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AAVE - West Indian English Creole, African American Vernacular English, and Irish American Vernacular English.

African American Vernacular English (AAVE), also called Black English, Black Vernacular, or Black English Vernacular (BEV), is a type variety (dialect, ethnolect and sociolect) of the American English language. It is known colloquially as Ebonics ("ebony" and "phonics"). With pronunciation that in some respects is common to that of Southern American English, the variety is spoken by many blacks in the United States and ethnic minorities worldwide. AAVE shares many characteristics with various Creole English dialects spoken by blacks in much of the world. AAVE also has grammatical origins in, and pronunciation characteristics in common with, various West African languages.


Talking Black in America John Baugh speaking on AAE's flexibility. #BlackHistoryMonth


History and Social Context

AAVE's development has its deepest roots in the trans-Atlantic African slave trade, but it also has features of English spoken in Great Britain and Ireland during the 16th and 17th centuries.

Distinctive patterns of language usage among African slaves arose out of the need for multilingual populations of African captives to communicate among themselves and with their captors. During the Middle Passage, these captives (many already multi-lingual speakers of dialects of Fantee AND ALSO SEE Wolof, Twi, Hausa, Yoruba, Dogon, Akan, Kimbundu, Bambara ) developed pidgins (simplified mixtures of two or more languages).

Also Discover early cultural mergings of African and European currents and their Moorish Legacy by Ted Gioia. Over time, some of these pidgins became fully developed creoles in the Americas. Significant numbers of blacks still speak some of these creoles, notably Gullah on the Sea Islands of South Carolina and Georgia.

Any language used by isolated groups of people is likely to split into various dialects. The pronunciation of AAVE is based in large part on Southern American English, an influence that no doubt was reciprocal in many ways. The traits of AAVE that separate it from Standard American English (SAE) include:

AAVE also has contributed to Standard American English words of African origin ("gumbo", "goober", "yam", "banjo", "bogus"). Irish American Vernacular English has also contributed to Standard English In areas of close socialization between speakers of AAVE and other groups of people, a greater number of non-black speakers exist.

AAVE's resistance to assimilation into Southern American English or other more standard dialects is a natural consequence of cultural differences between blacks and whites. Language becomes a means of self-differentiation that helps forge group identity, solidarity and pride. AAVE has survived and thrived through the centuries also as a result of various degrees of isolation from Southern American English and Standard American English—through both self-segregation from and marginalization by mainstream society.

Most speakers of AAVE are bidialectal, since they use Standard American English to varying degrees as well as AAVE. Generally speaking, the degree of exclusive use of AAVE decreases with the rise in socioeconomic status, although almost all speakers of AAVE at all socioeconomic levels readily understand Standard American English. Most blacks, regardless of socioeconomic status, educational background, or geographic region, use some form of AAVE to various degrees in informal and intra-ethnic communication (this selection of variety according to social context is called code switching).

Other AAVE grammatical characteristics

Some of these characteristics, notably double negatives and the use of been for "has been", are also characteristic of general colloquial American English.

William Labov


 William Labov really did establish a whole new academic field when he was a graduate student. And he has remained at the forefront of that field to this day. Matthew Gordon describes how, why, when and where this happened, and explains with great clarity the importance and excitement of it all. It's a remarkable story, and Gordon has really done it justice. Peter Trudgill, University of Agder, Norway Gordon has written a mesmerizing narrative of one of the greatest linguists in the history of the profession, capturing the historical, social, and theoretical significance of Labov's pioneering studies of language in its social context. It is an invaluable, timeless contribution to understanding the modern development of our discipline.
Gordon paints a contextually rich picture of William Labov's scholarship. Gordon provides extensive explanation of Labov's many milestones from the 1960s to 2010 and also contextualizes the development of linguistic and sociolinguistic fields over this time.

5-06-2012 William Labov has been awarded a doctorate honoris causa
William Labov with with the medal of doctor honoris causaWilliam Labov, professor of the Department of Linguistics at the University of Pennsylvania (USA), has been made doctor honoris causa by UPF today, 5 June, at an academic ceremony presided over by rector Josep Joan Moreso. The ceremony took place this lunchtime at the auditorium of the Poblenou campus, hosting such an event for the first time was full-to-overflowing.

Linguist William Labov carried out and published the first thorough grammatical study of African American Vernacular English in 1965.

In July 2005, Mary Texeira, a sociology professor at Cal State San Bernardino, suggested that Ebonics be included in the San Bernardino City Unified School District. Though she had no standing in the school district, the recommendation was met with a backlash similar to that in Oakland nine years before.


