African American English: A Linguistic Introduction

African American English: A Linguistic Introduction

African American English: A Linguistic Introduction

African American English: A Linguistic Introduction

Synopsis

This authoritative introduction to African American English (AAE) is the first textbook to look at the grammar as a whole. Clearly organised, it describes patterns in the sentence structure, sound system, word formation and word use in AAE. The book uses linguistic description and data from conversation to explain that AAE is not a compilation of random deviations from mainstream English but that it is a rule-governed system. The textbook examines topics such as education, speech events in the secular and religious world, and the use of language in literature and the media to create black images. This much-needed book includes exercises to accompany each chapter and will be essential reading for students in linguistics, education, anthropology, African American studies and literature.

Excerpt

What do speakers know when they know African American English (AAE)? One of the goals of this book is to answer this question by presenting a description of AAE and explaining that it is different from but not a degraded version of classroom English (i.e., general American English, mainstream English) or the English which is the target of radio and television announcers. Researchers who study the history of AAE emphasize the importance of comparing AAE to other dialectal varieties of English, especially those spoken in the United States, because AAE is likely to be more similar to other English varieties than it is to classroom English. In this book, I will compare AAE to other English varieties and to classroom English. The comparison to classroom English is important because (1) we have a clear picture of classroom English grammar, and (2) it may be useful for those in the school systems who work with speakers of AAE to see how the variety differs systematically from classroom English.

AAE is a variety that has set phonological (system of sounds), morphological (system of structure of words and relationship among words), syntactic (system of sentence structure), semantic (system of meaning) and lexical (structural organization of vocabulary items and other information) patterns. So when speakers know AAE, they know a system of sounds, word and sentence structure, meaning and structural organization of vocabulary items and other information.

African Americans who use this variety, and not all do, use it consistently, but there are regional differences that will distinguish varieties of AAE spoken in the United States. For example, although speakers of AAE in Louisiana and Texas use very similar syntactic patterns, their vowel sounds may differ. Speakers of AAE in areas in Pennsylvania also share similar syntactic patterns with speakers in Louisiana and Texas; however, speakers in areas in Pennsylvania are not likely to share some of the patterns that the Louisiana and Texas speakers share with other speakers of southern regions. Also, speakers from the three different states have different vowel sounds. That is to say that they will all use the same or similar semantic and syntactic . . .

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