The Use of Black English in the Us Film Indusrty



Admitted to defence

by the head of The chair of

teaching methods

Rysbaeva G.K

«_____» ______________2015


 The Use of Black English in the Us Film Indusrty

Specialty: 5В011900-«Foreign languages: two foreign languages»

Written by Imandos Aizada

4 course

Scientific supervisor Raya Amirzhanova

senior lecturer

Almaty 2015



Imandos Aizada

 The Use of Black English in the Us Film Indusrty


Specialty: 5B011900-“Foreign language: two foreign languages”

Almaty 2015


The urgency of diploma paper: Language reflects the society in which the speaker lives. This is a common notion amongst linguists all over the world. Language is a social phenomenon and different varieties of a language have more or less prestige than others, according to Trudgill. One of the influential languages that we are used universally or internationally around the world is English. English has been used for several purposes, aspects, and field for instance in business, office, and other institutions. Non English Speaking community is also learning English to enable them to communicate with other people worldwide. Therefore, English has many varieties such as American English, British English, Australian English, Irish English, Appalachian, and many others. Standard English is the most common variety of English used by people in formal community such as school, office, trade and so on. Standard English possesses parallel, standardized, and codified patterns throughout the world and people who learn English are always thought to use Standard English.

Language is a style of speaking and social phenomenon that becomes the most important all of the forms of human communication. Using language there are variations which exists in the society. Today, in sociolinguistics, variation is central. The variations are commonly occur based on the uses, the users, the participant, and the situation. As explained by Holmes, “Language varies according to its uses as well as its users, according to where it used and to whom, as well as according to who is using it”.

It is also explained by Halliday, et all. As quote by Maclagan, that language variation is divided into two categories: variation according to the user and according to the use. Variation according to the users contains aspects of language which reveals the speaker`s place of origin, gender, age, social class, ethnicity, education. Meanwhile, language variation according to use is related to the changing of speech or event. One of the interesting variations for discuss is about language and ethnicity.

Furthermore, there is also non Standard English variety which is used by people from certain community and it is also usually used in informal situation. One type of non-standard English varieties is vernacular language which is often called African American English (AAVE). Also, African American Vernacular English (AAVE) encompasses several labels including Ebonics, Black English, African American English, Black Vernacular, Black English Vernacular and Black Vernacular English, all of which describe the english that is primarily, but no exclusively, associated with the speech of African Americans. Many linguists use the label “African American English” (AAE), but addition of the term “Vernacular” (meaning “common everyday language”) is gaining favor, since the word distinguishes it from the formal English spoken by many African Americans. We often hear some actors or actresses use non-Standard English variety in music, movies, dramas, etc. While we hears some words that are very uncommon from the Standard English we learn, we usually feel confused with those words. They might bring us to confusion. Even, nowadays AAVE is shown on the Disney films as “King Lion, The Jungle Book” and etc. This kind of cartoons can influence children`s grammatical education. For example, in the cartoon The Jungle Book, King Louie begins to sing a song to Mowgli by using AAVE. Also, it has shown in the Hollywood movies, music, lyrics and so one. From the 1960’s to the present, African American English has increasingly become also acceptable term for Black English , and the corresponding official name for the language variety used by Africans Americans is thus African American English or African American Vernacular English (AAVE).(15,65) Black English Vernacular (BEV) as coined by William Labov in 1972 defines the variety American English spoken by Black People. Its pronunciation is in some respects common to Southern American English, which is spoken by many African Americans in the United States and by many non-African American.

The purpose of the research. The aim of this work is to research the linguistic aspects of Black English language.

Objectives of the paper are:

- to analyze the origin of Black English.

- to analyze the development of Pidgin and Creole.

- to consider differences between Black English, Standard English,

- to investigate the African American Vernacular English and its use in

the US film industry.

- to investigate the grammar of African American Vernacular English.

Focus of the Research. The scope of this research is on the grammatical analysis of African American Vernacular English (AAVE) used in Precious movie.

Research Question

In this research, the writer will purpose the research question as below: To what extent is the difference of grammatical feature of African American Vernacular English (AAVE) in Precious movie from Standard English?

Significance of the Research

The significance of this research are as follows:

A.Practically, this research is expected of giving valuable knowledge in the development of linguistics in sociolinguistics field in general and especially in the study of grammatical characteristics for African American Vernacular English (AAVE), comparing to Standard English (SE).

B.Theoretically, this research can be reference of sociolinguistics field for the language researcher and the readers. For the writer, this research can enlarge her knowledge about sociolinguists especially African American Vernacular English (AAVE).

Objective of the Research

The objective of the research is to know grammatical features of African American Vernacular English which are used by the main character, Precious, a black American actress, in Precious movie.

Method of the Research

In this research, the writer uses descriptive qualitative method. The writer describes the data which are collected from the script of Precious movie by referring to the existence of linguistic elements without counting them statistically.

Data Analysis

In this research, the writer uses the descriptive analysis technique. In this analysis, the writer uses the grammatical characteristics of AAVE which are purposed by Fasold&Wolfram (1970); Owen (1995), and other AAVE grammarians.

Instrument of the Research

The instrument in this research is the writer herself as the instrument to get the data. The process of the collecting data in this research is divided into three steps. First, the writer watched Precious movie and read the script. Secondly, the writer chose the grammatical features of AAVE which are used in the dialogs. Then, the writer analyzed the collecting data from sociolinguistics theory, which involve grammatical features of African American Vernacular English (AAVE).

The structure of work.

The diploma work consists of an introduction, two parts, conclusion and bibliography.

The introduction covers topicality, aim, objectives, and theoretical base of research, theoretical significance, the practical significance, and methods of research and the structure of work.

Chapter I. Development of Black English presents historical review of Black English, analyses of the origin of Black English, the development of Pidgin and Creole.

Chapter II. Development of the U.S. Black English considers differences of Black English and Standard English, British English and British Black English, A.A.V.E. and its use in teaching process.

Conclusion present the results of the investigation.

Bibliography covers 39 units of materials, used in the diploma paper.

Historical review of Black English

According to J.L. Dillard some 80% of black Americans speak the Black English, and he and many commentators stress its African origins. The history of Black English in the United States is complex, controversial, and only partly understood. Black English is a term going back only to 1969. It is used almost exclusively as the name for a dialect for American English spoken by many black Americans. Records of the early speech forms are sparse. It is unclear, how much influence black speech has had on the pronunciation of southern whites; according to some linguists, generation of close contact resulted in the families of the slaves owners picking up some of the speech habits of their servants, which gradually developed into the distinctive southern ‘drawl’. (33: 23)

From the early 17-th century, ships from Europe traveled to the West African coast, where they exchanged cheap good for black slaves. The slaves were shipped in barbarous conditions to the Caribbean islands and the American coast, where they were in tern exchanged for such commodities as sugar, rum, and molasses. The ships then returned to England, completing an ‘Atlantic triangle’ of journeys, and the process began again. The first 20 African slaves arrived in Virginia on a Dutch ship in 1619. Britain and the United States had outlawed the slave trade by the American Revolution their numbers had grown to half a million, and there were over 4 million by the time slavery was abolished, at the end of the United States Civil War.

The policy of the slave-trades was to bring people of different language backgrounds together in the ships, to make it difficult for the groups to plot rebellion. The result was the growth of several pidgin forms of communication, and in particular a pidgin between the slavers and the sailors, many of whom spoke English.

The black slaves who were arriving in Jamestown, Va. In 1619. Manhattan Island in 1635 and Massachusetts in 1638 have used the Afro- European varieties for communication among themselves. In 1692, justice Hathorne recorded Tituba, an African slave from the island of Barbados in the British West Indies, speaking in the pidgin of the slaves. Tituba was quoted as saying “He tell me he God,” The words of the phrase are English, but the structure and grammar of the phrase are congruous with that the West African languages that Smitherman identifies. (32, 8) Ebonics is a recent and controversial neologism, coined by Robert L. Williams during a 1973 conference in St. Louis, Missouri, “cognitive and Language Development of the Black Child”. It is a blend of ebony (a synonym for black that lacks its pejorative connotations) and phonics (pertaining to speech sounds) and by definition it refers specifically to an African-language-based Creole (from an earlier pidgin) that has been relexified by borrowing from English, resulting in what African Americans now speak in the United States. (34: 54) Black English is complex, controversial, and only partly understood. Records of the early speech forms are sparse. It is unclear, how much influence black speech has had on the pronunciation of southern whites; according to some linguists, generation of close contact resulted in the families of the slaves owners picking up some of the speech habits of their servants, which gradually developed into the distinctive southern ‘drawl’. Slave labor in the south gave birth to diverse linguistic norms; former indentured servants from all parts of the British Isles, who often became overseers on plantations, variously influenced the foundation of Black English. First the industrial revolution then the Civil War disrupted slavery and promoted African-American migration within the U.S., s a result of which slave dialects were transplanted from Southern plantation to the factories of the North and Midwest. There was a widespread exodus to the industrial cities of the northern states, and black culture became known throughout the country for its music and dance.

Many historical events have had an effect on Black English. One of this was the early use of English-based pidgins and creoles among slave populations, as almost all Africans originally were brought to the United States as slaves. Pidgin is a variety of a language which developed for some practical purpose, such as trading, among groups of people who did not know each other’s language. Creole is a pidgin which has become the first language of a social community. (17: 124)

One of the most distinctive features of AAVE is the complete absence of the copula verb be in some social linguistics context. Holmes gives the example of African American speakers` speech. They usually omit the verb be, like in the sentences: She very nice. (American Standard English: She is very nice), He a teacher, that my book, etc. According to the Green, many characteristic features of AAE are from the part of the linguistic system that put together to form sentence. She gives an example of AAE speakers` sentence: Didn`t nobody ask me do I be late for class. From this sentence, we can analyze that it has three AAE features: inversion/ multiple negation; embedded yes/no question: and habitual be.

Moreover, semantic features of AAVE, refer to words which have two levels of meaning, “one black; one white”, like “He is bad dude.” It has negative meaning: “a person of undesirable character”, or positive meaning: “a person of highly desirable character”. Sentence patterns can be used as markers of black images in film. In the 1994 film Flesh used the verbal marker be that indicates habitual recurrences. In that film, African American characters of all age groups use features associated with AAE. Now, there are some American movie which the characters use AAVE. One of the is in Precious movie. Precious, an adaptation by Geoffrey S. Fletcher of the 1996 novel Push by Sapphire, is a 2009 American drama film directed by Lee Daniels. Clareece “Precious” Jones, the main character, is an overweight, illiterate African American teen in Harlem. Just as she`s about to give birth to her second child, Jones is accepted into an alternative school where a teacher helps to her find a new path in her life. Precious has received dozens of nominations in award categories ranging from the performance of the cast to the cinematography to the adaptation of the book into the screenplay to the film itself including six Academy Award nominations.

Black Americans usually use their language, which is different from Standard American English (SAE). It`s known as African American Vernacular English (AAVE). It will be interesting to study the characteristics of AAVE, especially in the grammatical features, because the actors used more grammatical features, because the actors used more grammatical features of AAVE than the other features of AAVE in this movie.

For example, in one of her dialogs, she said, “This the alternative?” its sentence can be analyzed as having grammatical features of AAVE: zero copula. In American Standard English, it should be “Is this the alternative?” Besides, in this sentence: “He ain`t got no voice.” We can identify it by checking the grammatical characteristics of AAVE. This sentence can be analyzed as having AAVE feature: double negation. It should be “He did not get any voice.” We can input the sentence into the table to compare the grammatical characteristics of AAVE with Standard English.

AAVE sentence General Description SAE

This the alternative The copula be is dropped Is this the alternative?

(zero copula).

He ain`t got no voice Use of ain`t as a general He didn`t get any voice

negative indicator and double negation

This condition causes the writer to think that many Kazakh students and also foreign students outside America who learn English still do not understand about African American Vernacular English although they often find it in many television programs and films. Accordingly, in this research, the writer is interested in studying grammatical features of AAVE which are used in Precious movie.

Black English was investigated in the USA by D. Crystal (“The Cambridge Encyclopedia of Language ”,” English Language”), by C. Baugh and T.Cable (“History of the English Language”) , in Russia by R.V. Reznic, T.S. Sookina, (“A History of The English Language”), by A.D. Schweitzer (“The Social Differentiation of English in The USA.”), in Kazakhstan by F.S.Duisebayeva (“ Linguistics Aspects of Black English”) but there are no monographic research of B.E. in our country.

Theoretical base of research are comprised by the works of D.Crystal, C.Baugh and T.Cable, A.D.Schweitzer, F.S. Duisebayeva and etc.

During the early years of American settlement, a highly distinctive form of English was emerging in the island of the West Indies and the Southern part of the mainland, spoken by the incoming black population. The emergence of slave trade was a consequence of the important of African slaves to work on the sugar plantations, a practice started by the Spanish in 1517.

Cultural diversity is on the rise in America. The most recent census projects minority groups to continue growing, given the higher fertility rates of Asians, Hispanics, and African Americans compared to the rate of whites. Past consumer research has pointed out that these growth patterns in ethnic subcultures have significant impact for the consumption aspects of American life.

One important aspect of culture is language. The Whorfian hypothesis asserts that the structure of the vocabulary and grammar of an individual's language actually shapes that person's view of the world. Others have argued that language constitutes the most important instrument of socialization; that reality is filtered, apprehended, encoded, codified and conveyed via some linguistic shape (19: 91). Regardless of whether one accepts such strong hypotheses, the notion that language is a critical aspect of culture cannot be rejected .