In addition, negatives are formed differently from standard American English:

Lexical features

For the most part, AAVE uses the lexicon of SAE, particularly informal and southern dialects. There are some notable differences, however. It has been suggested that some of this vocabulary has its origin in West African languages, but etymology is often difficult to trace and without a trail of recorded usage the suggestions below cannot be considered proven.


Full Text - California Board of Education passed an Ebonics Resolution 12/18/96

Proponents of various bills across the U.S., notably a resolution from the Oakland, California school board on December 18, 1996, wanted "Ebonics" officially recognized as a language or dialect. At its last meeting, the outgoing Oakland school board unanimously passed the resolution before stepping down from their positions to the newly elected board, who held different political views. The new board modified the resolution and then effectively dropped it. Had the measure remained in force, it would have affected funding and education-related issues.

Full Text of 'Ebonics' Resolution Adopted by Oakland Board

The Oakland resolution declared that Ebonics was not English, and was not an Indo-European language at all, asserting that the speech of black children belonged to "West and Niger-Congo African Language Systems". This claim was quickly ruled inconsistent with current linguistic theory, that AAVE is a dialect of English and thus of Indo-European origin. Furthermore, the differences between modern AAVE and Standard English are nowhere near as great as those between French and the Haitian Creole language, the latter of which is considered a separate language. The statement that "African Language Systems are genetically based" also contributed to widespread incredulity and hostility. Supporters of the resolution later stated that "genetically" was not a racist term but a linguistic one. Languages are chunked into families, so you can talk about them in this way then follow how they change in time into the next generation and follow what they become in time - that is what is meant by genetically based.

AAVE as a Creole

Dillard (1972) quotes slave ship Captain William Smith:

As for the languages of Gambia, they are so many and so different, that the Natives, on either Side of the River, cannot understand each other.… [T]he safest Way is to trade with the different Nations, on either Side of the River, and having some of every Sort on board, there will be no more Likelihood of their succeeding in a Plot, than of finishing the Tower of Babel

Some slave owners preferred slaves from a particular tribe. For consigned cargoes, language mixing aboard ship was sometimes minimal. There is evidence that many enslaved Africans continued to use fairly intact native languages until almost 1700, when Wolof became one of the bases of a sort of intermediary pidgin among Africans. It is Wolof that comes to the fore in tracing the African roots of AAVE.
By 1715, this African pidgin had made its way into novels by Daniel Defoe, in particular, The Life of Colonel Jacque. Cotton Mather claimed to have been very familiar with his slaves' speech, knowing enough to affirm that one of his slaves was from the Coromantee tribe. Mather's imitative writing shows features present in many creoles and even in modern day AAVE.

Anansi, Tekoma, and the Cow's Belly Folktale EXCELLENT RESOURCE YOU MUST SEE!!
Anansi stories are culturally rooted in West Africa. In the 17th, 18th, and 19th centuries, many West African people were carried to the United States Virgin Islands. Their Caribbean lives were in many ways different from their African lives. Still they told stories, as they had in Africa, for entertainment and to teach lessons about life. The Virgin Islands Dutch Creole folktale spoken by Dr. Robin Sabino called Anansi, Tekoma, and the Cow's Belly was collected by a Dutch anthropologist, J. P. B. de Josselin de Jong, who visited the U.S. Virgin Islands in 1923. De Josselin de Jong does not say who told him this story. However, we do know that all of the people who told him stories lived on St. Thomas and St. John and that they spoke both Dutch Creole and AMERICAN VIRGIN ISLANDS CREOLE.

Learn about the ROOTS of American Virgin Islands Creole

Learn about Irish Slaves in Africa - When European slavers arrived in Africa to buy slaves, they found that many had no common language.

Gullah Geechee Sea Islanders Tradition

It was not until the time of the Civil War that the language of the slaves became familiar to a large number of educated whites. And an imitation of dialect also became popular with songs - See Florida's State Song . The abolitionist papers before the war form a rich corpus of examples of plantation creole. In Army Life in a Black Regiment (1870), Thomas Wentworth Higginson detailed many features of his soldiers' language. In particular, this book contains the first reference to the distinction within AAVE "been" between stressed BÍN and unstressed bin. "Music Moves - The Scottish Gailec Roots of Gospel"






Literacy and 21st Century Linguistic Rights

A people without a language of its own is only half a nation.

American English is the language of liberation worldwide.
English as a Second Language (ESL) or English as a Foreign Language (EFL).

Standard English is the language of commerce, the language of the administrator

After emancipation, some freed slaves traveled to West Africa, taking their creole with them. In certain African tribal groups, such as those in east Cameroon, there are varieties of Black English that show strong resemblances to the creole dialects in the U.S. documented during this period. Read Pidgins and Creoles and other Stigmatized Varieties by David Sutcliff. The languages have remained similar due to the homogeneity within tribal groups, and so can act as windows into a past state of Creole English.


