African-American Vernacular English There Are a Couple Term Paper

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African-American Vernacular English

There are a couple of theories as to the origin of African-American Vernacular Englsh (AAVE). Some linguists believe that the language derives from West African languages. This dialect theory is based on the knowledge that most African-Americans who were brought to the United States from Africa had to learn how to speak English by ear. The may have picked up some of the English words incorrectly and incorporated the incorrect words in their language. Another theory is called the Creole Hypothesis. This theory bases its origin on the thought that slaves developed the language themselves. The slaves, who came from many different countries in Africa formulated AAVE so that they may talk amongst themselves. They developed with is called a pidgin by combining words from their own language with new words from America. They used grammar and speech patterns that were known to them from their own language as well. The language was then indirectly taught, or passed on to their children and children's children. Future generations now know the AAVE language (Where Did It Come at (

Some theorists have even gone so far to erroneously believe that AAVEs are the result of a deficient in the brains of black children. It has been said that black children cannot learn Standard English, therefore this theory is called the Deficient Theory. It suggests that black children are trying to speak Standard English but always fall short. As a result system for black children to learn Standard English was developed the system was called, DISTAR Direct Instruction Systems for Teaching Arithmetic and Reading. The program set out to teach children how to write and speak Standard English -- a more acceptable language. (Controversy of Black English ( It is also necessary to note that before the AAVE name was dubbed, the dialect spoken was called simply Black English. However, it changed partly because black people are not the only race or culture to speak the dialect. The name was also changed because there was a stigmatism attached that labeled Black English as an inferior language. This was most likely due to prejudices at the time.

The name was changed to AAVE around the 1970s. Most speakers of AAVE live in America's urban areas. And because not all African-Americans live in urban areas, it is impossible to say that all blacks speak AAVE. However most African-Americans do have some knowledge of AAVE. They may not speak it, but they understand it. In most cases AAVE is spoken at home or among close friends and Standard English is the language spoken in polite society.

African-Americans feels that they cannot speak AAVE in public because it is viewed as slang, and grammatically incorrect. To speak AAVE in public is almost identical to saying a curse word in a university speech. The difference is that most people would know what the curse word means, but polite society may seem clueless as to the meaning behind words spoken in AAVE. This is incredulous because AAVE sounds very much like English. In fact, the language has been so unaccepted that it has been watered down over the years to the point that it sounds very much like Standard English. A Linguist named William Labov worked to disprove the old deficient theory back in the 1970s. Labov wrote a paper, called Academic Ignorance and Black Intelligence. In his paper, Labov points out a theory that there is no problem with the way children speak, rather there is a problem between the relationship among children, teachers, and other educators.

This position holds that inner-city children do not necessarily have inferior mothers, language, or experience, but that the language, family style, and ways of living of inner-city children are significantly different from the standard culture of the classroom, and that this difference is not always properly understood by teachers and psychologists. Linguists believe that we must begin to adapt our school system to the language and learning styles of the majority in the inner-city schools (Labov (

However the linguists, Labov says, believe that while children have the right to learn to read and/or write in their own culture, they must first have a handle on Standard English. Learning to communicate in your own culture, Labov wrote, should be the end result of an American education, not the beginning. In his paper, Labov along with a mixture of white and black investigators followed some teens in South Central Harlem from 1965 to 1968. The team studied the language spoken by groups with names like the Jets, Cobras, Thunderbirds, the Aces and the Oscar Brothers (Labov (

Labov found that the language spoken by the teens was very similar to that spoken by other teens in other cities such as Chicago, Detroit, Philadelphia, Washington and other cities. At the time, Labov said that black children were believed to lack the proper role models for speaking correct or Standard English. They were too isolated and as a result don't know the names of common nouns and cannot form grammatically correct sentences. They also have the inability to speak or convey ideas logically.

Labov disputes this idea by saying that the theorists who have made the hypothesis know nothing about the people or the culture for which they speak. He says that black children receive quite a bit of verbal stimulation and do hear proper English. They can form logical sentences and do know the names of proper nouns or common items.

The concept of verbal deprivation has no basis in social reality; in fact, black children in the urban ghettos receive a great deal of verbal stimulation, hear more well-formed sentences than middle-class children, and participate fully in a highly verbal culture; they have the same basic vocabulary, possess the same capacity for conceptual learning, and use the same logic as anyone else who learns to speak and understand English (Labov (

This theory lends itself to make others believe that black children as a whole do badly on standardized tests because they are unable to learn to speak Standard English. The theory is dangerous, Labov argues because it gives academia the power to make others believe that something is wrong with black children and that there are no defects in the educational system that teaches them (Labov (

One example of note that Labov lends in evidence to support why black children are sometimes seen as non-communicable takes place in an interview room. A white interviewer is at a table and a young black child comes in the room a fire engine sits on a table. The interviewer proceeds to ask the child questions and the child replies with simple, one-word answers. For example the interviewer asks, "What is this?" The boy says after pauses of 8-12 seconds that the item could be used as a jet. When he asks whom he could give it to, the boy pauses (for another 8-12 seconds) and says a single name, Clarence.

Labov says that the child is in a situation where he believes that anything he says could be used against him. He feels as if he is a defendant on trial, the interviewer (although he appears friendly and encouraging) is the prosecutor. No matter how the interviewer may behave, the young man knows from experience that the interviewer has the upper hand in the conversation. And of course, he does not know the interviewer and perhaps view people of the interviewer's race as people who find fault with his language and the way he communicates. In other words, the young man is on eggshells (Labov (

The verbal behavior, which is shown by the child in the test situation quoted above, is not the result of ineptness of the interviewer. It is rather the result of regular sociolinguistic factors operating upon adult and child in this asymmetrical situation (Labov (

The following are some common words and phrases used in AAVE

Ah 'on' know. I don't know don' know the res' I know the rest

Bro brother

Skreet street

Mo' betta much better

Gotcha I have or I understand

Trippin Crazy or unbelievable

Sho'nuf Sure enough

Crib House hood Neighborhood

Sistah Sister

Got no Don't have any

You be You are (the state of being)

Chile pleaze Child, please

Studyn' (as in I ain't studyn you). I don't care about this particular situation

AAVE: "She BIN had dat han'-made dress" (SE: She's had that hand-made dress for a long time, and still does.)

AAVE: "Befo' you know it, he be done aced de tesses." (SE Before you know it, he will have already aced the tests.)

AAVE: "Ah 'on know what homey be doin." (SE: I don't know what my friend is usually doing.)

AAVE: "Can't nobody tink de way he do." (SE: Nobody can think the way he does.)

AAVE: "I ast Ruf could she bring it ovah to Tom crib." (SE: I asked Ruth if/whether she could bring it over to Tom's place.) (Jackson (…

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