In relating language to diversity, part of the definition of a subculture may be manifested in linguistic differences (31: 82). Language evolves and changes continually, with people tending to speak most similarly to those around them. Furthermore, language can serve a unifying function for sociocultural groups (17: 121). Language is a means by which individuals locate themselves in social space. Speech is an act of identity: when we speak, we identify ourselves as belonging to a particular group, be it gender, social class or race.

First the industrial revolution then the Civil War disrupted slavery and promoted African-American migration within the U.S., s a result of which slave dialects were transplanted from Southern plantation to the factories of the North and Midwest. Slave labor in the south gave birth to diverse linguistic norms; former indentured servants from all parts of the British Isles, who often became overseers on plantations, variously influenced the foundation of Black English. There was a widespread exodus to the industrial cities of the northern states, and black culture became known throughout the country for its music and dance. (15: 36). Black English was born of slavery between the late XVI c.- early XVII c. and middle XIX c. and followed black migration from the southern states to racially isolated ghettos throughout the United States.

Slave labor in the south gave birth to diverse linguistic norms; former indentured servants from all parts of the British Isles, who often became overseers on plantations, variously influenced the foundation of B.E.V. first the industrial revolution the Civil War disrupted slavery and promoted African American migration within the United States, as a result of which slave dialects were transplanted from Southern plantation to the factories of the North and Midwest. An artifact not of race but of a speech community, Black English originated as a pidgin (a simplified language used in a commercial context to facilitate communication among speakers of different languages) that the slaves coming from a variety of language backgrounds used to communicate among themselves.

In the XVIII century, more records of the speech of slaves and the representations of their speech were produced. In fact, J.L. Dillard claims that “By 1715 there clearly was an African Pidgin English known on a worldwide scale. In 1744, an ad in The New York Evening Post read: “Ran away … a new African Fellow named Prince, he can’t scarce speak a Word of English.” In 1760, an ad in the North Carolina Gazette read: “Ran away from the Subscriber, African Born, speaks bad English. In 1734, the Philadelphia American Weekly Mercury read: “Ran away …; he’s Pennsylvanian born and speaks good English.” (33: 16) Quotations from Black English speakers became abundant in the records of Northern states by about 1750, nearly half a century before the earliest records in the Southern colonies were found in Charleston, S.C. (10: 15)

Black characters made their way into show business in 1777 with the comical Trial of Atticus before Justice Beau, for Rape. In this farcical production, "one of our neighbor's," says "Yes, Maser, he tell me that Atticus he went to bus 'em one day, and a shilde cry, and so he let 'em alon". Much like Tituba's statement, the statements above use English vocabulary, yet the structure and grammar of the statements well in keeping with that of the West African Languages.

Other informative evidence in tracing the development of Black English lies in newspaper ads reporting runaway slaves. In locating and identifying a runaway slave, the slaves' speech played an instrumental role. It is important to remember that the slave trade was not outlawed until 1808, and even then it was not strictly adhered to. Smitherman reports that "As late as 1858, over 400 slaves were brought direct from Africa to Georgia". Consequently, there was a constant influx of Africans who spoke no English at all. This produced a community of people with a broad array of mastery of Black English and even Standard English. (32: 84)

This is made clear when we see the newspaper ads that reported runaway slaves. This stratification of language is vital in the development and the development of the perception of Black English, if it is remembered that not all Blacks were slaves in Early America. Successful runaways were likely to be those who attained a relative mastery of Standard English. The mastery of Standard English would prove invaluable to a slave who had to travel a long distance across American soil to win his freedom. Further more, early Black writers, such as Frederick Douglass, wrote in the Standard English of his time. A mastery of Standard English was also beneficial in passing as a free Black. In a very real and disturbing way, Black English became the language of slavery and servitude. (35: 212)

During the Civil war period, abolitionists made the speech of slaves know to all serious readers of that era. Writers such as Harriet Beecher Stowe and Thomas Halliburton produced many works that indicated their knowledge of the existence of Black English. While the Civil War and the emancipation of slaves were significant historical events, their impact was mitigated severely by the Jim Crow era. Although everyone labeled "Negro" by the Jim Crow laws did not speak Black English, it is safe to assume that those Blacks who did speak Black English far outnumbered those who spoke Standard English.

The importance of English lexicology is based not on the size of its vocabulary, however big it is, but on the fact that at present it is the world’s most widely used language. One of the most fundamental works on the English language of the present — “A Grammar of Contemporary English” by R. Quirk, S. Greenbaum, G. Leech and J. Svartvik (19:78) — gives the following data: it is spoken as a native language by nearly three hundred million people in Britain, the United States, Ireland, Australia, Canada, New Zealand, South Africa and some other countries. The knowledge of English is widely spread geographically — it is in fact used in all continents. It is also spoken in many countries as a second language and used in official and business activities there. This is the case in India, Pakistan and many other former British colonies. English is also one of the working languages of the United Nations and the universal language of international aviation. More than a half world’s scientific literature is published in English and 60% of tahe world’s radio broadcasts are in English. For all these reasons it is widely studied all over the world as a foreign language.

The theoretical value of lexicology becomes obvious if we realise that it forms the study of one of the three main aspects of language, i.e. its vocabulary, the other two being its grammar and sound system. The theory of meaning was originally developed within the limits of philosophical science. The relationship between the name and the thing named has in the course of history constituted one of the key questions in gnostic theories and therefore in the struggle of materialistic and idealistic trends. The idealistic point of view assumes that the earlier forms of words disclose their real correct meaning, and that originally language was created by some superior reason so that later changes of any kind are looked upon as distortions and corruption.

The materialistic approach considers the origin, development and current use of words as depending upon the needs of social communication. The dialectics of its growth is determined by its interaction with the development of human practice and mind. In the light of V. I. Lenin’s theory of reflection we know that the meanings of words reflect objective reality. Words serve as names for things, actions, qualities, etc. and by their modification become better adapted to the needs of the speakers. This proves the fallacy of one of the characteristic trends in modern idealistic linguistics, the so-called Sapir-Whorf thesis according to which the linguistic system of one’s native language not only expresses one’s thoughts but also determines them. This view is incorrect, because our mind reflects the surrounding world not only through language but also directly.

Lexicology came into being to meet the demands of many different branches of applied linguistics, namely of lexicography, standardisation of terminology, information retrieval, literary criticism and especially of foreign language teaching.

Its importance in training a would-be teacher of languages is of a quite special character and cannot be overestimated as it helps to stimulate a systematic approach to the facts of vocabulary and an organised comparison of the foreign and native language. It is particularly useful in building up the learner’s vocabulary by an effective selection, grouping and analysis of new words. New words are better remembered if they are given not at random but organised in thematic groups, word-families, synonymic series, etc.

A good knowledge of the system of word-formation furnishes a tool helping the student to guess and retain in his memory the meaning of new words on the basis of their motivation and by comparing and contrasting them with the previously learned elements and patterns.

The knowledge, for instance, of the meaning of negative, reversative and pejorative prefixes and patterns of derivation may be helpful in understanding new words. For example such words as immovable a, deforestation n and miscalculate v will be readily understood as ‘that cannot be moved’, ‘clearing land from forests’ and ‘to calculate wrongly’.

By drawing his pupils’ attention to the combining characteristics of words the teacher will prevent many mistakes.1 It will be word-groups falling into patterns, instead of lists of unrelated items, that will be presented in the classroom.

A working knowledge and understanding of functional styles and stylistic synonyms is indispensable when literary texts are used as a basis for acquiring oral skills, for analytical reading, discussing fiction and translation. Lexicology not only gives a systematic description of the present make-up of the vocabulary, but also helps students to master the literary standards of word usage. The correct use of words is an important counterpart of expressive and effective speech. An exact knowledge of the vocabulary system is also necessary in connection with technical teaching means.

Lexicology plays a prominent part in the general linguistic training of every philologist by summing up the knowledge acquired during all his years at the foreign language faculty. It also imparts the necessary skills of using different kinds of dictionaries and reference books, and prepares for future independent work on increasing and improving one’s vocabulary.

Words are the central elements of language system, they face both ways: they are the biggest units of morphology and the smallest of syntax", and what is more, they embody the main structural properties and functions of the language. Words can be separated in an utterance by other such units and can be used in isolation. Unlike words, morphemes cannot be divided into smaller meaningful units and are functioning in speech only as constituent parts of words. Words are thought of as representing integer concept, feeling or action or as having a single referent. The meaning of morphemes is more abstract and more general than that of words and at the same time they are less autonomous.

Set expressions are word groups consisting of two or more words whose combination is integrated so that they are introduced in speech, so to say, ready-made as units with a specialised meaning of the whole that is not understood as a mere sum total of the meanings of the elements.

In the spelling system of the language words are the smallest units of written discourse: they are marked off by solid spelling. The ability of an average speaker to segment any utterance into words is sustained by literacy. Yet it is a capacity only reinforced by education: it is well known that every speaker of any language is always able to break any utterance into words. The famous American linguist E. Sapir testified that even illiterate American Indians were perfectly capable of dictating to him — when asked to do so — texts in their own language “word by word”. The segmentation of a word into morphemes, on the other hand, presents sometimes difficulties even for trained linguists.

Many authors devoted a good deal of space to discussing which of the two: the word or the morpheme is to be regarded as the basic unit. Many American linguists (Ch. Hockett or Z. Harris, for instance) segmented an utterance into morphemes ignoring words. Soviet lexicologists proceed from the assumption that it is the word that is the basic unit, especially as all branches of linguistic knowledge and all levels of language have the word as their focal point. A convincing argumentation and an exhaustive review of literature is offered by A. A. (13: 80).

If, however, we look now a little more closely into this problem, we shall see that the boundaries separating these three sets of units are sometimes fluid. Every living vocabulary is constantly changing adapting itself to the functions of communication in the changing world of those who use it. In this process the vocabulary changes not only quantitatively by creating new words from the already available corpus of morphemes and according to existing patterns but also qualitatively. In these qualitative changes new morphemic material and new word-building patterns come into being, and new names sometimes adapt features characteristic of other sets, those of groups of words, for instance.

1.1. Features of African American Vernacular English

There are more differences between AAVE and Standard English in the consonant systems than in the vowel systems. Like in Southern White English, monopthongization takes place with words like side (sad) and time (tam), whereas words with short /e/ before nasals are pronounced similarly to /i/, so that Ben and bin sound identical, as in Southern White dialects (20:22). Further, I have observed that various expressions like you all (y’all) and I’m going to (I’ma) are pronounced with simplification in AAVE and some other dialects of English as well. One regular feature of AAVE is that final consonant clusters are reduced, except when a voiced consonant is followed by a voiceless one. This means that cold and coal are pronounced the same way in AAVE (20 :220). The reduction and assimilation of consonants also lead to morphological changes, when nouns are turned into plurals: desk (dess) becomes (desses), since adding an extra –s to a noun with two final –s would aggravate pronunciation (21 :5;20 :220). Reduction is common also with first syllables, when unstressed, as in (re)’member and (a)’bout (20 :221). The sound that is pronounced /ð/ in Standard English is pronounced differently in AAVE, depending on the position of the phoneme. Hence, /ð/ in initial position is replaced by a [d] sound, so that this and that sound like (dis) and (dat). In medial position, /ð/ is often pronounced like /v/, as in [bəvə] (brother). The change of /θ/ to /f/ is another feature that is typical of both AAVE and several other varieties of English (20:220-221). Before and after nasals, AAVE sometimes has /t/, so that arithmetic and tenth are pronounced (arithmetic) and (tent), respectively (20: 227). It is not uncommon in AAVE that /l/ disappears in words like told and toll, which are consequently pronounced like toe, and in contracted forms, which leads to sentences like I’ll do it sounding like (a du it). Contracted forms like you’ll and I’ll are pronounced (ju) and (a) 4 because of this l-reduction ( 19:265). Deletion of final nasals is not rare in AAVE either; man is thence pronounced (mae) (20:217). Another consonant difference involves the treatment of /r/: AAVE is non-rhotic. Like in other non-rhotic vernaculars, /r/ is not pronounced at the end of words or before consonants. Moreover, in AAVE, /r/ is also silent between vowels. Hence sure is pronounced (sho); dark is pronounced (dak), and Darryl becomes (Dal) (7:220). As in some white people’s speech, final –ing forms are replaced by a single n, as is often seen and heard in colloquial speech in words like dancin’, chillin’ and rumblin’ Also, Standard English –ing and –ink are often replaced by –ang and –ank, so that thing is pronounced (thang), and drink yields (drank) ( 11:16). Sometimes in AAVE speech, consonants switch places, turning ask into (aks), and grasp into (graps); whereas words with final ks lose the s so that box becomes (bok) (27:86). The history of pronouncing ask with the consonants in reversed order goes back to Old English, which means that the form has been in use for 16 centuries. For several hundred years, aks was even the correct literary form (7:179). The intonation of AAVE is also different from Standard English. It has a characteristic rhythm, and sometimes the stress is shifted. The shift of stress is audible in words like police, July and hotel, in which the stress is sometimes on the first syllable in AAVE (15: 47)

One of the most striking grammatical features of AAVE is the invariant be, which fills an important function, since it enables speakers to choose to indicate that an action took place in the past or leave it in “noncommittal form” (Dillard 1973:42). By using be as a finite verb form, AAVE speakers refer exclusively to repeated, habitual action, in contrast to Standard English, in which that sort of verbal contrast is not possible. Standard English communicates the same message as AAVE in the sentences below, but in AAVE there is a verbal contrast between ‘be’ and the absence of the copula, and this distinction is not possible in SE, unless an extra word is added, for example an adverb like always.

