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African American Dialect

African American Vernacular English is the formal name given to describe African American dialects. There are other less formal names for it including African American English, African American Language, and Ebonics. African American Vernacular English (AAVE) shares characteristics of both Southern American English and African creole. Its usage can vary based on social and economic factors.

African American Dialect

There are several different theories concerning the evolution of AAVE. Some believe that it began with slavery and it was a way that slaves could communicate during the trans-Atlantic voyage without being understood by their captors. Others argue that it is a mixture of the British dialects to which slaves would have been exposed. During the times of the Revolution, there is written evidence of a “slave language” among the slave creoles.

There are many differences between AAVE and American Standard English (ASE). Some of these differences present themselves in grammar, pronunciation, and vocabulary. AAVE speakers tend to ignore verb tense, use negatives differently, drop the copula be, and include different vocabulary words. Several words of African origin have been added to American Standard English. Some of these words include gumbo, yam, and banjo.

There are different views on the appropriateness of the use of AAVE. Linguists mostly agree that AAVE is an appropriate dialect. Others argue that it has negative connotations associated with it. This view is popular among many African Americans. Educators continue to try to figure out its place in the education system.

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