LING/ASIA 122: ENGLISH AS A WORLD LANGUAGE African American English Based on Readings from Wolfram & SchillingEstes, Smith, and Rickford African American English In this video, notice the extent of variation in the speech of the people talking, both the variation among individuals and variation by any single individual. Listen for specific features (pronunciation, vocabulary, grammar) of African American English. Ebonics or AAE: One dialect of American English Why a separate dialect? First slaves arrive in Jamestown from Africa in 1619 and continued until 1808 (?) Spoke Niger-Congo languages of Senegal, Gambia, Cameroon and Bantu language of southern Africa On plantations of the South and Caribbean, isolated from the white community Origins of AAE – Three Views Afro-centric view – the linguistic features of AAE trace their origins to the languages of Africa Euro-centric view – slaves learned English from white settlers who spoke; the features of AAE were imported from Irish and Scottish dialects of English Creolist view – AAE features arise from a pidgin > creole situation in which slaves often lacked a common language among themselves AAE words and phrases that have ‘crossed over’ ‘Givin five’ – slapping hands in agreement or congratulations Whassup – ‘What’s new? What’s happening?’ Tote - from Kikongo word tota = ‘to carry’) Hip - from Wolof word hipi = ‘to be aware’) Deficit-Difference Controversy In the 1960s-1970s, debated in educational circles Some language scholars: dialect variation is simple a matter of difference, not deficit Some educators: variation from the socially accepted standard constituted a fundamental deficiency. Oakland “Ebonics Controversy” In your readings, Rickford writes about the ‘Oakland Ebonics Controversy’ Mid-1990s Status of African American English Ebonics as a separate language Political and economic motivation Proposed educational program Outcome Linguistic Society of America 1997 Statement: All human language systems – spoken, signed, and written – are fundamentally regular…. Characterizations of socially disfavored varieties as “slang, mutant, defective, ungrammatical, or broken English” are incorrect and demeaning. Principle of Linguistic Subordination The speech of a socially subordinate group will be interpreted as linguistically inadequate by comparison with that of the socially dominant group. Nonstandard English in Education Why do teachers need to know about children’s vernacular? Because children don’t automatically adjust to ‘school language’ To teach standard variety more efficiently To avoid serious conflict between teacher and student Nonstandard Dialects as ‘selfcontained’ systems Two successive vowels rule An apple [æn æpļ] > [ə æpļ] The apple [ðiy æpļ] > [ðə æpļ] Four apples [foɚ æpļz] > [fo æpļz] Negative foregrounding rule Scarcely did anybody see it > Ain’t nobody see it. There isn’t anybody who saw it. > It ain’t nobody see it. Phonology of AAE Initial th [ð] > [d]: ‘them’ > ‘dem’ Final th [θ] > [f]: ‘with’ > ‘wif’’ Middle, final [r] deletion: ‘during’ > ‘doing’, ‘more’ > ‘mow’ Middle, final [l] deletion: ‘help’ > ‘hep’, ‘will’ > ‘wi’ Deletion of many final consonants: ‘hood’ . ‘hoo’, ‘test’ > ‘tes’ ‘tests’ > ‘tesses’ Phonology of AAE Vowel + ‘ng’ [ɪŋ] > [æŋ]: ‘thing’ > ‘thang’, ‘ring’ > ‘rang’ Contraction of going: ‘going’ > ‘gon’ Primary stress shift: ‘poLICE’ > ‘POlice’, ‘deTROIT’ > ‘DEtroit’ Diphthongs > simple vowels: ‘nice’ [nays] > [nas] Syntax in AAE Use of ‘be’, [bi] or [biz] Habitual condition: ‘The coffee be(s) cold.’ ‘My father be tired.’ With do, for emphasis, questions ‘Do they be playing all day?’ ‘They do be missing with you a lot.’ Future action ‘The boy be here soon.’ ‘I be going home tomorrow.’ Syntax in AAE Other forms of ‘to be’: is, was Past tense: He was my teacher last year. They was acting up. Tag questions: You ain’t sick, is you? Omission of ‘be’ Conditions fixed in time He sick today. My momma in the hospital. They talking about school now. Syntax in AAE Uses of ‘been’ Past action recently completed She been there and left before I got there. Past action with other verbs He been gone a year. She been gone a year before anybody know it. To show emphasis She BEEN there. Syntax in AAE Uses of ‘done’ Completed action, recent or not I done my homework today / yesterday. With other verbs, recently completed action (equivalent to SE Present Perfect tense) I done did my hair five times this week. With ‘be’, future perfect tense He be done left by the time we get there. I be done finish before anyone arrive. Syntax in AAE Verbs not marked for person (1st, 2nd, 3rd) She have us say it He do the same thing they do. Nouns not marked for plural, possessive Two boy just left. That was Mr. Johnson store got burn down. Existential ‘There’ > ‘It’ It’s three boy and one girl in my family. It was a man had died. Syntax in AAE Double subjects My son he have a new car. The boy who left he my friend. Triple and quadruple negatives Don’t nobody never help me do my work. Can’t nobody do nothing in Mr. Smith class. ‘Soldier’ Revisited When them lames be spittin' at you tell 'em don't even try it To shot it wit Chelle and kick it wit Kelly or holla at be Ya, gotta be g's you way outta your league Please! …. They keep that beat that be in the back beatin' (Beatin') Eyes be so low from there chiefin (chiefin) I love how he keep my body screamin' (Screamin') A rude boy that's good to me, wit street credibility Caveats regarding AAE Not all African Americans are AAE speakers. Not all AAE speakers use all of these patterns all the time. Variation across age, class and region Bidialectalism No speaker uses the full range of patterns in their language one hundred percent of the time. Code-switching Language change The Linguistic Inferiority Principle The speech of a socially subordinate group will always be interpreted as inadequate by comparison with the socially dominant group. The Great African & African American Oral Traditions Sample One - Kwame Nkrumah (1909 - 1972), influential 20th century advocate of Pan-Africanism, and the leader of Ghana and its predecessor state, the Gold Coast, from 1952 to 1966 Sample Two - Odumegwu Ojukwu (b. 1933), leader of the secessionist state of Biafra in Nigeria (1967–1970), during the Nigerian Civil War Sample Three - Desmond Tutu (b. 1931) South African cleric and activist opponent of apartheid and Nobel Peace Prize recipient Sample Four – Maya Angelou (b. 1928), American poet, playwright, memoirist, actress, author, producer and American Civil Rights figure, called "America's most visible black female autobiographer". Academic Register There is an academic register necessary for carrying out certain kinds of educational routines. That register must be mastered for academic success. But mastery or lack of mastery of that register has nothing to do with basic language capability. Language is like your wardrobe: You wear what is appropriate for the occasion. The larger your wardrobe, the more places you can feel comfortable going. Use the dialect or language that is appropriate for the context/occasion. Discussion In your opinion, should AAE be treated as a separate language? Is it important for African Americans to learn SE? Why or why not? Is it important for other, non-African Americans to learn AAE? Why or why not? In your opinion, is AAE becoming more or less like SE? Are some features of AAE ‘crossing over,’ that is, being used among non-African Americans? If so, what features and why?