AAVE SE a) He busy right now He’s busy right now b) Sometime he be busy Sometimes he’s busy . As the examples show, the Standard English verb form is he’s in both examples, whereas the AAVE sentences have different forms; the first one (with copula deletion) indicating present tense, and the second one representing repeated action. Likewise, in a sentence like John is happy, it is unclear whether John is happy right now, or if he is always happy. In order to make this distinction something more needs to be added, like always, or right now. In AAVE there would be no confusion, since John happy (right now) has a different meaning than John be happy (always) (11:78). The copula, the verb be, is not always absent, though. When be is in sentence position where it is not contractible in Standard English, there is a need to have the copula in AAVE. An example of a sentence in which the copula appears in so called ‘exposed position’ where the copula is needed in AAVE is he is not as nice as he says he is, since the verb form here is not contractible in Standard English: *He is not as nice as he says he’s (8:267). As noted in example (a), it is acceptable to leave out the copula, but only in present tense, in the positions where it is contractible in Standard English, and not when referring to the first person singular. The same rules apply when be serves as an auxiliary. A sentence like we tryin’ to get outta here is thus acceptable in AAVE, even though a verb follows the pronoun, and not an adjective, as in example (a) ( 20:222). In addition to the present perfect verb form: I have talked, and the past perfect form: I had talked, which both Standard English and AAVE have, the latter has two additional forms: I done talked which refers to a completed event, and I been talked, which is to say an event took place in a distant past. Furthermore, there are forms that exist in similar forms in both varieties of English, but are used differently in AAVE: I did talk, which means that I just finished talking, and I BÍN talked, in which been is stressed, which means that I have been talking for a long time, and still am. BÍN can also be used in sentences to mean ‘for a long time’ or ‘a long time ago’. To indicate future tense, the verb gon is sometimes used in AAVE, which is illustrated by the example You better watch him cause he gon take credit for the work that you did. 6 Another typical feature of AAVE is the use of double negations, as in the following example: “[a]in’t no cat can’t get in no coop”, in which negation is indicated no less than four times. The sentence in Standard English would be [t]here is no cat that can get into any cage, demonstrating only a “logical” double negation: no and any. Ain’t is used in AAVE and a few other non-standard varieties of English, where be not, do not, and sometimes also have not would be used in Standard English. Examples of the use of ain’t include: he ain’t worth nothing, he ain’t speaking, and he ain’t got no money. 1 Another AAVE characteristic that is featured in the sentence above is the lack of the relative pronoun that . There is replaced by it, called the existential it, yielding sentences like [i]t’s a boy in my class (18 :57). The possessive s that is used to indicate ownership in Standard English is often absent in AAVE: Anna book, David car2 . The possessive is expressed differently regarding plural pronouns as well. Instead of third person plural possessive, their, AAVE-speakers often use they, as in they cars are cheap. It is common to use nouns with verbs in a way that violates what in Standard English is called subject-verb agreement. Hence, the present tense -s that is usually added to third person singular is deleted, as in [h]e walk. Instead the -s is sometimes seen with the plural forms you, we and they, as in [y]ou looks hard tuh beat. Other verbs are affected by this non-agreement as well, such as the form be, which is, when present, also used differently from Standard English: I, you, and they (is). The term steady is often used in AAVE to emphasize and to accentuate continuation, as in the sentence “She steady prayin her son come home”, which means ‘She is intensely, consistently and continuously hoping her son comes home’. Negative inversion is another feature of AAVE, yielding sentences like [c]an nobody touch E-40!, instead of Nobody can touch E-40! Inversion is also common in indirect questions, which in AAVE are formed in exactly the same way as direct questions:

(c) Direct question: Where did you go? Indirect question: AAVE: I asked Sarah where did she go. SE: I asked Sarah where she went. (d) Direct question: Did he leave town last night? Indirect question: AAVE: I wanna know did he leave town last night. SE: I want to know whether/if he left town last night.3 In AAVE it is common to use the standard indefinite article even before words that begin with vowels, as in a egg and a attitude/

While the productive use of simple non+ inverted question order may be receding, it is still quite common in some fixed phrases such as What it is? or Who that is? At the same time, embedded questions may retain subject-auxiliary inversion, as in I asked her asked I go with her, contrasting with the standard pattern in which if or whether is used with non-inverted order, as I asked him if I could go with him.

In addition, based on Fasold& Wolfram; Owens; William& Wolfram can be summarized the grammatical characteristics of AAVE into the following table.




Regular pas -ed

Not obligatory: frequently omitted ( e.g., I talk to him last week)

Irregular past

May remain inflected, or regularized with “-ed” (e.g. He begin work yesterday. : She knowed all about it)

Regular present 3rd person singular

Not obligatory: frequently omitted. (e.g. Bob sleep too much)

Irregular present 3rd person singular

Not obligatory: frequently omitted. (e.g. He always do silly things)

Future tense

“Will’ is resplaced by “gonna”: “will” is omitted preceding the verb “be”(e.g ,The dig gonna bite you: I be tomorrow)

Copula Auxiliary

Not obligatory: may be omitted if contractible (e.g., He ready: They eating)

Perfect tense

179832029210000“Been is used to signify action in the distant past (e.g. He died a long time He been dead)

Habitual state

Ongoing or general states are marked by uninflected “be” (e.g., She be funny)


Double modals are permitted with forms such as: might ,could, should (e.g.They might could come)

Regular plural -s

Not obligatory: Frequently omitted when quantifies are present (e.g. I see three book over there)

Irregular plural

May be doubly inflected (e.g. Help me find the childrens)

Possessive –‘s

Not obligatory: frequently omitted when word order indicates possession (e.g. Debbie bike got)



Pronoun immediately follows the referent noun (e.g. My brother he bigger than me.)

Relative pronouns

Not obligatory: frequently omitted (e.g. There’s the dog bit me)

Reflexive pronouns

Reflexive forms of “-self” can be extended to possessive pronouns (e.g. Hisself, Theirself)


Certain demonstrative/ pronominal pharses are permissible (e.g. These here aples: Them there toys)

Adverbs &Adjectives

Comparatives & superlatives

The forms “-er” and “-est” can be extended tp many adjectives (e.g. worser, harriblest)s The modifiers ‘more” and “most” can be added to comparative and superlative forms (e.g. ,mare taller; most oldest)


Certain modifiers can be added to adverbs or adjectives for emphasis (e.g. right quick; plumb crazy)

Vocabulary in AAVE is also different from other varieties of English. Some words with African origin have made their way into the English language, like totem and juke, whereas some English words have taken on new meanings among AAVE speakers, such as brother, which means ‘a black man’ . Furthermore, there are expressions that have special meanings, such as come, which indicates indignation, as in he come walkin’ in here like he owned the place; and to call oneself, as in he calls himself a plumber4 , which indicates that he is not good at his job, or he calls himself a singer, which is to say he thinks that he sings well, but he really doesn’t. However, the use of to call oneself is nowadays also common in Standard English . Several linguists have claimed that the language of the people within the hip hop culture and AAVE are essentially the same . This means that many expressions that are used in hip hop lyrics, even though they may be slang, are to be considered part of AAVE vocabulary. A few examples of such expressions are: 9, thug, and ends, which mean nine millimetre gun, someone who has gone through hardships in life and makes money by any means available, and money, respectively ( The language in rap lyrics is constantly developing, and rappers come up with new words with great frequency. Some artists even publish glossaries on the inside flaps of their album covers, in order to help their listeners keep up with their slang usage .

a.Dialectologist view

Dialects are defined as “variations of language that are mutually intelligible, but include some grammatical and/or pronunciation patterns that are unique to speakers in certain regions, social classes or ethnic groups. Some linguistics point to the similarities between AAVE pronunciation patterns and those of Southern American English, to make the argument that AAVE, like Southern American English, is simply a dialectical variation of American English, which is spoken by many African Americans and non-African Americans in the United States of America. As described in Figure 1.

11049001028700035242516002000Earlier English African Languages

506730016192500 Pidgin

498157519621500359092519621500 Creol

Modern Standard African American

American English English Gullah Jamaican

b.Creolist View, AAVE as a Distinct Language.

Other linguists have noted the grammatical structures AAVE shares with West African languages to support their argument that AAVE might most accurately be classified as “an African based language with English words”. Still others argue that AAVE`s similarities with many of the world`s Creole languages suggest that AAVE was itself a Creole, or a related, but separate language that has recently decreolized as it has begun to more closely resembles SAE. As described in figure 2.

36195018859500510540018859500111442514097000Earlier English African Languages

515302516383000 Pidgin

504825019621500481965019621500359092519621500 Creol

Modern Standard African American

American English English Gullah Jamaican

Orthographic words are written as a sequence of letters bounded by spaces on a page. Yet, there exist in the English vocabulary lexical units that are not identical with orthographic words but equivalent to them. Almost any part of speech contains units indivisible either syntactically or in terms of meaning, or both, but graphically divided. A good example is furnished by complex prepositions: along with, as far as, in spite of, except for, due to, by means of, for the sake of, etc.

The same point may be illustrated by phrasal verbs, so numerous in English: bring up ‘to educate’, call on ‘to visit’, make up ‘to apply cosmetics’, ‘to reconcile after a disagreement’ and some other meanings, put off “to postpone’. The semantic unity of these verbs is manifest in the possibility to substitute them by orthographically single-word verbs. Though formally broken up, they function like words and they are integrated semantically so that their meaning cannot be inferred from their constituent elements. The same is true about phrasal verbs consisting of the verbs give, make, take and some others used with a noun instead of its homonymous verb alone: give a smile, make a promise, take a walk (cf. to smile, to promise, to walk).

Some further examples are furnished by compound nouns. Sometimes they are not joined by solid spelling or hyphenation but written separately, although in all other respects they do not differ from similar one-word nominations. By way of example let us take some terms for military ranks. The terms lieutenant-commander and lieutenant-colonel are hyphenated, whereas wing commander and flight lieutenant are written separately. Compare also such inconsistencies as all right and altogether, never mind and nevertheless.

All these are, if not words, then at least word equivalents because they are indivisible and fulfil the nominative, significative, communicative and pragmatic functions just as words do.

It is worth while dwelling for a moment on formulaic sentences which tend to be ready-made and are characterised by semantic unity and indivisibility: All right, Allow me, Nothing doing, Never mind, How do you do, Quite the contrary. They are learned as unanalysable wholes and can also be regarded as word equivalents.

To sum up: the vocabulary of a language is not homogeneous. If we view it as a kind of field, we shall see that its bulk, its central part is formed by lexical units possessing all the distinctive features of words, i.e. semantic, orthographic and morphological integrity as well as the capacity of being used in speech in isolation. The marginal elements of this field reveal only some of these features, and yet belong to this set too. Thus, phrasal verbs, complex prepositions, some compounds, phraseological units, formulaic expressions, etc. are divided in spelling but are in all other respects equivalent to words. Morphemes, on the other hand, a much smaller subset of the vocabulary, cannot be used as separate utterances and are less autonomous in other respects but otherwise also function as lexical items.

1.2. Vowels of African American Vernacular Language

There is near uniformity of AAVE grammar, despite its vast geographic spread. This may be due in part to relatively recent migrations of African Americans out of the American South (see Great Migration and Second Great Migration) as well as to long-term racial segregation. Phonological features that may set AAVE apart from other forms of American English (particularly, General American) include:

Word-final devoicing of /b/, /d/, and /ɡ/, whereby for example cub sounds like cup.

Reduction of certain diphthong forms to monophthongs, in particular, /aɪ/ is monophthongized to [aː] except before unvoiced consonants (this is also a feature of many Southern dialects). The vowel sound in boil (/ɔɪ/ in General American) is also monophthongized, especially before /l/, making it indistinguishable from ball. Conversely, older speakers in some regions (such as the American South) may use [oɪ] in words like coach and road that have [oʊ] in General American (i.e. [koɪtʃ], [roɪd]).

AAVE speakers may not use the fricatives [θ] (the th in thin) and [ð] (the th of then) that are present in SE. The actual alternative phone used depends on the sound's position in a word. See also Th-fronting.

Word-initially, /θ/ is normally the same as in other English dialects (so thin is [θɪn]).

Word-initially, /ð/ is [d] (so this is [dɪs]).

Word-medially and -finally, /θ/ is realized as either [f] or [t] (so [mʌmf] or [mʌnt] for month); /ð/ as either [v] or [d] (so [smuːv] for smooth).

Realization of final ng /ŋ/, the velar nasal, as the alveolar nasal [n] in function morphemes and content morphemes with two or more syllables like -ing, e.g. tripping is pronounced as trippin. This change does not occur in one-syllable content morphemes such as sing, which is [sɪŋ] and not *[sɪn]. However, singing is [sɪŋɪn]. Other examples include wedding → [wɛɾɪn], morning → [mɔɹnɪn], nothing → [ˈnʌfɪn]. Realization of /ŋ/ as [n] in these contexts is commonly found in many other English dialects.

