The Role of Language in African American Vernacular English

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Many people around the world have taken language for granted just like the sun in the morning or the air people breathe. With the help of language, members of the community are able to socialize, interact, and communicate. Language is also an important facet since it helps human beings in differentiating themselves from other people. People have also used language in written form to help in notifying them about information on worldwide affairs. Language cannot only be used in identifying a specific group, but also establishes its position in that group since it can effectively distinguish a person’s gender, religion, occupation, age, and social class. Through language, people are able to build their capability of communicating and this gift has made the human race to be more advanced in comparison to other living organisms.

Language was initially meant to smoothen communication but the irony comes up since the community is facing multilingualism. This has made people face obstacles when communicating their thoughts because narrators are speaking using different languages. Multilingualism has also resulted in dormancy of some languages. Additionally, it illustrates how multi languages can be applied in the background to construct the identities of people. Since these creation have played a significant role in the experiences of people and compose their social worlds, there is a need for researchers to take a keen note on the ways race and ethnicity have been evident in the day to day context particularly considering educational practice.

Studies have explained some of the features that can make one say that one language is superior to the other. Essentially, language is known to have a major communicative role in various societies, for instance, speaking to people on the news, morning greetings, and also collecting views regarding the things that people want in the society. According to Bourdieu, in the relations between people, language can be used to establish people’s worth such that during interactions, the speech will play its key role in identifying the person who speaks it. Other American linguists such as George L. Trager and Bernard Bloch have explained language as a structure of random vocal symbols through which a social group can be able to communicate and cooperate. Another scholar known as Benjamin Whorf has explained that language has helped in shaping emotions and thoughts thus establishing how perceives reality. From this, one can ascertain that language can act as the light of the mind. Despite that many early research activities had already been carried out in this field, it can still be noted how early scholars showed importance in the existence of relationships between cultures and languages. Through this, people have been able to determine how personal identities are built because of language. However, it is still crucial to note that language identities are established for languages, but created in political, historical, and social contexts.

Language has also been recognized as an evident and extensive feature of the community life. When a person decides to pick a language over the other, he would have chosen a universally and immediate acknowledged symbol of identity. With the help of comprehensive links in form of literature, language can be used in providing a specific apparent link to history. Nevertheless, this link is known to exist even after the capabilities of language have been misplaced. For instance, in the present day, most Italian-Americans do not know Italian but still consider Italian as a component of their ethnic identity. The ethnic structure also manifests the obligations of a group to its ancestral links. The moment a group has become aware about its ethnic identity, it will develop the need to reinforce its position. It has also been evident how language has been acting as a natural obstacle between cultural groups encouraging conflicts and not cooperation. For instance, in bilingual societies, languages can be used in focusing on political injustice.

Languages can also be important in both the outward perspective of an ethnic group by strangers and self-identification of an ethnic group. Many scholarly works associated with ethnic identity have stressed that even though identity is deeply rooted in a community making them have a strong emotional attachment, it is not the only important facet of a group’s identity. Many people have also considered ethnicity since it incorporates self-identification of a group including how to view other people. Ethnicity is regarded as a group’s property, linked with ancestry, language and culture. All through history, the significance of culture has manifested itself. If there was no language in the universe, there would be no writers, political readers, philosophers, poets and other art forms. Consequently, it can be established that language satisfies that basic needs of human beings to talk and also assisted people in depending on other people to successfully live. Language is thus a communication tool that human beings use. Mankind has been well served with language, which has been an important element in the pioneering of the advancement of human civilization.

African American Vernacular English (AAVE), and Its Linguistics Features

The African-American Vernacular English also known as Black Vernacular English, Black English Vernacular or Black Vernacular refers to the diversity of English that is natively conversed mostly by middle and working class Black Americans and other Black Canadians residing in the urban societies. Whereas the AAVE has some special features in its structure, it also manifests a lot of commonalities. AAVE has found itself in many public discussions while also the analysis of its diversity has ignited and maintained discussions between the sociologists. It would be difficult to ascertain the number of people who speak AAVE due to its complexity. There are speakers who apply specific pronunciation aspects and slang but not any of their grammatical characteristics relate with the variety. Many sociologists have maintained the term AAVE as varieties that is manifested through the subsistence of unique grammatical attributes. Nonetheless, there is still difficulty even with assumptions to explain the number of AAVE speakers because grammatical features transpire frequently.

