she/it goes
  • Lacks multiple negation
        • I don’t want none vs. I don’t wand any.
  • Fails to distinguish between singular and plural second person pronouns
        • You bother me (not you all, youse, youse guys, ya’ll, thou
the linguistic society of america s resolution to the ebonics issue
The Linguistic Society of America’s resolution to the “Ebonics” issue

In January of 1997, the LSA passed a resolution on AAVE. Here are some selected quotes from it:

  • The variety known as Ebonics, “ AAVE” or “VBE”…is systematic and rule-governed like all natural speech varieties. In fact, all human linguistic systems—spoken, signed, and written—are fundamentally regular.”
slide8
“Characterizations of Ebonics as “slang. “mutant,” lazy,” “defective,” “ungrammatical,” or “broken English” are incorrect and demeaning.
  • The distinction between “languages” and “dialects” is usually made more onsocial and political grounds than on purely linguistic ones.”
slide9
“For those living in the United States there are also benefits in acquiring Standard English and resources should be made available to all who aspire to mastery of Standard English.”
  • “There is evidence from Sweden, the US, and other countries that speakers of other varieties can be aided in their learning of the standard variety by pedagogical approaches which recognize the legitimacy of other varieties of a language.”
features of standard american english
Features of Standard American English
  • Has unusual and irregular present tense morphology
        • I go; you go; we go; they go…but he/she/it goes
  • Lacks multiple negation
        • I don’t want none vs. I don’t wand any.
  • Fails to distinguish between singular and plural second person pronouns
        • You bother me (not you all, youse, youse guys, ya’ll, thou
features of aave
Features of AAVE
  • Present tense/3rd person absence

he walk for he walks

she raise for she raises

2. Plural absence on general plural (but not plurals for weights and measures)

four girl for four girls

some dog for some dogs

But not

four cup for four cups

slide12
3. Remote time been (something that happened a long time ago and is still relevant)

You been paid your dues.

I been known him for a long time

But not

You been gone to school today.

slide13
Copular bedeletion

She nice for She’s nice

He in the kitchen for He’s in the kitchen

You ugly for You ugly

questions
Questions
  • Identify some social groups you belong to that make your dialect what it is.
  • Which recent US presidents spoke (or speak) with a distinct regional accent?
slide15
When you were in elementary school, did any or all of your elementary school teachers use the variety of the region where your school was located?
  • Did any of your elementary or secondary school teachers speak a variety of English that differed from the region where you studied>
slide16
Think of reasons why a junior high school student might want to know Standard English, apart from traditional educational values. What might Standard English do for this type of student right now? What do you conclude about the utility of Standard English at this point in their lives?
slide17
Consider the following quotation, taken from an editorial by William Raspberry in the Washington Post (10/1/1986) in an article titled: “Black Kids Need Standard English”.

And how could teachers help them [i.e., AAVE

speakers] to acquire Standard English without

eroding their innate pride in Black Culture?

One retired teacher of my acquaintance used to do

it by explaining that so-called Black English is

nothing more than the language slaves learned

from their ignorant white overseers.

slide18
Do you see any potential pitfalls in using such reasoning as a motivation for standard English? If so, what would you replace it with?
  • How does this reasoning relate to the information we have read on the different positions of the origins of AAVE?