A marked feature of AAVE is final consonant cluster reduction. There are several phenomena that are similar but are governed by different grammatical rules. This tendency has been used by creolists to compare AAVE to West African languages since such languages do not have final clusters.(11& 29)

Final consonant clusters that are homorganic (have the same place of articulation) and share the same voicing are reduced. E.g. test is pronounced [tɛs] since /t/ and /s/ are both voiceless; hand is pronounced [hæn], since /n/ and /d/ are both voiced; but pant is unchanged, as it contains both a voiced and a voiceless consonant in the cluster. Note also that it is the plosive (/t/ and /d/) in these examples that is lost rather than the fricative or nasal. Speakers may carry this declustered pronunciation when pluralizing so that the plural of test is [tɛsəs] rather than [tɛsts]. The clusters /ft/, /md/, are also affected.

More often, word-final /sp/, /st/, and /sk/ are reduced, again with the final element being deleted rather than the former.

For younger speakers, /skr/ also occurs in words that other varieties of English have /str/ so that, for example, street is pronounced [skrit].[25]

Clusters ending in /s/ or /z/ exhibit variation in whether the first or second element is deleted.

Similarly, final consonants may be deleted (although there is a great deal of variation between speakers in this regard). Most often, /t/ and /d/ are deleted. As with other dialects of English, final /t/ and /k/ may reduce to a glottal stop. Nasal consonants may be lost while nasalization of the vowel is retained (e.g., find may be pronounced [fãː]). More rarely, /s/ and /z/ may also be deleted.

Use of metathesised forms like aks for "ask" or graps for "grasp".

General non-rhotic behavior, in which the rhotic consonant /r/ is typically dropped when not followed by a vowel; it may also manifest as an unstressed [ə] or the lengthening of the preceding vowel. Intervocalic /r/ may also be dropped, e.g. General American story ([stɔri]) can be pronounced [stɔ.i], though this doesn't occur across morpheme boundaries. /r/ may also be deleted between a consonant and a back rounded vowel, especially in words like throw, throat, and through.

/l/ is often vocalized in patterns similar to that of /r/ (though never between vowels) and, in combination with cluster simplification (see above), can make homophones of toll and toe, fault and fought, and tool and too. Homonymy may be reduced by vowel lengthening and by an off-glide [ɤ].

Before nasal consonants (/m/, /n/, and /ŋ/), /ɛ/ and /ɪ/ are both pronounced [ɪ], making pen and pin homophones. This feature is also present in other dialects.

The distinction between /ɪ/ and /iː/ before liquid consonants is frequently reduced, making feel and fill homophones. Before /r/ specifically, /uː/ and /oʊ/ also merge.

Lowering of /ɪ/ before /ŋ/ causing pronunciations such as [θɛŋ] or [θæŋ] for thing.

In addition to these, there are a handful of multisyllabic words that differ from General American in their stress placement so that, for example, police, guitar and Detroit are pronounced with initial stress instead of ultimate stress.

AAVE and standard English pronunciation are sometimes quite different. People frequently attach significance to such differences in pronunciation or accent and as such the study of phonology (the systematic a patterning of sounds in language) is an important part of sociolinguistics. It should be noted that phonology has nothing to do with spelling. The way something is spelt is often not a good indication of the way it "should be", or much less is, pronounced.(11: 85)

Clusters at the ends of words:

When two consonants appear at the end of a word (for instance the st in test), they are often reduced: the final t is deleted. This happens, to some extent, in every variety of English including standard ones. In AAVE the consonant cluster is reduced variably (i.e. it does not happen every time) and systematically.

Sociolinguists have shown that the frequency of reduction can be expressed by a rule which takes account of a number of interacting facts. Crucially, the frequency of reduction depends on the environment in which the sound occurs. The following two factors, among others, have been found to affect the frequency of reduction in consonant clusters

If the next word starts with a consonant, it is more likely to reduce than if the next word starts with a vowel. For example, reduction is more likely to occur in west side (becoming wes side) than in west end.

A final t or d is more likely to be deleted if it is not part of the past tense -ed than if it is. (The past tense -ed suffix is pronounced as t or d or Id in English depending on the preceding sound.) For example, reduction is more likely to occur in John ran fast (becoming John ran fas) than in John passed the teacher in his car.

The th sounds:

The written symbol th can represent two different sounds in English: both an "unvoiced" sound as in thought, thin and think, and a "voiced" sound as in the, they and that. In AAVE the pronunciation of this sound depends on where in a word it is found.

At the beginning of a word, the voiced sound (e.g. in that) is regularly pronounced as d so 'the', 'they' and 'that' are pronounced as de, dey and dat. AAVE shares this feature with many other nonstandard dialects, including those of the East Coast of United States and Canada. Less common in AAVE is the pronunciation of the unvoiced sound as t. Thus 'thin' can become tin but rarely does. This however is a very common feature of Caribbean creoles in which 'think' is regularly pronounced as tink, etc. When the th sound is followed by r, it is possible in AAVE to pronounce the th as f as in froat for 'throat'.

Within a word, the unvoiced sound as in nothing, author or ether is often pronounced as f. Thus AAVE speakers will sometimes say nufn 'nothing' and ahfuh 'author'. The voiced sound, within a word, may be pronounced v. So 'brother' becomes bruvah, etc.

At the end of a word, th is often pronounced f in AAVE. For instance 'Ruth' is pronounced Ruf; 'south' is pronounced souf. When the preceding sound is a nasal (e.g. n or m) the th is often pronounced as t as in tent for 'tenth'; mont for 'month'.

The sounds l and r:

When they do not occur at the beginning of a word l and r often undergo a process known as "vocalization" and are pronounced as uh. This is most apparent in a post-vocalic position (after a vowel). For instance 'steal', 'sister', 'nickel' become steauh, sistuh, nickuh. In some varieties of AAVE (e.g. in the Southern US), r is not pronounced after the vowels o and u. The words door and doe, four and foe, and sure and show can be pronounced alike.


Nasalized vowels:

When a nasal (n or m) follows a vowel, AAVE speakers sometimes delete the nasal consonant and nasalize the vowel. This nasalization is written with a tilde ( ~ ) above the vowel. So 'man' becomes mã.

Nasals consonants and front vowels:

In many varieties of English, including standard varieties, the vowels i in pin and e in pen sound different in all words. In AAVE, these sounds are merged before a nasal (like n or m). So in AAVE pin and pen are pronounced with the same vowel. Most Southern US varieties of English merge these vowels too, so this is only a distinctive feature of AAVE in the northern United States.


Some vowels like those in night and my or about and cow are called "diphthongs". This means that when the vowel is pronounced, the tongue starts at one place in the mouth and moves as the vowel is being pronounced. In AAVE the vowel in 'night' or in 'my' is often not a diphthong. So when pronouncing the words with this diphthong, AAVE speakers (and speakers of Southern varieties as well) do not move the tongue to the front top position. So 'my' is pronounced ma as in he's over at ma sister's house.


AAVE s from some other varieties in the placement of stress in a word. So, where words like police, hotel and July are pronounced with stress on the last syllable in standard English, in AAVE they may have stress placed on the first syllable so that you get po-lice, ho-tel and Ju-ly.

1.3. Who speaks African American Vernacular English

It is difficult to determine how many people speak AAVE, since not all of its features are present in all African Americans’ speech. Some linguists also hold that AAVE speakers are skilled executors of code switching and possessors of a “chameleon quality”, which allows black speakers to go through “a range of speech styles” (Alim 2006:110). However, the estimated percentage of the African Americans in the US who speak AAVE ranges from 80- 90% (Lippi-Green 1997:176). Many African Americans are able to speak AAVE, but choose not to, whereas some people use the variety only on certain occasions. Gunnel Tottie observes in her book An Introduction to American English that young speakers of AAVE often have more characteristics of AAVE in their speech than older speakers do. Tottie points out that the reason for this is probably “influence from rap lyrics and identification with black culture”, and that it works as means of peer-group bounding (Tottie 2002:228). Further, adult, black speakers are more aware that their speech is considered inferior to other varieties of English, and this may be a reason why they seem to possess a “refined, communicative competence”, that children do not (Alim 2006:124).

Many language scholars believe that Black English as we know it today originated before the American Revolution in the speech of kidnapped West Africans enslaved in the English-speaking colonies of North America. Picking up the slaveowners' language with little or no formal instruction, this theory proposes, these early American slaves created a dialect that combined English vocabulary with the grammar and pronunciation of various African languages. (19: 154)

Many kinds of African-American speech acts go back to African oral traditions: the dozens verbal insults towards an opponent's mother; rapping a voluble, rhythmic eloquence that includes both the language of seduction and the lyrics of popular music; shucking, jiving deceiving whites through verbal trickery without their knowledge; sounding engaging in verbal duels. The ‘men and women of words’ who embody these traditions are common in most black communities; preachers, poets, musicians, and political radicals tend to be consummate practitioners of a rhetoric derived from Africa and often influenced by the Bible. Although men are perceived as dominating these traditions, women have played a significant role in the oral traditions of African America. Such music as Negro spirituals and jazz, as well as dance, poetry, rap, and even elaborate handshakes have substantially ‘crossed over’ and become part of popular culture in the US and elsewhere.(19:145)

The characteristics that distinguish African-American English from standard American English include the pronunciation of consonant clusters at the ends of words ("desks" and "tests" become "desses" and "tesses," for example), the elimination of some third-person singular verb inflections ("He throw the ball." "She write the book." "He vote for the candidate."), and certain distinctive uses of the verb "to be." Among the latter, perhaps the most emblematic is the frequently misunderstood construction that linguists refer to as the "habitual be." When speakers of standard American English hear the statement "He be reading," they generally take it to mean "He is reading." But that's not what it means to a speaker of Black English, for whom "He is reading" refers to what the reader is doing at this moment. "He be reading" refers to what he does habitually, whether or not he's doing it right now.

Frequently when Black English sounds ungrammatical to white ears, it is merely conforming to its own rules. Thus, in the demonstrator's placard, the pronoun themself leaves off the standard English -ves ending because them already establishes plurality. Since Black English rarely uses suffixes, neat means the same as the Standard English noun neatness. Black English also does not differentiate between genders of pronouns, so it is perfectly correct for a speaker to say, "He a nice little girl." In unraveling these rules, however, linguists encounter a problem—almost nobody speaks "pure" Black English. Ghetto blacks, hearing their speech scorned by whites as illiterate, often try to "improve" it to conform more nearly to Standard English.

D'Jaris Coles, a doctoral student in the communication disorders department, and a member of the African-American English research team, gives the hypothetical example of Billy, a well-behaved kid who doesn't usually get into fights. One day he encounters some special provocation and starts scuffling with a classmate in the school yard. "It would be correct to say that Billy fights," Coles explains, "but he don't be fighting."

Janice Jackson, another team member who is also working on a Ph.D. in communication disorders, conducted an experiment using pictures of Sesame Street characters to test children's comprehension of the "habitual be" construction. She showed the kids a picture in which Cookie Monster is sick in bed with no cookies while Elmo stands nearby eating cookies. When she asked, "Who be eating cookies?" white kids tended to point to Elmo while black kids chose Cookie Monster. "But," Jackson relates, "when I asked, 'Who is eating cookies?' the black kids understood that it was Elmo and that it was not the same. That was an important piece of information." Because those children had grown up with a language whose verb forms differentiate habitual action from currently occuring action (Gaelic also features such a distinction, in addition to a number of West African languages), they were able even at the age of five or six to distinguish between the two.

When the Oakland, California, school board announced at the end of 1996 that it wanted to incorporate awareness of Ebonics into its strategy for teaching standard English, the idea was to attune teachers to aspects of Black English that might be unfamiliar to standard English speakers ? to promote an understanding, for example, that the habitual be is something more than a corrupt or incorrect present-tense verb form. But that's not how the proposal was perceived by the media and the general public. The white syndicated columnist who ridiculed the Oakland board for seeking "to teach English as a second language to African-American children more familiar with hip-hop lingo" typified the scorn and non-comprehension that characterized much public commentary on the proposal. The columnist in question would never, presumably, have published overtly racist epithets, but thought it highly amusing to sneer at an imaginary Ebonics-inspired Hamlet lesson in which the prince's famous soliloquy opens, "Is you is o' is you ain't." As if white kids in Marin County be speaking Elizabethan English at the mall while black kids in Oakland just be scratching their heads in ignorance. (In fairness to white critics who didn't get the point, the Oakland Ebonics proposal was also attacked by many black intellectuals, celebrities, and political leaders. They too failed to grasp that the plan was designed not to supplant standard English in the classroom, but rather, in Seymour's words, "to transition kids from Ebonics to standard American English without denigrating Ebonics.")

Roeper and Seymour's research project has certain specific goals defined by the disciplines of linguistics and speech pathology ? to deepen understanding of the mental strategies all children use to figure out the rules of their native languages, and to produce new diagnostic tests that can help identify African-American children who would benefit from speech therapy. Beyond those aims, however, all the researchers hope their work can contribute to the overthrow of the racial cliches and stereotypes that lurk inside traditional, unenlightened attitudes toward Black English. "I think fighting language prejudice is the next battle in the United States," Roeper says.

Some schools have already begun teaching black children the rules of Standard English as though it were a foreign language. They argue that such children should first be taught to read Black English, so that what they see on the printed page would correspond to the way they talk. Stewart's organization, in fact, has produced three experimental reading books—Ollie, Friends and Old Tales—in parallel Black English and Standard English versions. In theory, once the child masters the principle of reading, Dillard writes, "transition to the reading of Standard English should be much easier."

Only by moving beyond the deeply ingrained negative attitudes of the past, the speech researchers agree, is it possible to appreciate the multi-faceted subtleties of all human language. "Language is not just a matter of words and sounds and syntax," says Seymour. "It's an identity issue, it's a social issue. It's very complicated."

