Talk:African-American English

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edit·history·watch·refresh Stock post message.svg To-do list for African-American English:

  • Coverage of the sociolinguistic aspects, especially positive and negative views of this variety in the USA, should be improved, using reliable sources and with regard to weight. ...added by User:Itsmejudith on 27 January 2010
  • Additional examples of movies and television that depict AAVE. ...added by User:Aeusoes1 on 5 March 2010

Recent addition to intro[edit]

Middayexpress recently added the following text to the article's introduction. I have removed it because, not only does it contradict the content of the article, but it presents only one side of a long-standing debate among linguists who study AAVE. Here is the text, with my commentary:

African American Vernacular English evolved during the antebellum period through interaction between speakers of 16th and 17th century English of Great Britain and Ireland and various West African languages.

Well, yes and no. It is true that, in the 16th and 17th centuries, such speakers interacted with each other and it is likely that this may have developed some sort of slave creole. But this slave creole was not AAVE as we know it today. There is contention among scholars about whether AAVE as we know it today is the result of this slave creole becoming closer to forms of standard English (or Southern White English) or if it is the result of post-bellum isolation between blacks and whites. It is simply not true that AAVE as we know it today came from those antebellum interactions.

As a result, the variety shares parts of its grammar and phonology with the Southern American English dialect.

They do share these features, but not necessarily because of interactions between the British and Irish. It would probably be because of interactions with whites in the American South.

Where African American Vernacular English differs from Standard American English (SAE) is in certain pronunciation characteristics, tense usage and grammatical structures that were derived from West African languages, particularly those belonging to the Niger-Congo family.

Even if we were to change "Standard American English" to "Southern White English" it would still be patently untrue, even as a generalization. Even the features we can be certain come from a creole origin, there is still debate among creolists about whether the features of creoles come from some sort of innate grammar or if they are the result of substrate influence on speakers learning English. The evidence for the West African influence on AAVE specifically is very thin.

I also took a look at the cited source, the Encyclopedia of Cross-Cultural Psychology, which I should note is not a linguistics textbook. Middayexpress was fairly faithful to the original material, it's just an inaccurate source when it comes to its discussion of origins. The rest of the text on the entry in question is decent, though the wording in some places gives me a feeling like they were getting their information from this article, which would make using it a form of self-citation. — Ƶ§œš¹ [ãːɱ ˈfɹ̠ˤʷɪ̃ə̃nlɪ] 21:56, 22 October 2014 (UTC)

  • I agree with aeusoes1, The encyclopedia of crosscultural psychology is not a good source for linguistic facts. Plenty of linguists have written about AAVE, cite what they write instead.User:Maunus ·ʍaunus·snunɐw· 22:01, 22 October 2014 (UTC)

Encyclopedia of Cross-Cultural School Psychology[edit]

I too agree with Ƶ§œš¹.

I've nothing to add on the substance here, but I do have comments on the cited source. The book is titled Encyclopedia of Cross-Cultural School Psychology. The article cited within it, by Meghan Nichols Taylor, is titled "Ebonics". (Perhaps so titled by the editor rather than Taylor, but anyway, so titled.) Taylor is described in the list of contributors as having a bachelor's degree. (An admittedly quick websearch for her name brings up nothing aside from this non-page.) Her article on "Ebonics" starts:

African American Vernacular English (AAVE), also called Black English Vernacular or Ebonics as it is commonly known, is a type variety (dialect, ethnolect and sociolect) of the American English language.

-- an odd start for an article titled "Ebonics", I'd have thought.

The version of the book that's at Google Books appears to have been published in 2008, though this is unclear. (Worldcat gives two years: 2008 and 2010. I'd guess that it was merely reprinted in 2010, perhaps with corrections.) I've no reason to think that the book predates 2008, and no reason to think that the assembly of its ingredients predates 2007. Here's the Wikipedia article as it was at the very end of 2006; it starts (after markup-stripping):

African American Vernacular English (AAVE), also called African American English, Black English, Black Vernacular, Black English Vernacular (BEV), Black Vernacular English (BVE), or (usually perjoratively [sic]) "Jive", is a type variety (dialect, ethnolect and sociolect) of the American English language. It is known colloquially as Ebonics (a portmanteau of "ebony" and "phonics").

Was one year perhaps not enough for manufacture of this book? Well then, here's the article as it was at the very end of 2005; it starts (again after markup-stripping):

African American Vernacular English (AAVE), also called Black English, Black Vernacular, or Black English Vernacular (BEV), is a type of lect (dialect , ethnolect and sociolect) of the American English language. It is known colloquially as Ebonics, Ebo, or Jive.

