African American Vernacular English


African American Vernacular English (AAVE), also known as Ebonics, is loosely apparent in modern day music and pop culture references. Internet stardom and viral videos capture the distinct grammatical structure in phrases like "Aint nobody got time for that!" and it is actually quite the controversial topic. The debate is to whether it is a dialect of English or its own language. During its development and early recognition, the definition underwent multiple and at times contradictory reiterations.

  1. Williams’ original (1975) international definition, extending the linguistic consequences of the African slave trade from West Africa to all countries where African slave descendants now reside.

  2. Ebonics is the equivalent of Black English and is considered to be a dialect of English (Tolliver-Weddington 1979).

  3. Ebonics is the antonym of Black English and is considered to be a language other than English (Smith 1997).

  4. Ebonics refers to language among all people of African descent throughout the African Diaspora (Blackshire-Belay 1996).

What I thought would be a unique and interesting topic of discussion has ultimately forced me to make some clear statements. This is my own opinion formed from my own reading into the subject and ultimately do not reflect the opinio

Here's what I'd argue it is and isn't.

What it is:

  • It is a variety of the English language with it's own rules and words.

What it is not:

  • Grammatically simple/lazy

  • A language that all African Americans know

  • A vocabulary comprising of soleyslang

What it sounds like:

  • Typical characteristics include:

  • the omission of the final consonant in words

  • Example - 'pas' for past, 'han' for hand

  • the pronunciation of word initial th-sound as /t/ or /d/ depending on voicing

  • 'tink' for think

  • 'dat' for that

  • the pronunciation of word final th-sound as /f/ or /v/ depending on voicing

  • 'ruf' for Ruth

  • 'brova' for 'brother

  • vowel distortion

  • 'may' for my

  • 'rahd' for ride

  • Grammar

  • Omitting the b,d,g at the beginning of auxillary verbs

  • e.g. 'I 'on know' for I don't know

  • e.g. 'Ama do it' for I'm going to do it

  • Allowance of double negative and negative inversion

  • e.g. 'Ain't nobody got time for that' - this only works with negative indefinite articles. 'Ain't John got time for that' does not work unless a question is being asked.

  • zero third person present tense -s forms

  • inverted embedded question and zero possessive -s in

  • Consonant cluster simplification (for 2 homogenously voiceless or voiced word final consonant clusters)

  • haND (both voiced)-->han', teST (both voiceless)-->tes'

  • paNT (voiced + voiceless) does NOT become pan'

  • the exception is negative auxillary forms

  • e.g. caN'T and doN'T which can lose the final 't'

References

http://www.pbs.org/speak/seatosea/americanvarieties/AAVE/ebonics/

http://www.linguisticsociety.org/content/what-ebonics-african-american-english


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