Pedantic Scholarship
Education is compartmentalized, and social studies which should be able to - doesn't deliver the big picture. We use the net to interrupt the state sanctioned text books who have bought the right to have publishers print the myths that they want to you to believe but do not really explain what happened. We interrupt the education text book and Dictionary industry supply chain.


Proponents of Ebonics instruction in public education believe that their proposals have been distorted by political debate and misunderstood by the general public. The belief underlying it is that black students would perform better in school and more easily learn standard American English if textbooks and teachers acknowledged that AAVE was not a substandard version of standard American English but a legitimate speech variety with its own grammatical rules and pronunciation norms.
For black students whose primary dialect was Ebonics, the Oakland resolution mandated some instruction in that dialect, both for "maintaining the legitimacy and richness of such language [sic]... and to facilitate their acquisition and mastery of English language skills." Teachers were encouraged to recognize that the "errors" in standard American English that their students made were not the result of lack of intelligence or effort, and indeed were not errors at all but instead features of a grammatically distinct form of English. Rather than teaching standard English by proscribing non-standard usage, the idea was to teach standard English to Ebonics-speaking students by showing them how to translate expressions from AAVE to standard American English.
Framers of the Oakland resolution recognized that, when teaching anyone a language or variety with which they are unfamiliar, it is important to differentiate between understanding and pronunciation (this consideration appears in later discussion, not in the resolution itself). For instance, if a child reads "He passed by both of them" as "he pass by bowf uh dem", a teacher must determine whether the child is saying passed or pass, since they are identical in AAVE phonology. Appropriate remedial strategies here would be different from effective strategies for an SAE speaker who read "passed" as "pass".

Pedagogical techniques similar to those used to teach English to speakers of foreign languages appear to hold promise for speakers of AAVE. Stewart (in Baratz & Shuy, 1969) introduced the use of "dialect readers"—sets of text nearer to the child's dialect than SAE text — to AAVE speakers. This helps the child focus on translating symbols on paper into words without worrying about learning a new language at the same time. Simpkins, Holt, and Simpkins (1977) developed a comprehensive set of dialect readers, called bridge readers, which included the same content in three different dialects: AAVE, a bridge version, which was closer to SAE without being prohibitively formal, and a Standard English version. The results were very promising, but in the end the program was not widely adopted for various political and social reasons related to the refusal of ignorant school systems to recognize AAVE as a dialect of English.

Opinions on Ebonics still range from advocacy of official language status in the United States to denigration as "poor English".



LINGUISTIC INTELLEGENCE is associated with the auditory sense, and is not closely tied to the world of objects or other people. It is the most widely and democratically shared across humans, and is the most thoroughly studied intelligence.
Teaching children whose first language is AAVE poses problems beyond simply that of which common pedagogic techniques deal with, and the Oakland approach has support among some educational theorists. However, such pedagogical approaches give rise to educational and political disputes that often show strong racial and cultural biases. Despite the clear linguistic evidence, the American public and policymakers remain divided over whether to even recognize AAVE as a legitimate variety of English.



If you are using MLA citing, here is an example using the "Educational CyberPlayGround" site.
Cassidy, Dan and Ellis, Karen: "Educational CyberPlayGround" Internet. 
Database available online.
Date accessed Month day, year.

HOW WOULD AFRICANS KNOW IRISH WORDS? FROM CAPTURED IRISH SLAVES. Carried off as captives by the Corsairs in the middles ages to Africa, maybe as early as the third century.

The First War on Terror:
Until the United States won its independence from Britain, the country was covered under the British treaties with the Barbary rulers.  After 1783, however, America no longer had that safety net.  They either had to pay like everyone else, cease trading in the Mediterranean, or run the risk of falling prey to Corsairs.  Americans, particularly Thomas Jefferson, came up with an alternative--build a navy and fight.

In one of my favorite books: "Zen And The Art Of Motorcycle Maintenance" Pirsig says. . . . .
"We build up whole cultural intellectual patterns based on past 'facts' which are extremely selective. When a new fact comes in that does not fit the pattern we don't throw out the pattern. We throw out the fact. A contradictory fact has to keep hammering and hammering and hammering, sometimes for centuries, before maybe one or two people see it. And then these one or two have to start hammering on others for a long time before they see it too . . .





Understanding is best achieved when aspects of reality are studied in isolation from each other (biology, history, physics, language, etc.).



Understanding is best achieved when the holistic nature of reality is recognized so that all knowledge becomes part of a single, mutually supportive conceptual framework.




Pieces Retrieved from Wikipedia

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