So Ƶ§œš¹ is too kind: Taylor isn't just getting her information from an earlier version of the Wikipedia article; she's also (let me put this politely) "patchwriting" from it.

This book has a very serious title, cover design, and price. I used to know Springer as a highly respected publisher of mathematics and other books. While still putting out some good stuff, these days it also perpetrates some hilariously bad "books". I'm not sure where Encyclopedia of Cross-Cultural School Psychology fits along the spectrum, but suspect that buyers get less than they pay for. -- Hoary (talk) 23:58, 22 October 2014 (UTC)

Wow, that is really scary.User:Maunus ·ʍaunus·snunɐw· 21:39, 23 October 2014 (UTC)
This needs to be known, I am sharing this. And this Taylor name seems to be a pseudonym, there are no AAVE scholars or cultural psychologists of that name to be found online. This is really bad for Springer.User:Maunus ·ʍaunus·snunɐw· 21:48, 23 October 2014 (UTC)
Meghan Nichols Taylor also wrote the article on Plessy v. Ferguson for the Springer encyclopedia, and it also contains a chunk of text lifed directly from the wikipedia article. I am writing the editor of the encyclopedia to let them know.User:Maunus ·ʍaunus·snunɐw· 00:47, 24 October 2014 (UTC)
You'd better phrase that carefully. It's imaginable that both that both these ramshackle encyclopedias "borrowed" from a third source. (No, I don't think so either.) -- Hoary (talk) 23:30, 26 October 2014 (UTC)
No I looked at the version history and both of the wikipedia articles have grown incrementally and was basically in the state that she copied already by 2004. The springer editor is looking into it. My guess is that they don't do anything about it, other than not ask Meghan Taylor to write for them again. The articles there seem to be often written by graduate students under the supervision of their advisers who act as editors. User:Maunus ·ʍaunus·snunɐw· 03:25, 27 October 2014 (UTC)

Snunɐw, did you ever receive any thinking response from an actual human at Springer? -- Hoary (talk) 06:43, 4 May 2018 (UTC)

Yes, just one email from the editor (who was Meghan Taylor's doctoral adviser), she said she would inform Springer and take care of it. Then I never heard anything again.·maunus · snunɐɯ· 12:24, 4 May 2018 (UTC)


Linguistic resources are indeed ideal. They can and should be used to reference AAVE's main language attributes, including its influences from the Niger-Congo family. Anderson 2012, Hickey 2010, Lynch 2009, Gonzalez 2008, Green 2002, Clark 2013, Winkler 2012 are perhaps useful. Middayexpress (talk) 17:35, 23 October 2014 (UTC)