African American English (AAE) might just be one of the most misunderstood dialects of English. Yes, it is a dialect but most people fail to recognize this fact. In fact, AAE shares many grammatical features with mainstream English and other dialects. The distinctiveness of AAE does not particularly reside in the structure of its sentences. Basic utterance types–e.g. declarative, interrogative, and imperative sentences–are all formed in essentially the same way as they are in other dialects. Despite this, it is ironic that AAE which is spoken by African Americans, who constitute almost 14% of the U.S. population, is yet to be recognized as a dialect. African Americans make up the largest minority community ( by race) within the United States and although not all African American use AAE, a huge number of them do.

Over the years, AAE has been termed various things right from “slang” to “mumbo jumbo” or quite simply “bad English”. A major reason why such stigma exists against AAE is because of a lack of knowledge among the general population about the language and its usage. Of course, the fact also remains that not enough study has been done on the language itself. This is largely because the language differs so much from generation to generation. More importantly however, the language varies by location. For example, African Americans in the south speak AAE differently than those in New York. Despite the differences, there are several rules which have been identified as being used across the border. (12: 64)

Here are a few examples “She ø in the same grade./ People ø crazy! /People are stone crazy?” At first glance, you might think that this is just a typing error. However, the structure of these sentences can be attributed to a phenomenon termed “copula absence”. It is also important to know that there are certain rules which govern copula absence. I have listed some of them below.

Is and are deleted least often before a noun, more often with an adjective, and most often before going to or its reduced forms, gonna and gon

Another example is the sentence “he be running”. Contrary to what you might think, this is not just another way of replacing “am” for “be” In fact the use of “be” here implies an action which is habitual in nature, meaning “he is usually running, or he will/would be running”. Here are some other similar examples and their meanings. These represent the five present tenses in AAE.

1. He ø runnin. (He is running.)

2. He be runnin. (He is usually running, or He will/would be running)

3. He be steady runnin. (He is usually running in an intensive, sustained manner, or He will/would be running in an intensive, sustained manner.)

4. He(’s) been/bin runnin. (he has been running–at some earlier point, but probably not now.) Also “I been knowing her”=S.E. “I have known her.” Also “About eleven o’clock he been eating”=S.E. “…he was eating.”

5. Stressed Been/Remote BIN: He BEEN/BIN runnin. (He has been running for a long time, and still is.) But not -I BEEN doing that for years.

Some traits of Black English or African American Vernacular English (AAVE)

Double negation


Standard American English

I didn’t do nothing

I didn’t do anything.

You don’t have to be no Einstein.

You don’t have to be Einstein.

I didn’t see no woman.

I didn’t see a woman.

Absence of 3rd-person singular form


Standard American English

young don’t count

young doesn’t count

He don’t have no choice.

He doesn’t have a choice.

Omission of the copula(to be)


Standard American English

Trevor said he dead.

Trevor said he is dead.

I don’t think he married.

I don't think he is married.

They looking busy.

They are looking busy.

Omission of the auxiliary


Standard American English

You playing football.

You were playing football.

I been knowing King all my life.

I have known King all my life.

Past participle of strong verb denotes past tense


Standard American English

And we done it.

And we did it.

I didn’t know what King done.

I didn’t know what King did.


1.4. Differences of B.E. and Standard English, British English and British Black English

1. Standard English

Standard English is the customary use of a community when it is recognized and accepted as the customary use of the community. The standard dialect in the United States is called Standard American English (SAE)> It is a dialect of English that many Americans almost speak.

The SE forms are a mixture of possessive pronouns and objective pronouns, while in AAVE they are completely consistentCthey are always the possessive pronoun. Myself is equivalent to my book, as is yourself (your book), herself (her book), ourselves (our books) and yourselves (your books). However, the SE third person masculine forms are inconsistent: himself (compared to his book) and themselves (their books). AAVE's forms (hisself and theirselves) are actually more consistent than those of SE.

It turns out that language change is guided by logical, evolutionary principles (18 :91). There are a variety of language influences acting on English, adapting it to carry out communication needs under ever changing physical and social conditions. Some groups adopt changes while others do not, leading to linguistic variety. Vernacular dialects are often the result of these natural processes and thus initiate more internal consistency in language than the rigid forms prescribed by elementary school grammar teachers. And it cannot be said that one form of language has evolved from the other. In some cases dialects cling to older forms than those in prescriptive grammars, while in other cases the dialect form is an evolutionary step forward.

According to Fromkin and Rodman: A standard dialect (or prestige dialect) of particular language may have social functions-to bind people together or to provide a common written form for multidialectal speakers. It is, however, neither more expressive, more logical, more complex, nor more regular than any other dialect or language.

Furthermore, Stewart and Vaillette explain: As with any standard dialect, SAE is not a well-defined variety but rather than an idealization, which even now defies definition because agreement on what exactly constitutes this variety is lacking. SAE is not single, unitary, homogenous dialect but instead comprises a number of varieties. When we speak of SAE we usually have in mind features of grammar more than pronunciation.

2.Grammar of Standard English

It is commonly said that American English (AmE) has few distinctive grammatical feature, however, some are noteworthy.

1.Agreement rules

a.The verb must agree with the subject in number.

For Examples: The girl is resting.

The girls are resting.

If the subject includes modifiers, the verb agrees with the noun head in the subject, like in these sentences:

His technique for solving crimes is very simple.

The advertisements in the front part of a newspaper are usually the most expensive.

A noncountable noun used as a subject requires a singular verb.

His baggage was lost yesterday. (vs. His bags were lost yesterday.)

This information is correct. (Vs. This facts are correct.)

A collective noun used as a subject generally occurs with a singular verb in American English, unless emphasis is to be placed on the individual members of the collective unit.

The committee has been preparing a new proposal. But,

The committee have disagreed among themselves about the terms of the proposal.

In addition, Finegan explains that in American English, agreement rules between verb and subjects that are collective nouns. (family, staff, team, committee) or the names of sports team ( Clevelan, Manchaster), or companies, organization, and institution (Lipton, Ford, CNN, the government).

b.Some nouns endings in s may cause problems in agreement.

1.Some are singular noncountable noun-news, meals (name of a disease), economics (name of a field of study). For example: The news about the war is not good; physics is difficult subject. However, the name used for a field of study may be plural if it refers to a practical matter.

2.Some nouns have the same form for singular or plural-series, means, species.

3.Some nouns are plural only and require plural verbs-brains, riches, goods, clothes.

4.Nouns representing quantities and amounts that are considered as one unit are singular – five dollars, three quarts. For example, Five dallars is too much pay for that pen.

c.Adjectives used as nouns often refer to a group of persons and require a plural verb. Such adjective forms are usually preceded by the. For example, The rich get richer, while the poor get poorer.

2.The Verb Be

Azar summaries rules of the verb be.

(a)John is a student. A sentence with be as the main

(BE) (NOUN) verb has three basic patterns:

(b)John is intelligent. In (a): be +a noun

(be) (adjective) In (a): be + an adjective

(c)John was at the library. In (a): be +a prepositionsl phrase

(be) (prep.phrase)

(d)Mary is writing letter. Be is also used as auxilary verb

(e)They were listening to some music in proressive verb tenses and in

(f)That letter was written by Alice the passive

tense form of be

simple present simple past present perfect

Singular i am i was i have been

you are you were you have been

he,she, it is he,she, it was he,she, it has been

Plural we, you, they are we, you, they were we, you, they have


3. Negatives

Using Not and Other Negative words

(a)Affirmative: the earth is round not expresses a negative idea

(b)Negative: the earth is not flat

aux+not +main verb NOT immediately follows an auxiliary

verb or be. (Note: if there is more

(c) I will not go there than one auxiliary, not comes

I have not gone there immediately after the first auxiliary: I

I am not going there will not going there)

I was not there Do or does is used with not to make a

I do not go there simple present verb (except be)

He does not go there negative.

I did not go there Did is used with not to make a

Simple past verb (except be) negative

Constractions of auxiliary verbs with not

Are not = aren`t Do not = don’t must not = mustn`t

Cannot = can`t Has not= hasn`t should not =shouldn`t

Could not = couldn`t Have not= haven`t was not = wasn`t

Did not = didn`t Had not = hadn`t Were not= weren`t

Does not= doesn`t Is not = isn`t Will not = won`t

Would not= wouldn`t

(d) I never go there In addition to not, the following are

I have hardly ever gone there negative adverbs :

Never, rarely, seldom

(e)There`s no chalk in the drawer hardly (ever), barely (ever)

No also expresses a negative idea

compare: not Not is used to make a verb negative, as

in (f)

(f)I do not have any money. No is used as an adjective in front of a

noun (e.g., money), as in (g). Note: (f) and

(g)I have no money. (g) have the same meaning.

According to LG, as quote by Finegan, American English conversation shows a strong preference for do not have the (don`t have the time, do not have the information) and have no (has no plans, have no doubt, has none of your character, has nothing to fear) as comprared with British English.

4. Avoiding “double negatives”

(a) Incorrect: i don`t have no money. (a) is an example of a “double

negative,” i.e., a confusing and

(b) Correct: i don`t have any money. grammatically incorrect sentence

Correct: i have no money that contains two negatives in

the same clause. One clause should

contain only one negative.

Black English has features unique to its subsystem as well as features of the general system of English grammar. It has its own rules of grammar and phonology. One dominant characteristic is the amount of fluctuation in forms and constructions. Almost every statement about Black English includes a qualification such as "may occur", "sometimes", "often" or "generally." The same speaker will pronounce a plural ending on one occasion and on another occasion will drop it. One sentence will have ain´t for the past negative and the next didn´t or even ditn´t.

A device called "sweet talk" also appears in Black English. This means that new forms are often created to fit a particular setting or situation. In the rules of Standard English grammar "sweet talk" would be considered bad English because of its ignorance of grammatical rules. In Black English "sweet talk" serves to establish a verbal superiority: he who masters the language can control the communication and will thus also control the personal or group relationships of the situation. It is easy to see the connection between "sweet talk" and the language games often played on street corners by black children or the "rap battles" which are a part of current popular culture.

Another device is known as "eye dialect". This refers to changing the spelling of words without changing their sound, in order to characterize a speaker. For example, "was" can be spelled "wuz", although both are pronounced the same. The "wuz" spelling characterizes one as the speaker of a particular dialect, with its particular social connotations.

2. British Black English.

In the 1950s and 1960s people from the Caribbean migrated to Britain in relatively large numbers. Most of these settled in cities, especially in the large English cities, and in most of these communities people from Jamaica were more numerous than people from other parts of the Caribbean. Although the Caribbean is made up of many different islands and mainland territories, including many where an English Creole is not spoken, British Black English is most similar to Jamaican Creole, because of the larger number of Jamaicans who settled in this country.

Linton Kwesi Johnson is probably the best known poet in Britain who is currently using Creole. His verse is spoken against a musical background (dubbing) and distributed on records, tapes and CDs. The poem "Sonny's Lettah", appeared in print in his anthology "Inglan' is a Bitch" (12: 49) and was recorded on his album Forces of Victory. (31: 21)

“Mama, a jus couldn't stan up an no dhu notin so mi juk one ina im eye an him started to cry mi tump one ina him mouth an him started to shout mi kick one pon him shin an him started to spin mi tump him pon him chin an him drop pon a bin an crash an DEAD. Mama more police man come down an beat mi to di groun' dem charge Jim fi sus dem charge mi fi murder”

Now here is the same passage written in a phonemic orthography devised by Le Page and Cassidy for the Dictionary of Jamaican English:

“Mama a jos kudn stan op an no du notin so mi juk wan ina him ai an him staatid to krai mi tomp wan ina him mout an him staatid tu shout mi kik wan pan him shin an him staatid tu spin mi tomp him pan him chin an him drap pan a bin an krash an DED. Mama Muor pliisman kom doun an biit mi tu di groun dem chaaj Jim fi sos dem chaaj mi fi morda.” (34)

People of Afro Caribbean descent who have been born in Britain nearly always learn the local variety of British English as their first language. Usually, they speak and understand Creole as well (though how well they know it varies from person to person) but use it less often than British English. Especially in private, informal conversations, both British English and Creole may be used. When a speaker "switches" from one language variety to another in the course of the same conversation sometimes even within one sentence this is called code switching. It is common behaviour among bilinguals of all kinds (though in some communities, it is frowned upon).

The following is an extract from a conversation among some young women in London. Most of the conversation is in British English but the speaker B. switches twice into Creole (underlined):

B it's that same guy that you go back to and have the

best life cause you know that guy you know [ what

C [ yeah

B to expect you two can sit down and (.) sort out

Where you went wrong=

C = yeah that's it, yeah

B an' you might end up marryin' that guy me know who

me want marry a'ready! [softly] so, you know it's

just [ * * * [inaudible]

C [ * * * [inaudible] gonna marry

J you see this is what I'm saying about Graham right,

I don't really know but you know when you see

someone and I tell you I did like Graham from the

First time I saw him, I mean it does take time

gettin' to know the right person

B Let me tell you now wiv every guy I've been out wiv,

it's been a a ¬whole heap o' mont's before I move

wiv the nex' one!

J Next one, yeah!

The two switches to Creole by speaker B are both marked by a noticeable change in the pronunciation (not shown in the transcription), for example, "whole" is pronounced /h l/. In the "British English" parts, the speakers have fairly strong London accents (e.g. "with is pronounced" /w v/) but in the "Creole" parts, the phonemes and intonation patterns are pronounced as in Creole.