Similar to many African-American English, AAVE shares a considerable part of its phonology and grammar with the rural languages in South US because of their historical relations to the area. Linguists have also explained that the similarities between West Africa and AAVE are true but negligible. The inconsistency in a speech from people and groups reveals the compound social attitudes that surround AAVE and other diversities of English. AAVE’s history and genetic affiliation have also developed controversies. A group of scholars have explained that AAVE originated due to contacts between West African speakers and English speakers. West Africans learnt speaking in English while on the farms in the southern Coastal States. Other people who believe in contact scenario for the growth of AAVE explain that the contact language grew through development of the second language. With this view, it can be said that West Africans who newly entered the farms could be having limitations speaking English grammatical models since the amount of native speakers was very little. In a case where second language community learners are transported, it is possible that they could be collecting English words when they encounter other people and also slang languages recognized in West Africa. Linguists have explained that in such a case, universal grammar would have been very helpful since the rules work with all the languages. This has been evident in places like the Caribbean in the Sea and Gullah islands and some other locations in the US, for instance, Georgia and South Carolina. Studies have explained that the demographic setting in the Caribbean and the United States were dissimilar while the conditions required in the US were never satisfied.

AAVE has also been a victim of severe stigma brought by the history of race in the United States. It has a rule-bound, coherent, and systematic grammar with amazing grammatical characteristics that enable to pass complex thoughts to other people in comparison to other English dialects. The reintegration of cities and rise of hip-hop has widely exposed AAVE but still, instances of stigma have been widely experienced.

There are many features of pronunciation that that make AAVE be different from other varieties of English in America. According to John McWhorter, the element that truly brings together the entire AAVE accents is the exceptional ‘melody’ or intonation pattern that features in even the lightest or neutral African-American pronunciation. Many multisyllabic terms in AAVE are different from the General American in how stress is placed so that, for instance Detroit, guitar, and police are mentioned with an opening stress rather than an ending stress. Vowels have shown how there is a lessening of some forms of diphthong to monophthongs, particularly the prize novel /aI/ which is monophthongized to [a:] but before wordless consonants. Vowel resonance in ‘choice’ is also monophthongized mainly ahead of /I/ making ball and bail to be indistinguishable. Vowels in AAVE also show the pin-pen merger that appears ahead of the nasal consonants such as /m/ and /n/.

In consonants, the AAVE are observed to have the final word devoicing of /g/, /d/, and /b/ so that for instance ‘cup’ will sound familiar with ‘cub’ even though these phrases can preserve the longer vowel articulations that appear before voiced consonants. Speakers of AAVE do not also use fricatives (th and the in ‘thin’) which are in the other English diversities. The position of a phoneme in a word will dictate how it will sound. Another important element of the AAVE is the final consonant cluster decrease. There exist many phenomena that are alike but are controlled by various grammatical policies. This trend has been effectively applied by creolists to contrast AAVE with West African languages because these languages lack final clusters. There is a reduction in the final consonant clusters which share a similar type of voicing and are hormorganic. For example the word ‘test’ is articulated as [tes] because both /s/ and /t/ are voiceless. Likewise, final consonants in AAVE can be cancelled out even though that there are great differences between speakers. Many at times, /d/ and /t/ are deleted. Similar to other English dialects, final /k/ and /t/ may decrease to a glottal end. Nasal consonants can disappear while nasalization of the vowel is maintained. AAVE consonants also use metathesized forms such as ‘aks’ instead of ‘ask’ or sometimes ‘grasp’ for ‘grasp’. There is also an apparent use of non-rhotic behavior whereby the rhotic consonant /r/ is left when not being preceded by a vowel. The rhoticity level of AAVE is somehow connected with the rhotic behavior of white speakers in a particular area. Research activities carried out in the 1960s manifested that AAVE intonations in Detroit are non-rhotic while white speakers in the same area are rhotic. Similarly, accents in New York City are non-rhotic while whites are also non-rhotic.