What's the context of this comment? Anderson's book may be fine in its way (I haven't read it and don't know), but it could hardly be more authoritative about AAVE than books devoted to AAVE. At least one of the other books you mention -- Green's -- is already cited a lot (and rightly so). -- Hoary (talk) 23:27, 26 October 2014 (UTC)
This is in reference to the recently removed content regarding AAVE's origins. — Ƶ§œš¹ [ãːɱ ˈfɹ̠ˤʷɪ̃ə̃nlɪ] 19:12, 27 October 2014 (UTC)
Ah. Thanks, Ƶ§œš¹; I've added an "=" each side of the title accordingly. ¶ Middayexpress, yes, sources should be linguistics sources. But not everything that purports to be about language is a sound linguistics source. I took a quick look at one more of the sources you nominate: "Gonzalez 2008". More precisely, it's a short article, "Ebonics", by one Roberto Tinajero II, within another special-purpose encyclopedia. (It's not obvious that Roberto Tinajero is mentioned anywhere else within the book, let alone outside it.) I'd rate what little I bothered to read of this article with one word: sophomoric. (Do I need to give examples?) ¶ I'm taking an increasingly dim view of recent encyclopedias on narrow areas in what might be termed the humanities. This particular example has a RRP of USD 380. The title is respectable and I suppose a harried librarian would find it handy in helping to burn up an annoying end-of-year budget surplus. Grad students might want to donate articles in order to get mention of these onto their CVs. Harried undergrads who really don't know anything about (here) "Ebonics" read this stuff (not all of which is wrong-headed), regurgitate it, and cite it; harried grad students marking these papers don't actually fail them; the tertiary education and book publishing industries trundle on. -- Hoary (talk) 23:43, 27 October 2014 (UTC)
I've reviewed reference books in science for Choice for the last ten years or so. There are some extremely good multivolume expensive reference books, but these are outnumbered by the ones that are not worth publishing. The humanities is no worse than other subjects. There are marvelously good works like the Grove encyclopedias of art and music, and some wonder linguistics dictionaries like Dictionary of American Regional Index. They're the minority. Lower quality ones are not as much edited as compiled from whatever the individual authors submit, and there can be great variation in quality between the different articles. All academic publishers cater to this market; all have some worthwhile books and some less worthwhile books: this is the nature of all publishing.
Publishers publish them because most librarians have traditionally bought them all without thinking--they're relatively easy purchases, and nobody will notice if they are little used. Academic librarians rarely actually have surpluses in the usual sense: there is always more to buy than money available, though at fiscal year ending dates there can be a need to get any remaining money spent quickly. The first priority is to buy the books the faculty asks for, and then most libraries automatically buy new editions of what they have purchased previously, but then comes the need for selection. It is very hard to judge if a book not individually asked for is ever likely to be used: the standard figure is that 50% never will be used even once.
In actuality, the market for these works is in a counterproductive state of crisis: fewer and fewer copies of an expensive academic work can be expected to be sold; the net result is that the price per copy goes up , causing fewer copies to be sold, and so on exponentially. They are very expensive to produce if they get proper detailed review and editing--we all of us here should be familiar with the work required for an excellent single article; let alone a thousand--remember than in 11 years 20,000 regular editors here have managed to come up with only 4600 featured articles, most of which are not really of the highest professional level. But they are not particularly expensive to produce, if one doesn't care to much about quality, and the field is not one requiring high resolution illustrations. In print, good illustrations are what's really expensive.
The only way to judge without expert evaluation the quality and reliability of an individual article in most reference books is the academic reputation of the author; and even this doesn't work well, because even authors of high reputation will sometimes turn out repetitive work of only mediocre quality.
there is however one thing that can be said about all printed reference works: they are out of date. They normally take 3 to 5 years to prepare,and then perhaps 10 years between editions, and they are usually based on publications that themselves take a few years to write. Our reliance upon secondary sources therefore intrinsically means that we are always relying on out of date sources; Even for apparently static subjects,the interpretations will be years behind the current state of the field, and will necessarily ignore recent discoveries (we still have 100s of articles based on nothing better than the 1913 Brittanica--I consider it a major disgrace that we ever decided to accept this). MEDRES tries to limit this problem by limiting RS to recent review articles, and they are available in this subject area, but there is almost no other field with equally rapid updating.
Online sources can do better, but most reference works with online equivalents are not really revised as often as necessary. Again, we here should all be familiar with this problem in our own encyclopedia--who ever thought ten years ago that everything being done would have to regularly be done all over again? DGG ( talk ) 06:06, 28 October 2014 (UTC)
Yes, the two "Grove" encyclopedias (or "dictionaries") are indeed superb, as is the Dictionary of American Regional English. Offhand I know nothing about the genesis of the "Grove" newcomer on art, but the other two took decades to create. For music, there's Slonimsky's Baker's Biographical Dictionary of Musicians [I'm unfamiliar with Slonimsky's successor's work], which is both careful and opinionated (and funny). There was the old Oxford Companion to Music, which was very good at what it tried to do, and the unloved New Companion to Music, which I thought had much better ingredients but didn't quite hang together. But all of these, and dozens or possibly a hundred or so more, are famous. Beyond these, there are thousands more. Think of a narrow subject area; these days there's probably an encyclopedia about it. An Encyclopedia of Twentieth-Century Photography? Check! They're three expensive volumes from Routledge that are soporific at best. Of course there are honorable exceptions; for example, I'm happy with my copy of The Oxford Companion to J. M. W. Turner. ( two-star customer review: "Maybe I am silly but if you are going to call a book a companion on a painter you should have plenty of paintings from each of the periods in his/her life to share with the reader." Yes dear, you are silly.) ¶ In contrast to much of what are billed as encyclopedias, "handbooks" seem good, at least so far as I am qualified to judge them. And where I'm not qualified to judge them, I can at least see that the (longish, meaty) entries are usually written by a large number of scholars, each of whom seems significant if not prominent in their field. -- Hoary (talk) 00:37, 29 October 2014 (UTC)

Each of these varieties, namely only one of them[edit]

Uh, Wolfdog, I'm sure that this edit was well-intentioned, but I'm not at all sure that it dispels confusion. Actually it reinforces my idea that this section, however written, doesn't belong here. (Perhaps it could be merged into AAVE.) -- Hoary (talk) 05:21, 3 May 2018 (UTC)