Linguists have identified many reasons for code switching. One persuasive theory is that in some bilingual communities, the language which has a longer association with the community (in this case Creole, which has its origin in the Caribbean) is used as a sign of solidarity, to signal membership of a group and show closeness to other group members. Research has shown that in the Afro-Caribbean community, Creole is often used to emphasise an important point (only in informal, personal conversations). There is no "right" or "wrong" answer to the question of why a speaker switches at a particular moment (usually they are not aware of switching). If you know any bilingual speakers, you might try recording them in conversation with other bilinguals to see whether, when, and in what ways they code switch. (16: 37)

The following Creole creative writing narrative was written by a London school pupil of Caribbean descent.

“Bull, Babylon, the Wicked

One manin in January me and my spars dem was coming from a club in Dalston. We didn't have no donsi so we a walk go home. De night did cold and di gal dem wi did have wid we couldn't walk fast. Anyway we must have been walking for about fifteen minutes when dis car pull up, it was this youthman ah know and him woman. We see sey a mini cab him inna. Him sey "How far you ah go?”(30: 335)

Me sey "Not far, you ketch we too late man”.

Anyway before me could close me mout de two gal dem jump inna de car, bout sey dem nah walk no more. Me an Trevor tell dem fi gwan. And de car pull way.

Next ting me know me is about 50 yards from my yard and is the wicked dem just a come down inna dem can. At first me wanted fi run, but Trevor sey "run what" "After we no just kool". We don't have no weed or money pon us. Dem can't do notin. (30: 336)

Next ting we know dem grab we up anna push we into dem car. Me and Trevor put up a struggle but after a few licks we got pushed in. "Now then you two "Rastas" been ripping off mini cabs haven't you?” "We aren't "Rastas" and we don't know what you are talking about". "Save all that until we get to the station Rastus my son". Den him get pon him radio, and tell the station that him ketch the two responsible for that hold up of the mini cab. Trevor luk pon me I could see that he was worried.”

Thus we define the differences between Creole and British English:


manin : morning

spar : friend

donsi : money

gwan : go on

yard : home

weed : marijuana (drug)

Rasta : Rastafarian

List 1: sound differences - where the sound of the Creole (as shown by the spelling) is different from the sound you would expect in a British variety of English.

List 2: grammar differences - where the grammar seems to be different from standard.

List 3: vocabulary differences - words which are unfamiliar or which you think are Caribbean in origin.

Here is a list of British English equivalents to the Creole items.


List 1 (sounds) deze these

bes' best

helt' health

List 2 (grammar) dem waak they walked

him belly his belly

mi kick I kicked

List 3 (vocabulary) fi to

pan for

t'ief (to) steal

Creole is different from British English at these three levels. What is usually referred to as 'Black English' in Britain, is the Jamaican Creole or Patois, which is spoken by the Black Caribbean community living mainly in London , but other parts of GB too, even though the London community are the largest. There are obviously other black ethnic groupings in Britain, but none of the same magnitude. Jamaican Creole – the verb system by Sara Vestman, British Black English by David Sutcliffe, London Jamaican by Mark Sebba and Sociolinguistics – an introduction to language and society by Peter Trudgill. Some features in Jamaican Creole: 1) Personal pronouns 2) The verb system 3) The negative 4) Tense and aspect 5) The phonology 6) Stress and tone

For a long time, JC and other Creoles have been regarded as non-standard varieties inferior to Standard British English and the question of whether JC is a dialect or in fact a language, still has not been resolved. Regardless of that, JC has been recognised as an independent variety with its own grammar-system and vocabulary – as systematic and rule-governed as any other language – joined with SE by means of a dialect continuum.

The discussion about how to classify JC may seem to be of little importance, but if it were to be regarded as an English dialect comparable to Cockney or any other variety of English, it would be difficult to claim its relevancy as a school subject, since no other dialects are being taught in British schools. However, the situation for JC speakers seems to be rather different than that of 'normal' dialect speakers. JC speakers experience more difficulties in code switching, thus are more inclined to make mistakes in writing and speaking SE. JC should be regarded as a language rather than a dialect, since the JC structure is so prominent that it becomes an obstruction to its speakers' use of SE. Sutcliffe claims that the degree of intelligibility between JC and SE is more comparable to that of Swiss German vs. Standard German and Catalan vs. Castilian Spanish, than to that of SE and even the broadest Scottish dialect. (39)

Seeing how great the diversity between JC and SE is, it would be of great importance to JC speakers to be able to learn their mother-tongue in school, alongside with SE. by learning JC in a similar way that they learn SE, the pupils would become better at distinguishing between the two, and thus the code-switching would come more natural to them.

One problem (amongst many) which is still to be solved is the fact that there is no accepted written standard. Attempts have been made to change this, and it is my beliefs that but still, the JC writings differ greatly with regards to spelling.

Another problem that must be overcome is the fact that the whole state education system is predicated on British SE. As I mentioned earlier, non-standard varieties of English have traditionally been regarded as inferior, and the school has disregarded and even penalised non-standard usage. This is slowly beginning to change, and with a newly awakened awareness of the important role that JC – as well as other language varieties – play in the maintaining of a child's identity, the demand for a curriculum that includes JC has been put forward. (17: 225)

2. African American Vernacular English and its use in the US film industry

In our diverse society, language variation is an important cultural identifier. To understand and target important consumer segments, one must be aware of the dialect they speak. In examining the language used by African Americans in advertising, this sociolinguistic study finds that only 14% of a sample of current television ads with black actors use grammatical features from African American Vernacular English (AAVE), while only 34% used AAVE phonological features. In order to increase our understanding of language as it relates to cultural diversity, a framework based on perceived fit is developed.

Much media use tends to confirm these negative attitudes to AAVE. African American newsreaders and movie stars typically use SAE, while those entertainers and sports celebrities who do use AAVE features tend to restrict them to more intelligible, stereotypical features in less formal contexts. The prejuducies of the wider community tend to be reinforcement by such behaviour, as well as by the subtle reinforcement of negative attitudes provided by the depiction of AAVE users in TV shows and movies as less well-educated, down –at –heel and often unsavoury characters. One interesting analysis showed that the characters who used AAVE in the Disney films such as The Jungle Book and The Lion king represented animals rather than hmans. This is how stereotypes are constructed and reinforced.

Two recent strands of sociolinguistic research focus on how the linguistic representation of a particular language or dialect is also a social representation of its speakers: (1) the growing body of research on language crossing (18: 95), which has identified the ways in which outgroup uses of an ingroup language variety may, among other functions, serve both to construct social difference and to impose negative evaluations on the group whose language has been appropriated ; and sociolinguistic studies of the use of minority languages and dialects in the entertainment media, and especially film, in which representations tend to be simultaneously linguistically inaccurate and socially stereotypical (27: 46). Yet thus far little research has considered how language crossing might itself be represented in media portrayals of minority varieties. The present paper examines a growing media phenomenon that combines language crossing and linguistic representation: the use of African American Vernacular English by European American characters in Hollywood films. Complementing previous research on the use of AAVE by European American speakers (27: 66) the paper argues that white uses of AAVE in film perpetuate both language ideologies associated with AAVE and essentialist racialized and gendered stereotypes of blackness and whiteness.

The data are taken from 15 films mainly aimed at the youth market that were released between the mid-1990s and the present day, including comedies, dramas, and horror films, in which European American characters use elements of AAVE at least some of the time. The analysis examines the linguistic features of AAVE employed by European American speakers in these films as well as the semiotic functions to which the variety is put in creating characterization and plot. The paper demonstrates that the use of AAVE by white characters is nonfluent, stylized, and highly stereotypical, and generally involves the emblematic use of a few widely recognized phonological, prosodic, and grammatical features, as well as lexical items taken from African American youth culture, along with high levels of profanity.

The analysis further shows that this stylized representation of AAVE in such films is overwhelmingly associated with European American male characters and serves one of two main functions. Among white teenage and young adult male characters, stylized AAVE is used by “wiggers” (a derogatory term for white hip hop fans) and semiotically portrays this controversial youth identity as linguistically and culturally inauthentic. Somewhat paradoxically, when stylized AAVE is used by European American adult males, it serves as a tool whereby uptight European American adult males learn to forge emotional connections with others.

The paper argues that Hollywood’s representations of AAVE do not only reduce the linguistic complexity of the variety, as other researchers have shown, but, through nonfluent cross-racial use of stereotypical features of AAVE, perpetuate language ideologies of AAVE as symbolic of coolness, physicality, and authenticity. Such white uses of AAVE in Hollywood films reproduce racial and gender stereotypes and reinforce essentialized boundaries between linguistic and cultural groups.

African American Vernacular English (AAVE) is the variety formerly known as Black English Vernacular or Vernacular Black English among sociolinguists, and commonly called Ebonics outside the academic community. While some features of AAVE are apparently unique to this variety, in its structure it also shows many commonalties with other varieties including a number of standard and nonstandard English varieties spoken in the US and the Caribbean. AAVE has been at the heart of several public debates and the analysis of this variety has also sparked and sustained debates among sociolinguists. It is extremely difficult to say how many people speak AAVE because it is not clear what exactly this would mean. Some speakers may use some distinctive aspects of phonology (pronunciation) and lexis (vocabulary) but none of the grammatical features associated with the variety. Many sociolinguists would reserve the term AAVE for varieties which are marked by the occurrence of certain distinctive grammatical features some of which are discussed below.

Even so it may still be difficult to say with any exactitude how many AAVE speakers there are since such grammatical features occur variably, that is, in alternation with standard features. Such variability in the speech both of groups and individuals reflects the complex social attitudes surrounding AAVE and other nonstandard varieties of English and it was this variability which initially attracted the attention of sociolinguists such as William Labov.(34: 214)

The history of AAVE and its genetic affiliation, by which we mean what language varieties it is related to, are also a matter of controversy. Some scholars contend that AAVE developed out of the contact between speakers of West African languages and speakers of vernacular English varieties. According to such a view, West Africans learnt English on plantations in the southern Coastal States (Georgia, South Carolina, etc.) from a very small number of native speakers (the indentured laborers). Some suggest that this led to the development of a rudimentary pidgin which was later expanded through a process of creolization.

Others who advocate a contact scenario for the development of AAVE suggest that the contact language (an early Creole-like AAVE) developed through processes of second language acquisition. According to such a view West Africans newly arrived on plantations would have limited access to English grammatical models because the number of native speakers was so small (just a few indentured servants on each plantation). In such a situation a community of second language learners might graft what English vocabulary that could be garnered from transient encounters onto the few grammatical patterns which are common to the languages of West Africa. (28: 49)

What linguists refer to as universal grammar (the law-like rules and tendencies which apply to all natural human language) would have played a significant role in such processes as well. This kind of thing seems to have taken place in the Caribbean and may also have happened in some places, at some times in the United States. For instance Gullah or Sea Islands Creole spoken in the Coastal Islands of South Carolina and Georgia seems to have formed in this way.

The demographic conditions in the US and the Caribbean (where restructured Creole languages are widely spoken) were really quite different and that the conditions necessary for the emergence of a fully fledged Creole language were never met in the US. These scholars have shown on a number of occasions that what look like distinctive features of AAVE today actually have a precedent in various varieties of English spoken in Great Britain and the Southern United States. It seems reasonable to suggest that both views are partially correct and that AAVE developed to some extent through restructuring while it also inherited many of its today distinctive features from older varieties of English which were once widely spoken.

As mentioned above AAVE is a matter of some public controversy as was seen most recently in the debate over the Ebonics ruling by the Oakland School Board. More than anything this debate made it clear to sociolinguists that they had failed in one of their primary objectives -- to educate the public and to disseminate the results of over twenty-five years of intense research.

Unfortunately, many public policy makers and sections of the public hold on to mistaken and prejudiced understandings of what AAVE is and what it says about the people who speak it. This matter is compounded by the fact that, with the AAVE-speaking community, attitudes towards the language are complex and equivocal. Many AAVE speakers contrast the variety with something they refer to as "Talking Proper". (23:78)

At the same time these same speakers may also express clearly positive attitudes towards AAVE on other occasions and may also remark on the inappropriateness of using Standard English in certain situations. While the situation in this case is made more extreme by the context of racial and ethnic conflict, inequality and prejudice in the United States, it is not unique. Such ambivalent and multivalent attitudes towards nonstandard varieties of a language have been documented for a great many communities around the world and in the United States.