Chicano English and Its Linguistics Features

Chicano English refers to the substandard diversity of English language manipulated by the Spanish language and is spoken like a native vernacular by both monolingual and bilingual speakers in the Southwest US. The term ‘Chicano’ describes English forms, culture, and people in the United States who have a Latin American origin. The generic terms like ‘Latino’ and ‘Hispanic’ have received much attention in the US, particularly in the south and west after concerns raised as to which is the phrase to use. Chicano English mainly includes studied communications from the Latino group beginning in the mid-80s up to date. It has also been evident how Chicano English is alive and prospering in Los Angeles. It is also known to be a dialect on its own, different from Spanish and other local diversities of English, for instance, California Anglo English. Chicano English has also been observed to be changing but still, there exist no signs that the community will abandon and stop using it in support of standard English. It is known to be the product of language contact amongst English and Spanish. Chicano English is also significantly influenced by AAVE and European American diversities of English. In Spanish, people use the double negative, a situation reflected by the Chicano English grammar.

A lot of Chicano English speakers apply prepositions that are different from those used in other diversities of English, for example, “They drove off with the bus”. The use of these prepositions is also influenced in the Spanish society. Besides, Spanish indicates the possession of a third person through the use of prepositional phrases instead of possessive nouns. For instance, “The dress of my baby is blue”. The Spanish language possesses one preposition that matches with ‘on’ and ‘in’ in English. Chicano English has also been observed to be distinctive due to its vowels based on intonation in Spanish language. As such, it can be seen that words such as ‘bit’ and ‘beet’ are pronounced as “beet” while the ‘ing’ suffix is pronounced using ‘I’. Sounds referred to as interdentals like then and this are created when the tongue touches behind one’s teeth and not between the teeth. Also, not all of these features are applied by Chicano English speakers. Most of them have shown some relations with social features like gender, age, and ethnicity. As it has been expected, most working class people are observed to be expressing non-standard features of Chicano English.

The Chicano English also has various linguistic features for example vowel variation. Speakers of Chicano English merge /a/ and /e/ so that men and man are homophonous. Another feature is the final consonant deletion. Spanish rules only allow /I/, /r/, /s/, and /n/ to be at the end of texts. Thus, all the other single English consonants are unfamiliar with Chicano English which indicates that texts that conclude with consonant cluster have been simplified. There is an also consonant variation whereby /z/ is devoiced in all surrounding. For example, easy is changed with [isi]. In some cases, Chicano speakers take /v/ for /b/, utter /TH/ as one F or S/T/D, such that the phrase ‘that’ can be articulated as [dat]. Additionally, it is evident that Chicano English speakers use ‘M’ at the conclusion of words as [n] while ‘R’ is articulated as a flap. Chicano English speakers preserve unity through the use of linguistic characteristics that portray community and home. Research activities have also indicated that Chicano speakers use speeches that promote camaraderie and gives comfort. Their speech also employs the use of double negatives and other irregular forms that are not allowed in schools. For example, Chicano English possess some linguistic items related to the language. Words like ‘fool’, ‘kick it’ have picked up changed senses in phrases. There are also differences in articulation.

Whiteness With Reference To Dominance, Cultural Emptiness and Relative Invisibility

The experience of white people is known to be very different apart from just being another ethnicity. In areas where the European people descent, there exist, main group, ethnic boundaries which have never been neutral since the two groups are not similar with regards to political influence or power on the dominant ideology. For instance, in the discussion held by Jane Hill regarding white public space, she explains that “White people have been assumed to be invisibly normal and other groups are both marginal and visible.” It has been evident how this relative invisibility has led to the development of cultural emptiness in White America.

The appropriation of culture starts with cultural emptiness. A lot of European Americans, particularly the youth has borrowed language, hairstyles, or clothing from Indian or African cultures. Since many whites feel that they are culturally empty, they end up borrowing from other cultures they feel interested in so that they fill that space. White people are also known to have stereotypes. This is because of the way they love watching or playing hockey, intense gaming, and beer drinking. To explain more about the cultural emptiness in White people, one can use the example of how women do surgeries to better their bodies or even braid their hair similar to how Indian and Black cultures have done. All this comes back to hatred ad race that exists between the two cultures. Whiteness is flexible and changing, and it also has various races. During the nineteenth and twentieth century, White Americans came up with a set of races with Irish, Anglo-Saxons at the top and Italians at the bottom. Prior to 1920s, White Angelo-Saxon Americans assumed that Polish, Irish, and Italian migrants were races. In the 19th century, European migrant groups in the United States were regrouped in race thus turning into unhyphenated whites. After a short while, Irish and Italians had the ability to marry white people, join unions, and vote but freedom was still denied to the Blacks.

August 14, 2023



Language Communication

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