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AFRICAN- AMERICAN LANGUAGE
SEE ALSO “AFRICAN-AMERICAN HUMOR”
by Don L. F. Nilsen
and Alleen Pace Nilsen
9
1
Attacks on Oakland Unified
School District’s Ebonics
• “No right or wrong expressions, no consistent
spellings or pronunciations and no discernible
rules.” –William Raspberry (Washington Post
12/26/96)
• “A ‘language’ for second-class life” –Ellen Goodman
(Boston Globe 12/27/96)
• “legitimizing gibberish” –Mary McGrory
“It is just as systematic as Standard English, though it
differs from Standard English in significant ways.”
(Smith & Wilhelm 50, 147-149)
9
2
E. Schuster shows how
non-standard dialects are systematic.
1.
Have different verb forms (“He brung it to me.”)
2.
Have double negatives & comparatives (“He don’t know nothin’.”)
3.
Have different subject-verb agreement (“She go to the store.”)
4.
Have different pronoun conventions (“Joe, he can really play.”)
5.
Use adjectives in adverbial contexts (“He did good.”)
6.
Have non-standard words (ain’t, anyways, these here…)
(Smith & Wilhelm 52)
9
3
AAVE: AFRICAN AMERICAN
VERNACULAR ENGLISH
• During the slave trade, shippers were careful to separate
African slaves who spoke the same language as they loaded
them onto ships, so that the language they developed was an
English based pidgin (business language) which became a
creole language.
• Ironically, black wet nurses did much of the raising of
aristocratic white babies, so many Black features can be seen
also in “white” Southern dialects.
•
African-American Vernacular English (and much of Southern
“white” English) has the following features:
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4
• this, that, these, those, them, there /d/
• south, mouth /f/
• during, more, Paris, star /r-less/
• help, will /l-less/
• hood, bed, test, wasp (loss of final
consonant)
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• thing, ring, sing /ey/
• r-less so that such pairs as guard-God, nor-gnaw, sore-saw,
poor-Poe, fort-fought, and court-caught are not distinguished.
• police, Detroit (front-shifted stress)
• nice, boy (simplified vowels)
• invariable “be” (durative)
• zero copula (non-durative, compare Spanish “ser” and “estar”)
9
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CALLING SOMEONE OUT OF THEIR NAME
• In her I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, Maya Angelou tells
about Mrs. Cullinan “calling her out of her name.”
• Rather than calling her “Margaret,” she called her “Mary.”
• Miss Glory says that she too had been “called out of her
name.” Her name used to be Hallelujia, but her mistress called
her “Glory,” and it stuck.
(Nilsen & Nilsen 15-16)
9
7
THE N-WORD
• According to Randall Kennedy, The n-word is
perhaps the most volatile, derogatory, powerful and
hurtful ethnic slur in the English language.
• However, “the use of nigger by black rappers and
comedians has given the term a new currency and
enhanced cachet such that many young whites
yearn to use the term like the blacks whom they see
as heroes and trendsetters.”
(Kennedy 45)
9
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!HIP HOP LANGUAGE
•
What is it?
•
What’s happenin?
•
What’s up?
•
Snoop Dog’s “-izzle” words as in “televizzle,” “Americizzle,” and “in a
minitizzle”
•
Bro
•
Chillin
•
gangsta rap (or G-rap)
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!!MORE HIP HOP LANGUAGE
•
to school (teach) someone
•
a trick (sexually manipulative female)
•
to spit (talk to a female)
•
props (proper respect), the opposite of “to dis(respect)” someone
•
Sweet!
•
One = One Love = Good Bye!
•
I gotta bounce (leave the premises)
9
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!!!Web Site:
The Whitest Kids:
www.whitestkids.com
9
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References # 1:
Baldwin, James. “If Black English Isn’t a Language, Then Tell Me
What It Is.” in Living Language. Ed. Alleen Pace Nilsen. Boston,
MA: Allyn and Bacon, 1999, 135-139.
Campbell, Kermit. Getting Our Groove On. Detroit, MI: Wayne State
University Press, 2005.
Clark, Virginia, Paul Eschholz, and Alfred Rosa. Language:
Readings in Language and Culture, 6th Edition. New York, NY:
St. Martin’s Press, 1998.
Crystal, David. “Pidgins and Creoles” (Clark, 321-327)
DeBose, Charles. The Sociology of African American Language.
New York, NY: Palgrave/Macmillan, 2005.
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References # 2:
Elgin, Suzette Haden. “Notes on the Ebonics Controversy.” in Living
Language. Ed. Alleen Pace Nilsen. Boston, MA: Allyn and Bacon, 1999,
112-117.
Eschholz, Paul, Alfred Rosa, and Virginia Clark. “The Power of the Mass
Media.” Language Awareness: Readings for College Writers, Ninth
Edition. Boston, MA: Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2005, 349-420.
Fromkin, Victoria, Robert Rodman and Nina Hyams. An Introduction to
Language. New York, NY: Thomson/Wadsworth, 2007.
Gordon, Dexter B. “Humor in African American Discourse: Speaking of
Oppression.” Journal of Black Studies 29.2 (1998): 254-276.
Kennedy, Randall. Nigger: The Strange Career of a Troublesome Word.
New York, NY: Pantheon Books, 2002.
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References # 3:
King, Martin Luther, Jr. “I Have a Dream” (Eschholz 244-250).
Kitwana, Bakari. The HipHop Generation. New York, NY: BasicCivitas
Books, 2002.
Lanehart, Sonja L. Sociocultural and Historical Contexts of African
American English. Philadelphia, PA: John Benjamins, 2001.
McKissack, Frederick L. “Cyberghetto: Blacks Are Falling Through the
Net” (Eschholz 528-534).
Mey, Jacob L. Pragmatics: An Introduction, 2nd Edition. Malden, MA:
Blackwell, 2001.
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References # 4:
Nilsen, Alleen Pace. Living Language. Needham Heights, MA, 1999.
Nilsen, Alleen Pace, and Don L. F. Nilsen. Encyclopedia of 20th Century American
Humor. Westport, CT: Greenwood, 2000.
http://www.greenwood.com/catalog/OXHUMOR.aspx
Schiffrin, Deborah. Approaches to Discourse. Malden, MA: Blackwell, 1994.
Schuster, E. Breaking the Rules: Liberating Writers through Innovative Grammar
Instruction. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann, 2003.
Smith, Michael W., and Jeffrey D. Wilhelm. Getting It Right: Fresh Approaches to
Teraching Grammar, Usage, and Correctness. New York, NY: Scholastic, 2007.
Smitherman, Geneva “`It Bees Dat Way Sometime’: Sounds and Structure of
Present-Day Black English” (Clark, 328-354).
Staples, Brent. “Black Men and Public Spaces” (Eschholz 255-257).
Vaid, Urvashi. “Separate and Unequal” (Eschholz 251-254).
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