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Black Vernacular:


Black Vernacular, the dialect of English often spoken by African Americans in urban and southern regions, is also known a "African American Vernacular English." Linguists abbreviate this term as AAVE in scholarly writing. John Algeo and Thomas Pyles note in The Origins and Development of the English Language that Black Vernacular in the twentieth century has been distinguished by differences in (1) diction, (2) pronunciation, (3) the use of the consuetudinal be and (4) a tendency to delete the -s ending of verbs. Examples appear from Algeo and Pyles appear below (see pages 219-220). Baugh notes additionally two other features (5) replacement of /∂/ sounds with /d/ sounds or /f/ sounds, (6) use of the emphatic done to stress completion of an act.

(1) African-American vocabulary has in many ways enriched American speech. The words nitty-gritty, jazz, and yam are all words that have entered mainstream English but which originated in African-American dialects. Much modern American slang, such as "throwback" for sports jerseys and "Benjamins" for hundred dollar bills also originate in Black Vernacular.

(2) African-American dialects tend to drop the [t] from words like rest and soft. They likewise tend to drop the [r] sound in words like bird, four, door, and father.

(3) The consuetidinal be refers to the use of an uninflected be to denote habitual or regular action. For instance, stating "She be here everyday" in black dialect implies continuous action. The consuetudinal be also refers to the tendency to delete forms of be in other uses--such as "She here now" instead of "She is here now."

(4) Black Vernacular also tends to omit the final -s ending of verbs. For instance, a speaker of Black Vernacular might say, "He hear you" rather than "He hears you."

(5) Black Vernacular often replaces /∂/ sounds with /d/ sounds or /f/ sounds. For instance, the <th> grapheme in the word that may be pronounced as dat, and the <th> in nothing and mouth may be pronounced as nuf'n and mouf.

(6) Black Vernacular often uses the emphatic done to stress completion of an act. For instance, "He done did it" provides a more forceful alternative to the Standard English "He's already done it."

For expanded discussion, see A. C. Baugh and Thomas Cable's A History of the English Language, 5th edition (Prentice Hall, Upper Saddle River, NJ: 2002), pp.382-84, and John Algeo and Thomas Pyles' The Origins and Development of the English Language, 5th edition (Thompson and Wadsworth, Boston, Massachusetts: 2004): pp. 219-20.

 

 

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