American society has made concessions for many groups of people with special interests, such as animal activists, environmental activists and a host of ethnic groups. Tough animal rights laws have been passed to ensure the safety and future of a variety of species ranging from the domestic cat to the bald eagle. The development of Wetlands has been curtailed in an effort to protect our swamps and forests from extinction. AAVE continued to develop and influence multiple cultures across the globe. One contributor is rap music which had an appeal to youth because of its vocalization of common hardships some youth experience. Also, it has an appeal to male youth through its association with masculinity. The use of AAVE in rap, hip hop, or in pop-culture is not limited to any one single ethnic group (23: 11). In more depth, the use of AAVE in these cultures and their performing arts is not mutually exclusive to America. The influence of AAVE on Korean pop-culture, in particular, Korean hip hop is seen in Korean youth. They were immediately attracted to hip hop when it was first revealed in South Korea (23:11). Lee noted that Korean hip hop was known as “K-hip hop” (p. 5). The emergence of AAVE among culturally diverse groups is an indicator that the language is developing a “cross-national” (p. 6) influence. Since the migration of the language is not isolated to African Americans, the term “cross-racial AAVE” or “CRAAVE” is explained by Bucholtz (11:78)

Craave is not a unified speech style; different speakers draw on different features of AAVE phonology, syntax, and morphology, and their speech does not correspond to most African Americans' linguistic patterns. Yet Craave is understood as an emblematic use of AAVE by both African Americans and by other European Americans (8:3)

Rap music in America has been heavily structured with the use of AAVE vernacular elements and style. The use of AAVE’s unique style in the hip hop cultures of other nations outside of America, as in Korea, are partly connected to the ability for the language of English to rhyme. Besides Korea, a study indicated that Swedish and Danish DJ’s also rap in English because of the English language’s ability to formulate the style of rap music better than their native tongue (24” 86). The elements that AAVE are developed from enable the user to manipulate English into a harmonic and rhythmic language that cultures around the world have utilized for their own needs. Its appeal to these diverse groups of people consists of a common culture undefined by language alone. These aspects have helped AAVE emerge and evolve as a language.

The evolution of AAVE has been reviewed by looking at the most common aspects that languages utilize in order to be sufficient for their respected populations. Realizing how AAVE has the ability to manipulate a dialect and shift the sounds of its environment can help us understand that it is more than a language. AAVE has evolved from a method of simplification between dialects which means that it has an identity similar to the characteristics of a chameleon. Research is able to point out these changing elements of the language by the examples of dialect shifting. A review of the literature explains the possibilities that AAVE is not limited to African Americans or even to America. From one culture to another, the true identity of AAVE may only be restricted to the fundamental elements that characterize the aspects of the language.

In early sociolinguistics, little attention was paid to linguistic portrayals in the media. With a growing interest in language ideologies, however, researchers have begun to shift their attention toward media representations of language as important illuminations of real-world ideologies though this is still an underexamined area within the field. One longstanding language ideology is that nonstandard varieties of English are inferior to standard English. African American Vernacular English (AAVE) is widely considered to be the most stigmatized nonstandard U.S. variety of English. AAVE is often viewed as a simple collection of the latest slang words, used by people who are stupid, poor and lazy.

Building on previous work on language ideologies about AAVE in the public mind, this study provides a quantitative and qualitative analysis of the linguistic portrayal of African Americans in film. The study assesses the claim of previous studies (14:31) that those AAVE features generally shared by a number of nonstandard dialects are more prevalent in the media. Through quantitative analysis, it is shown that general nonstandard features are indeed more prevalent in the films. Furthermore, to illustrate that the media is not simply reflecting a phenomenon that occurs in real AAVE-speaking communities, these results are compared with results from previous community studies. This comparison confirms that the preference for general nonstandard features over AAVE-specific features is in fact a media, and not a real-world, phenomenon.

The final finding is rooted in an argument made by Lippi-Green: Film uses language variation and accent to draw character quickly, building on established preconceived notions associated with specific regional loyalties, ethnic, racial or economic alliances. (14: 81) Results of the analysis of this issue show that films use AAVE to index low socioeconomic status, low level of education, high criminal involvement, and high aggression, or some combination of these. Conversely, standard English indexes high socioeconomic status, high level of education, low criminal involvement, and low aggression, or some combination of these. Cases of style-shifting further cement this indexicality by illustrating that a character switches from a style more dense with AAVE features to a more standard English style when they are attempting to highlight their intelligence or worthiness in a high-status environment.

The results of this study demonstrate the importance of examining media representations as well as community practices to fully understand the social uses and meanings of AAVE in American society.

2.1. The grammatical analysis of African American Vernacular English in movie “Precious”

1.Absence of copula

Copula is a technical for the auxiliary verb that takes the forms be, being, am, are, is, was and were. Copula absence refers to sentences in AAVE that do not have a form of the copula be, especially the singular, whose absence distinguishes AAVE from other American dialects, standard and vernacular. There is a myth about AAVE that it is popular, copular is carelessly omitted or is used in incorrect forms.

AAVE, as shown in the following sentences:


He nice He is nice/He`s nice.

They mine They are mine/They`re mine

However, AAVE doesn`t delete the copula where it cannot be reduced in SE in sentence –final position like I ain`t the one did it, he is ( SE: I am not the one did it, he is) for emphasis as Allah is God, and Questions, for instance He ain`t home, is he? (SE: he is not at home, is he?)

Precious uses structures that lack the copula. In all of the movie script investigated by the writer, many examples of copula deletion were found, as in these dialogs:

(1)Precious(v.o): this bitch crazy. “Sides, my muver don’t want to get cut off welfare and that`s what Mrs. Lichenstein comin` to visit result in. It`s hard to believe a hoe dis retarded sposed to educate somebody.

Comparing with Standard English, it becomes:

This bitich is crazy. Besides, my mother doesn`t want to cut off welfare and that`s what Mrs. Lichenstein coming to visit result in. It`s hard to believe a hoe this retarded supposed to educate somebody.

(2)Precious: You gonna be okay Mr. Wicher?

Mr. wicher: (forcing a smile) Of course Precious. Thank you. Translating into Standard English:

Precious: Are you going to be okay Mr. Wicher?

From the dialogs, the writer discovers that the speaker leave out the verbs is and are indicating present states and actions.

Absence of copula is also found in the question form as in this dialog:

(3)Precious: I need to see Nurse John. Where Nurse John at?

NURSE: He`s on break. He`ll be back soon. Have a seat.

In Standard English it means:

Precious: I need to see Nurse John. Where is Nurse John?

Absences of auxiliary are also found in the movie.

(4) Precious: What you want?

Mrs. lichenstein (o.s): I want to talk to you about your education.

Standard English uses auxiliary do or does in the sentences. So, in Standard English, it sentence means What do you want?

2.Invariant be

The most distinguishing feature of AAVE is the use of forms of be to mark aspect in verb phrases. The use or lack of form of be can indicate whether the performance of the verb is of a habitual nature. In Standard English, this can be expressed only using adverbs such as usually. Invariant habitual be is an auxiliary verb form occurring in AAVE that is never conjugated; it signals habitual aspect – the occurrence of an event or state over a significantly long period of time (length depending on the social context).

The aspectual marker ‘be’ can occur in front of –ing-forms, adjectives, nouns or prepositional phrases. It most frequent with –ing forms. This feature doe not appear as often as the zero copula in the movie. The writer only found Preciuos uses the invariant be twice.

(5)Precious: I always be fallin like that when my mind be wanderin. Mama say I gonna fall to my death one day. Wonder what that is like?

SE: I always fall like that when my mind is wandering. Mama says I am going to fall to my death one day. Wonder what that is like?

It is found the script that habitual be is used. It occurs in front of ‘ing’- forms, be falling, and adjectives, be wandering . In Standard English, it is used adverb always to state habitual action.

(6) Precious (v.o): I am happy to be writing. I am happy to be in school. I am happy to know my baby coming soon. Don’t see the pretending I am not pregnant anymore. I am also thinking about lil Mongo a lot. Miz Rain say we gonna write everyday, that mean home too.

Similar sentences in the Standard English will be written:

I am happy to write. I am happy to be in school. I am happy to know my baby is coming soon. Don’t see the pretending I am not pregnant anymore. I am also thinking about little Mongo a lot. Miz Rain says we are going to write everyday, that means home too.

Using be in front of –ing from in AAVE to indicate habitual action is different with Standard English that uses adverb like always and usually. The sentence I always be fallin like that when my mind be wanderin means the speaker do it repeatedly.

To conclude, habitual be, used in the dialogs, is used to indicate repeated, habitual action. It means that something is done usually, repeatedly or in a habitual manner, which is in contradiction with the Standard that uses be as either auxiliary or copulative verb it functions either as a helper or a link between subject and complement.

3.Regular and Irregular past verbs

In AAVE, regular is not obligatory. It frequently omitted. Green, as quote by Oetting and Pruitt, states that internal markers of tense are often required in AAE. However, for irregular past tense, Green states that internal markers of tense are often required in AAE. However, over- regularized forms (e.g., falled) and forms a typical of Standard American English (e.g, drunk, brung, had fell, had walked) may be produced within these contexts.

As observe in the dialogs:

(7)Precious: …Sometimes I see vampires too. They come fro me sometimes and they say that I am one of them. They say”Precious, you belong wif us” (SE: Precious, you belong with us”)

Ms. weiss: How do you respond to them?

Precious: I say, “Check wif my muver”. After that, they just look at me and go down through the floor. The family downstairs is vampires so that`s where they should go. (SE: “Check with my mother”)

Precious: I`m going to the doctor now too. It`s nice. Miz Rain, she fall out when she finded out that I ain`t been to no doctor. Whole class scream “preenatal” at me. They don’t know I had my first baby on the kitchen floor wif my muver kicking me upside my head. I mean, who would believe?

Grammatically in Standard English becomes:

Precious: I`m going to the doctor now too. It`s nice. Miss Rain, she fell out when she found that I haven’t gone to any doctor. Whole class screams ‘prental’ at me. They don’t know I had my first baby on the kitchen with my mother kicking me upside my head. I mean, who would believe?

(8)Precious (o.s.): My grandmuver Toosie, brangs Little Mongo over on days social worker come so it look like Mongo live wif us. Then my mamma get the check`n food stamps for me`n Litlle Mongo. But it`s my baby. Little Mongo is money for me, not for her!

SE: My grandmother Toosie, brangs Little Mongo over on days social worker come so it look like Mongo live with us. Then my mama got the check`n food stamps for me`n Litlle Mongo. But it`s my baby. Little Mongo is money for me, not for her!

The dialog shows the regularization of past tense, the verb finded, uses in the dialog, indicates past activity. Grammatically, Standard English differentiates regular and irregular verb. Regular verb is formed by adding –ed to the verb as show becomes showed while irregular verb has its own structure like write becomes wrote. The verb finded in this dialog translated into Standard English becomes found. In addition, brangs means brought in Standard English.

4.Subject –verb agreement.

Based on the theory of the grammar of standard English, verb must agree with the subject. It sometimes doesn`t happen in AAVE. In the script the writer found there are some sentence that the verb is not agree with the subject, as in the dialog:

(9)Precious (v.o.): Plus she say who wanna see me dancing anyway I goes to I.S. 111.In Harlem. New York. Today I was almost late. That`d a been a problem.

Comparing with Standard English, it will be written:

(1)Precious (v.o.): Plus she said who want to see me dancing anyway I go to I.S. 111.In Harlem. New York. Today I was almost late. That`d usually been a problem.

It also occur these dialogs:

(10)Precious: Nobody love me. Thas a lie. (SE: Nobody loves me. That`s a lie)

Ms.rain: People do love you Precious.

PRECIOUS: Please don’t lie Miz Rain! Love?! Me?! Love rape me, beat me, call me animal, get me sick and make me feel wurfless. I had enough love. (SE: Please don’t be lying Miss Rain! Love?! Me?! Love raped me, beat me, called me animal, got me sick and made me feel wordless. I had enough love)

Ms.rain: that wasn`t love. There are people child loves you too. Is that clear Precious? Now if Rite decided to just give up? Would you let her?

Nobody is identified as a singular form in Standard English. So it must adding suffix-s in the verb following it. NO signaling of the third person singular in the present tense of the verb.

5.No signaling of the third person singular in the present tense of the verb

Another characteristic of AAVE is absence of signaling of the third person singular in the present tense of verb. The Standard prescribes that when the sunject is occupied by a third person singular noun, the verb must be inflected with –s,-es. For instance, he turns down that offer. In contrast, grammatical system of AAVE ignores such that. As indicated in the dialogs:

(11)Precious (v.o.): Off da bat sumthin` different wif adis lady. She like to sing. I wish I could sing. Go to church. Sing on a choir. Mama say ain`t no God. Dis lady remind me Mr.Lichenstein` cept not a cuckoo. Dress like she ride in out the village too.

SE: Off the bad something different with this lady. She likes to sing. I wish I could sing. Go to the church. Sing on a choir. Mama said we didn’t have any God. This lady reminds me to Mr. Wicher but more a man and like Miss Lichenstein except not a cuckoo. Dress like she rides in out the village too.

(12)Precious (v.o.): His name Abdul Jamal Louis Jones. He healthy. His muver love him.

SE: His name is Jamal Louis Jones. He healthy. His mother loves him.

‘She’ as a third person singular must be followed by an auxiliary ‘likes’ and “his mother” must be followed by an inflected auxiliary “loves”.

6.Aspectual Marker been

The aspect marked by stressed “been” has been given many names, including Perfect Phrase, Remote Past, Remote Phrase. With non-stative verbs, the role of been is simple: it places the action in the distant past, or represents total completion of the action. A standard English equivalent is to add “a long time ago”. For example, She been tell me that translates as, “she told me that a long time ago”.

However, when been is used with stative verbs or gerund forms, been shows that the action began in the distant past and that it is continuing now. A better translation when used with stative verbs is ‘for a long time’. For instance, in response to “I like you new dress”, one might hear Oh. I been had this dress, meaning that the speaker has told the dress for a long time and that is isn’t new.

From the dialog in the script, the writer found the using of been:

(13)Precious (v.o): Today is first day. I been tessed. I been incomed eligible. I got my medical card, proof of address, self, pencil, notebook-alla dat shit.

Been in that sentence functions as perfect phrase marker. It is similar with the using of perfect tense in Standard English.

