Language in the Inner City: Studies in the Black English Vernacular

Language in the Inner City: Studies in the Black English Vernacular

Language in the Inner City: Studies in the Black English Vernacular

Language in the Inner City: Studies in the Black English Vernacular

Synopsis

"Language in the Inner City" firmly establishes African American Vernacular English not simply as slang but as a well-formed set of rules of pronunciation and grammar capable of conveying complex logic and reasoning and confirms the Black vernacular as a separate and independent dialect of English.

Excerpt

Every step that we take in approaching the black English vernacular will be influenced by our fundamental attitude to the question: how different is BEV from other dialects of English? There is a great deal of evidence to indicate that BEV is more different from most other English dialects than they are from each other, including the standard English of the classroom. If we do not accept the fact that BEV has distinct rules of its own, we find that the speech of black children is a mass of errors and this has indeed been the tradition of early education research in this area (Loban 1966). In our early study of the Lower East Side of New York City, it quickly became apparent that black speakers had many more "nonstandard" forms than any other group by a factor of ten or more. It is confusing and uneconomical to approach these forms in terms of their deviation from other standards.

In the last chapter, we showed that BEV had a distinctly different organization of the English sound system from the white NYC vernacular though we did not go into the rules that produced this result. In this chapter we will examine briefly the nature of some of these rules and see what relation they have to comparable rules in other dialects in contact with BEV. Is BEV a separate language, so that standard English has to be taught to black children as a different system with the same techniques that are used to teach French and Spanish? Or is the BEV system basically a variant of other English systems, that can easily be placed in relation to it? Black children in the school system use language that is quite variable, showing some features of BEV and some features of SE. Is this a mixture of two different systems, or is it one of the intermediate stages in a single system that embraces both BEV and SE?

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