Honestly, I have no idea what you're talking about. But do whatever works for you. Wolfdog (talk) 21:33, 3 May 2018 (UTC)
Maybe it can appear in both articles? That is the AAVE section of this article. — Ƶ§œš¹ [lɛts b̥iː pʰəˈlaɪˀt] 21:41, 3 May 2018 (UTC)
I'm sorry if I was obscure. Let's just look at the start. As first added by ANTH-Conde:
For quite some time African American English has been associated with a lower level of education because it is believed that AAE is a lower-class variety of SAE. However, this idea is completely false. As early as the sixties, linguists were able to demonstrate that those who use AAE or black speech, do use a "legitimate, rule-governed, and fully developed dialect .
This cited this academic paper, only the first page of which can be read with no payment.
"Lower-class" in which sense -- associated with the lower socioeconomic classes, or simply inferior? If the former, well, the unfortunate fact is that the average socioeconomic class of Black people is low; the idea couldn't have been "completely false", and whether it was true or false anyway would have been independent of the syntax, etc, of the language. If it was simply inferior -- well, that would clearly have been mistaken, and thus appropriate here. This is what made me plump for "inferior" within the rewrite (by others as well as myself):
African-American English has been associated with a lower level of education because of a mistaken belief that AAE is an inferior variety of English. As early as the sixties, linguists demonstrated that AAE was a "legitimate, rule-governed, and fully developed dialect".
Within the single free-of-charge page of the article, all that seem to be about the old, mistaken ideas are:
  • The authors of [the Language Deficit Theory] believed that because children from lower socioeconomic backgrounds lacked verbal stimulation in their homes, they were not afforded the linguistic resources necessary for language success.
  • Early studies on the attitudes of teachers toward Black English-speaking students revealed that teachers consider [sic] the Black English language system inferior to that of middle-class Whites.
The matter isn't totally clear, but it seems to me to be saying that the mistaken idea was that Black English aka AAE was inferior (and that the inferiority was for reasons related to socioeconomic class).
After the most recent edit:
Nonstandard African-American varieties of English have been stereotypically associated with a lower level of education and low social status. Since the sixties, however, linguists have demonstrated that each of these varieties, and namely African-American Vernacular English, is a "legitimate, rule-governed, and fully developed dialect".
Well, linguists have indeed demonstrated that AAVE is a "legitimate, rule-governed, and fully developed dialect". But the paper uses the term "Black English" (which it describes as "the language of African American students"). So the choice of "AAVE" over "AAE" here is strange. Additionally, the first page of the cited paper is unconcerned with varieties within what it calls "Black English". And to posit varieties (plural) and then to name them as AAVE -- this utterly mystifies me. -- Hoary (talk) 23:31, 3 May 2018 (UTC)
I feel like your only real problem with my edit is my mention of "AAVE". AAVE is certainly the specific dialect most historically disparaged and stigmatized. However, if the source does not say that, then by all means feel free to remove the use of that term. (Remember too that AAVE, AAE, and/or Black English are commonly used synonymously by overly-generalizing sources -- in fact all the time.) Wolfdog (talk) 20:20, 4 May 2018 (UTC)
Also, it seems the full text is, in fact, available. Wolfdog (talk) 20:21, 4 May 2018 (UTC)

Move discussion in progress[edit]

There is a move discussion in progress on Talk:African-American gospel which affects this page. Please participate on that page and not in this talk page section. Thank you. —RMCD bot 23:20, 18 February 2019 (UTC)

Nonstandard plurals?[edit]

The article currently says (emphasis added):

The use of the zero copula (the absence of is or are, as in she gon' leave), nonstandard plural forms (the three mens, mans, or even mens) and multiple negatives (as in no one didn't leave me nothing) were occasional or common variants in these earlier dialects, and the latter item even the preferred variant in certain grammatical contexts.

I see two different nonstandard plurals: mens and mans. How is the third nonstandard plural supposed to be different from the first one? --Metropolitan90 (talk) 01:05, 25 March 2019 (UTC)

Good catch. A number of edits ago, this read "the three man, mans, or even mens"; presumably it was changed either accidentally or maliciously. I'm about to change it back. -- Hoary (talk) 06:14, 25 March 2019 (UTC)

A Commons file used on this page has been nominated for speedy deletion[edit]

The following Wikimedia Commons file used on this page has been nominated for speedy deletion:

You can see the reason for deletion at the file description page linked above. —Community Tech bot (talk) 05:06, 25 March 2019 (UTC)