(1)SE: Today is first day. I have been tested. I have been income eligible. I got my medical card, proof of address, self, pencil, notebook -all of that shit.

Besides, it also shown in this voice over:

(14)Precious (v.o): Abdul nine months old and walking! Smart too. I been reading to him since the day he was born almost. Barely talking and he is counting.

Been is also indicates the activity took place in the distant past and that it is continuing now.

7.Use Ain`t for negation

In these varieties ain`t is used in those place where Standar English uses be+not or have +not. In these varieties ain`t is restricted to present tense contexts. In this non-standard White varieties of English, ain`t never appers where Standard English had past tense forms of be +not or have +not or do+not (was+not, were+not, had+not, did+not). However, in AAVE, aint can appear in past tense contexts. Furthermore, it said by Howe that the using of this negative form in the environment of have +not, be+not, and do+not, in both present and past temporal contexts.

Wolfram, as quote by Howe, states, “the correspondence of standard English didn’t (with ain`t) has only been in Vernacular Black English varieties. The regular use of ain`t for didn`t in modern AAVE appear to be a recent development.

Ain`t was found in the following dialogs:

(15)Cornrows: You still need formal discharge papers r we can`t let you in. It`s the law.

Precious: Mr. Lichenstein ain` say all that.

SE: Mr. Lichenstein didn’t say all that.

As mentioned earlier, ain`t used in AAVE where be not, do not, and have not would be used in Standard English. In that sentence ain`t is similar with didn’t to mark negative form in the past in Standard English.

Using ain`t is also fond in the question form like this:

(16)Ruby: Precious when we gon` play? (SE: when we are ging to play?)

PRECIOUS: (without turning around) Ain`t you s`posed to be in school? (SE: Don’t you supposed to be in school?)

Ruby: You said we was gon` play. (SE: you said we were going to play)

Precious: See, thas jus exackly why we ain`t gon` be playin`. I never said nuffin like it. (SE: See, that`s just exactly why we are not going play. I never said anything like it.

The using of ain`t in that sentence similar with the using of to be +not, in this case are not.

8.Negative concord (double or Multiple negation)

In AAVE, speakers can produce as many negations as they like. It is to be noted that multiple negation is used in white non-standard English, and was used in Old and Middle English as well. The features is this not something peculiar in AAVE, yet widely used among AAVE speakers, and therefore included in this investigation.

There are a few cases of multiple negation in Precious dialogs. In fact, all sentences in which there is negation are formed according to AAVE standards: Double negations were used instead of the terms anyone/anybody and anymore, as in the following dialogs:

(17)Mr Wicher: class, would you please turn to page 122… class! 122!

Precious (v.o.): I like maff but I don’t say nuffin –don’t open my book even. Just sit there.

SE: I like math but I don’t say anything-don’t open my book even.

Just sit there

(18)Mary: first you steal my husband, and than you get me cut off the welfare you stupid-mouth bitch!

Precious: i ain’t steal nuffin from you mama! your husband raped me and i not stupid! (se: i didn’t steal anything from you mama! your husband raped me and i not stupid!)

Mary: you are! you are too! you is and you always gon be nuthin but stupid till the day you die! you hear me?!! stupid!!!

Both sentences, I don’t say nuffin’ and I AIN’T NUFFIN FROM YOU MAMA! Are using double negatives. In Standard English, If using double negatives in one clause, the meaning is positive, not negative.

However, AAVE permit the using of double or even multiple negations in one clause, and he meaning of the sentence, is still negative.

2.2. The comparative examples of AAVE with SE in movie “Precious”…..

This table is a comparable examples of AAVE with SE from movie “Precious”









Absence of copula/Auxiliary

Copula is often dropped. It is omitted only in the present tense.

This bitch crazy.

This bitch is crazy.

This the alternative?

Is this the alternative?

Mama crazy but mama not stupid.

Mama is crazy but mama not stupid

His name Abdul Jamal Louis Jones

His name is Abdul Jamal Louis Jones

He healthy.

He is healthy

Rita and me on our way.

Rita and me on are our way

Every day I tell myself something gonna happen

Every day I tell myself something going to happen

Where Nurse John at?

Where is Nurse John?

What she say

What does she say?

What you want?

What do you want?

Where my baby at?

Where is my baby?


Invariant be (Habitual be)

Ongoing or general states are marked by uninflected “be”

I always be falling like that when my mind be wanderin’

I always fall like that when my mind be wandering

I am happy to be writing

I am always happy to write

You talk to us girls in the class when we working out problems and thangs and stuff, right?

You talk to us girls in the class, when we work out problems and things and stuff, right?


Regular and Irregular past verbs

Regular –ed is not obligatory: frequently omitted. Irregular past may remain un inflected, or regularized with “-ed”

She fall out when she finded out that I ain’ been to no doctor.

She fell out when she found out that I haven’t been to any doctor

My grandmuver Toosie, brangs Little Mongo over on days social worker come.

My grandmother Toosie, brought Little Mongo over on day social worker come


Subject-verb non agreement

Incorrect usage of verb form in subject agreement

I goes to I.S III in Harlem

I go to I.S III in Harlem

I feels sorry for Mr. Witcher.

I feel sorry for Mr. Witcher

I does my work

I do my work

I is learning

I am learning

My grades is good

My grades are good

No body love me

Nobody loves me


No signaling of the third-person singular in the present tense of the verb

Regular or irregular present third person singular is not obligatory. It is frequently omitted

He do his best

He does his best

Mama don’t find none of it out

Mama doesn’t find it out

His muver love him

His mother loves him

She like to sing

She likes to sing


Aspectual Marker been

Remote phase marker is used by some linguist to refer to the aspect marked by stressed “been”

I been reading to him since the day he was born almost.

I been reading to him since almost the day he was born.

I never been no child!

I have never had any child

It ain’t what you been saying

It didn’t what you have been saying

Today I been tessed I been incomed eligible

I have been tested I been income eligible


Use Ain’t for negation

Use ain’t as a general negative indicator.

That ain’t fair

That is not fair

That’s just exactly why we ain’t gonna be playing

That is just exactly why we are not going to be playing

Ain’t sure.

I am sure

I think may be this ain’t the class for me

I think may be this not the class for me

Mrs.Lichenstein ain’t say all that.

Mrs.Lichenstein didn’t say all of that.


Negative concord (Double or Multiple negation)

Double or even multiple negatives with in sentence are acceptable, and are used for emphasis

He ain’t go no voice

He didn’t get any voice

I don’t want to miss no more of math class.

I don’t want to miss more of math class anymore

I ain’t done nothing!

I didn’t do anything!

I never said nuffin like it

I never said anything like it

No,I didn’t neither.

I didn’t either

I ain’t been to no doctor

I didn’t go any doctor

If she take Abdul, I won’t have nothing nomore

If she takes Abdul, I won’t have nothing anymore

I ain’t steal nothing from you, mama! (p.63.85)

I didn’t steal anything from you, mama!

I ain’t gonna be homeless no more. (p.70.101)

I am not going be homeless anymore.

You don’t know nothing (p.91.125)

You don’t know anything

I didn’t have nobody to really speak wif for a long time. (p.82.114)

I didn’t have anybody to really speak with for a long time.

I don’t have nuffin to write today and I don’t hate no one. (p.90.125)

I don’t have anything to write today and I don’t hate anyone.


The reason why this study has centered its research on Hollywood movies is because the movie industry in the United States tries to portray to the rest of the world a wishful society. The results from this study prove that, by reducing the use of AAVE to lower social classes an uneducated African American, Standard English is launched to the variety use by educated higher social classes. Furthermore, and to add validity to the results, one of the movies analyzed provide a clear example of code-switching, as it is the case for "Precious" in which, role played by Preciuos, uses AAVE to speak with the rest of the inmates and Standard English when addressing to the parole hearings.After analyzing research, the writer wants to describe some conclusions about grammatical characteristic of AAVE used in Precious move, adapted by Geoffrey Fletcher from Push, the bestselling 1996 novel by Ramona Lofton, was produced by Anthony Lapaglia, and directed by Lee Daniels.

Based on the research findings, the writer concludes that the grammatical characteristic of AAVE are used in the Precious movie including eight features. The first is absence of copula and auxiliary. AAVE does not have a form of the copula be, especially the singular. Absence of copula is also found in the quiestion. form like Where Nurse John at? Precious sometimes deletes auxiliary do or does as what you want?

Secondly, it is also found the using of habitual be. Be in AAVE is used to indicate repeated, habitual action. For example I am happy to be writing. Then, it uses regularization of the past verbs as she fall out when she finded out that I ain’ been to no dictor. In addition, the writer found some sentences that the verb is not agree with the subject. Morever, there is also no singing of the third- person singular in present tense of verb like His muver love him. Besides, aspectual marker been is also found. It functions as either remote phase marker or perfect phase marker. In negative cases, AAVE using ain’t for negation and double negation. For example Mrs. Lichenstein ain’ say all and I don’t say nuffin’.

Grammatical characteristics of AAVE have been written in the text such as This bitch hich crazy, I am happy to be writing, she fall out when she finded out that I ain’ been no doctor, Nobody love me, His muver love him, I been reading to him since the day he was born almost, Mrs Lichenstein ain’ say all that, I don’t say nuffin’, and soon.

The comparisons of grammatical characteristics of AAVE in Precious movie with Standard English diverge in some matters. Firstly, the usage of to be and auxiliary that in Standard English is must, it can be omitted in AAVE in case of present tense, except verb am. Then, verb be is used as habitual marker in AAVE contrast with Standard English that uses adverb of frequently such as always, usually, often etc. for habitual action. In addition, subject verb agreement is obligatory in Standard English while it can be found some cases that verb is not agree with the subject in AAVE.

Contrast with Standard English that differentiates regular and irregular past verb, in AAVE, it sometimes regularizes the irregular past verb from like found becomes finded. Moreover, regular present third person singular is not obligatory, frequently omitted. It is different from Standard English that verb following that third person singular in present form must be inflected with –s/-es. Furthermore, AAVE uses ain’t for negation replacing negative form Standard English such as isn`t or aren’t. Then, using double or multiple negations is usual. However, in Standard English, using double negations change the meaning of the sentence into positive.

Also, this negative sides of language can affect to education of children as well as to other things. Many educational policies and services are determined based on a child’s native language. Students who speak languages other than English may be eligible for special programs to help advance their English fluency. Oakland educators realized correctly that many of their African-American students were at a severe educational disadvantage because they lacked adequate proficiency in standard English. Rather than argue that AAVE speakers were in greater need of standard English fluency, however, Oakland educators argued that black students were linguistically akin to others for whom English is not native.

Depending upon which definition of Ebonics one chooses, ensuing policy and economic decisions can have profound social, educational, legal and political consequences. Imagine the budgetary impact of expanding bilingual education programs to include African Americans; clearly, neither educators nor politicians had ever pondered or planned for such a prospect. Moreover, the highly articulate speech of African Americans who are in the public eye, such as Bryant Gumble, Colin Powell, Condoleezza Rice and Oprah Winfrey serve as constant reminders that many blacks have mastered standard English without any benefit of (or apparent need for) special educational programs.

There are thousands of movie which speaks by using vernacular english. For instanse, In the movie "Amistad", the character Theodore Joadson, although a slave, has been educated by his master; this fact is very relevant for the results of this study, if it is taken into account the hypothesis of this paper, which is the use of Standard English only by educated people. Another important point that has to be mentioned is that the movie "Jackie Brown" was directed by Spike Lee, who is an African American film director known for his continuous defense of African American rights. In this movie the character chosen (Ordell Robbie) and the rest of the African American characters use AAVE all through the movie. The Linguistic Society of America on its Oakland resolution stated that: "Characterizations of Ebonics as "slang," "mutant," "lazy," "defective," "ungrammatical," or "broken English" are incorrect and demeaning". So the question is: Why someone who is an advocate of African American rights makes Ordell Robbie (a drug dealer) use AAVE? Therefore, the results shown in the previous section, Analysis and Results, is the collected data which demonstrates that the variety of English AAVE is used by the movie industry as a portrayal of uneducated African American with lack of social status. To conclude, it should be said that during the research process many other questions for future lines of research have arisen regarding AAVE from the linguistic and sociolinguistic point of view. These questions are: Is Standard American English a Variety of British English? Should the" black preaching style" be included on the list of AAVE features? Is African American voice and pitch intonation considered exclusive of AAVE users?

And so, we still do not have one single definition of Ebonics. Few Americans who use the term know the care with which Robert Williams painstakingly described the linguistic plight of enslaved Africans. Of more immediate educational importance, efforts to increase standard English proficiency among American slave descendants of African origin have never been fully addressed. Yet, I know of no fair-minded U.S. citizen who would claim that black students are any different from other American students who are far more likely to succeed if they can be helped to obtain greater standard English fluency.

Through this thesis, the writer suggests for those who are interested in analyzing or comprehending the African American Vernacular English, particularly in its grammatical characteristics, should enlarge knowledge about AAVE from various experts and their concept for comparing them. Because of the writer`s relatively limited knowledge on West African language, this research only concerns about grammatical characteristics. There are phonological, syntactic, and semantic characteristics of AAVE that are interesting and need to be analyzed.


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Diploma paper. Features of African American Vernacular English. Vowels of African American Vernacular Language. Who speaks African American Vernacular English. Differences of B.E. and Standard English, British English and British Black English. African American Vernacular English and its use in the US film industry. The grammatical analysis of African American Vernacular English in movie “Precious”

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