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Unformatted text preview: Language, Society and Culture, Andrew Simpson, USC Language, Society and Culture Unit 8 African American Vernacular English, language in education and the Ebonics Controversy Unit 6 considered Pidgin and Creole languages and how people often have rather negative attitudes towards these forms of speech, thinking of them as impure, substandard varieties of language. In some cases people who do not understand the complexities of Creole languages believe that speakers of stable Pidgin and Creole languages use these language types because they are cognitively unable to learn ‘regular’ ‘normal’ languages. It is believed that the simplification which can apparently be observed in Pidgins and Creoles indicates that the speakers of such varieties cannot manipulate the more complex systems of standard non- Creole languages. The reduction and simplification patterns found in Pidgins and Creoles are therefore sometimes attributed to decreased levels of intelligence among their speakers. Quite similar attitudes have for a long time been held by certain parts of society towards very colloquial forms of English spoken by African Americans in the USA and by young Caribbean-origin people in Great Britain. This lecture considers the vernacular (i.e. very colloquial) speech of African Americans from (primarily) working-class socioeconomic backgrounds, the variety now commonly referred to as African American Vernacular English (AAVE), 1 and three issues in particular: A. Why do some people think that AAVE has no regular grammar? Can it be shown that the perceived ‘irregularities’ in AAVE are actually generated by regular, fully grammatical rules of the same type that occur in standard American English/SAE? B. What is the connection of AAVE to Creole languages? Does AAVE derive from some earlier Creole, or do its non-standard English features come from other dialects of non-Creole English. In other words, what are the roots of AAVE? C. What kind of English should be taught and used in classrooms where the majority of students speak AAVE? Many young black children experience considerable difficulties in bridging the gap between the variety of language spoken within their community and in the home – AAVE - and the variety generally demanded by their school – SAE. These two forms of language are significantly different despite having an underlying similarity. How have 1 William Labov characterizes this form of speech as: ‘the relatively uniform grammar found in its most consistent form in the speech of Black youth from 8 to 19 years old who participate fully in the street culture of the inner cities’. 1 Language, Society and Culture, Andrew Simpson, USC people reacted to attempts to make greater use of AAVE in the classroom – the Ebonics Controversy?...
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This note was uploaded on 11/02/2011 for the course LING 115 at USC.