Lecture 18 African America English

Lecture 18 African America English - The story of Spoken...

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• “The story of Spoken Soul is not an easy one to tell because it is not just about language. To tell the story right, you have to talk about the culture and lived experience of African Americans. You have to talk about a language inextricable from the complex social structure and political history of people of African descent in the United States” Geneva Smitherman, foreword to: Rickford, J.R. & R.J. Rickford. 2000. Spoken Soul – The Story of Black English. Wiley: New York
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African American English: myths, structure, origins
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African American English (AAE) as a source of ethnic pride: * “this passion, this skill…this incredible music” (J. Baldwin). African American English as the target of negative (and vilifying) reactions: (comments posted on an America Online poll about Ebonics) * “disgusting black street slang” * “incorrect and substandard” * “bastardized English” * “this outmost ridiculous made-up language” All quotes cited in Rickford & Rickford 2000 Exaltation and belittlement
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African American English The most studied and most controversial of all American English dialects. Other names used in the present and past for African American English: Negro Dialect, American Negro speech, Black communications, Black dialect, Black street speech, Black English, Black Vernacular English, Afro- American English, Ebonics, African American Vernacular English. These terms coincide with the social climate.
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Widespread misconceptions about AAE AAE is “just a bunch of slang” AAE has “bad grammar” “Ebonics has no dictionary, no text books, no grammar, no rules. It is rebellious and outside rule- based language” cited in Rickford & Rickford 2000
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Slang Slang = a dynamic aspect of every language; trendy vocabulary that it is short-lived; varies according to region and social class. Generally limited to the speech of younger generations. Philadelphia: “That’s whassup” Washington, D.C.: “I’m with it” New Orleans: “I’m ‘bout it”
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Slang Some slang examples from 1998 (cited in textbook Chapter 20): Negative labels: bama, busta, donut, dork, imp, goober, sherm. .. Positive experience: all that, bad, blaze, da bomb, the shit, radical, slamming, sweet, tight . A function of slang is identifying with a group; keeping up with slang serves to include (or exclude) a group of people.
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not slang AAE = a language variety with systematic patterns of pronunciation, grammatical rules and distinctive vocabulary. Slang is just a small part of the vocabulary of AAE. AAE shares features with Standard and other varieties
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Lecture 18 African America English - The story of Spoken...

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