Talk:African American Vernacular English

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

Regional difference[edit]

I know there are regional differences according to linguistics, though I don't know the specific papers. I would like to see a section dedicated to that as well.--Hitsuji Kinno (talk) 19:28, 9 February 2014 (UTC)

A "Good Article" nominee?[edit]

This article has become a Good Article nominee. This surprises me. I don't see any discussion above about whether it qualifies as a GA, let alone agreement not only (A) to nominate it but also (B) to dedicate energy and time to attending to the pile of annoying questions and objections (some of them of course justified) that nomination leads to. All I see is a suggestion made four years ago (a suggestion to which nobody agreed).

As the nominator only made her first edit a couple of months ago, I'd guess that she might be unfamiliar with the rigmarole that GA nomination tends to trigger.

This is an article into which a lot of work has been poured. But a lot of this has been merely to fend off uninformed and silly attempts at change for the worse (some of these attempts citing newspaper columnists and other ignoramuses). I don't think the article is bad but I also don't think it's good. Time and energy permitting (and I'm not sure if they would), I could make whatever improvements are required for syntax and morphology. I'm not qualified to attend to the rest.

I suggest that the nomination is removed pronto. But I'm open to reasoning to the contrary. -- Hoary (talk) 03:27, 1 March 2014 (UTC)

Sorry, is the article not good? I've referred to it a few times over the past few years and really felt it to be helpful and well written. I'm new to wikipedia. Is it not as good as I thought it was? Is this not how things are done here? I can take it down if it's going to bother people. I just wanted to show my appreciation for the article. Bali88 (talk) 03:31, 1 March 2014 (UTC)
Please take a look at Talk:Stoke_sub_Hamdon_Priory/GA1 for a recent example of a GA nomination that seems to have gone smoothly. (Note the slim cyan blocks with "[show]" links to their right. Try clicking a few of these links.) Talk:D'Oliveira_affair/GA1 is less exhaustive but has more pesky questions, which somebody had to respond to promptly. As you look at the former GA discussion, are you pretty confident that this article would pass virtually all of these very many criteria? (I'm not.) As you look at the latter one, are you confident that somebody keeping watch over the article (perhaps you) will have access to a library with the needed linguistics and other books and papers? (I'm not.)
Normally, one of the most active editors of an article suggests nomination on the article's talk page, there's agreement (or no persuasive disagreement), and then the process goes ahead.
I'm happy to learn that the article has been helpful. I think it's promising, and that it could be a GA. But I don't think it's ready yet. -- Hoary (talk) 04:09, 1 March 2014 (UTC)
I have an interest in linguistics but only an armchair knowledge of it, so I am certainly not the person to fix any problems. I apologize if I've stepped on any toes. Feeling my way through the whole wikipedia thing. :-) Bali88 (talk) 04:16, 1 March 2014 (UTC)
Oh, and also, I have no idea how to un-nominate it...Bali88 (talk) 04:17, 1 March 2014 (UTC)
No, it's fine, no reason to apologize -- and certainly this article isn't "owned" by anyone. And thank you for having got me to start thinking about a push in the medium future for GA status. I've just "un-nominated" the article for you. -- Hoary (talk) 05:41, 1 March 2014 (UTC)
IMHO, GA reviews can provide helpful feedback, but if the concern is that the reviewer might be a layperson with twisted views on the subject (and we know how sticky that can get), perhaps there is a way to have someone we trust take a look at the article and provide an informal review. — Ƶ§œš¹ [ãːɱ ˈfɹ̠ˤʷɪ̃ə̃nlɪ] 01:07, 3 March 2014 (UTC)

Tupac example[edit]

"5-0" is not the best example of AAVE use. That comes from the TV show Hawaii 5-0, and is not necessarily an AAVE term, just an American slang term. You can find plenty of better examples in Tupac's songs. (talk) 17:22, 5 May 2014 (UTC)

Neutrality between what and what?[edit]

I've just noticed this pair of edits. They're recent, but have been followed by various others. In what is the latest edit, RoflCopter404 reverts one of the changes, going back from:

Some linguists maintain that there is nothing intrinsically "wrong" or "sloppy" about AAVE as a language variety since, like all dialects, AAVE shows consistent internal logic and grammatical complexity, and is used naturally to express thoughts and ideas. (my emphasis)


Linguists maintain that there is nothing intrinsically "wrong" or "sloppy" about AAVE as a language variety since, like all dialects, AAVE shows consistent internal logic and grammatical complexity, and is used naturally to express thoughts and ideas. (my emphasis)

(an assertion that was properly sourced, with references later twisted for "some linguists"), doing so with the very polite edit summary:

No linguist anywhere would disagree with this. "Some" is just inaccurate.

Well, I suppose that there are some deranged linguists. "Sane linguists" would read strangely but be accurate.

There's little directly about the "neutrality" question (as it arises here) in WP:NPOV. Within it, the section "Giving 'equal validity' can create a false balance" assumes that people writing in "reliable sources" normally agree with scientists and (genuine) experts. But newspapers are normally taken here to be "reliable sources"; and as linguists know, plenty of pundits and "language mavens" writing about language there are completely wrongheaded. (Which is hardly surprising in a world where one of the most popular and respected works about English is The Elements of Style.)

It seems to me that this pair of edits, however well intended, attempt to strike more of a balance between (A) the view of [sane] linguists and (B) the ruminations of "language mavens" and what passes for "common sense". And I strongly suspect that the edits also have the resulting sentences traduce the sources that they cite (though I admit to not having the sources to hand right now, so I can't immediately check). As another example (not yet reverted) within these edits, from:

Like other similar programs,[source] the Oakland resolution was widely misunderstood as intended to teach AAVE and "elevate it to the status of a written language."[source] (my emphasis)


Like other similar programs,[source] the Oakland resolution was widely understood as intended to teach AAVE and "elevate it to the status of a written language."[source] (my emphasis)

Comments? -- Hoary (talk) 09:47, 15 September 2014 (UTC)

In a way it's not really about neutrality but about authority and sources. It's a linguistics article so has to reflect the scientific mainstream, i.e. what linguistics has to say. Itsmejudith (talk) 09:53, 15 September 2014 (UTC)
The belief that the Oakland resolution was about teaching or elevating AAVE is simply incorrect. If we fail to indicate that, we are doing our readers a disservice. — Ƶ§œš¹ [ãːɱ ˈfɹ̠ˤʷɪ̃ə̃nlɪ] 00:45, 16 September 2014 (UTC)
The whole paragraph as it read bothered me rather a lot, but not having the sources on hand I only felt confident in making the one change back. Would it be a bad idea to just reverse the whole thing to what it was before the very questionable edit was made? — RoflCopter404 (talk) 08:32, 16 September 2014 (UTC)
While we're talking about interpret vs. misinterpret, I notice that the phrase "its use is interpreted, at best, as a sign of ignorance or laziness" was changed to "its use is misinterpreted, at best, as a sign of ignorance or laziness" (emphasis added). I hesitate to change it back for fear of implying by my edit that I think there is much credence to this interpretation. But the case against "interpret" is less strong here than with the Ebonics resolution. I think it might be a bit too heavy-handed. Thoughts? — Ƶ§œš¹ [ãːɱ ˈfɹ̠ˤʷɪ̃ə̃nlɪ] 21:25, 16 September 2014 (UTC)
More fully, the sentence in its current form is Other attitudes about AAVE are less positive, especially among African Americans, as AAVE both deviates from the standard and its use is commonly misinterpreted as a sign of ignorance or laziness. (The question of ±"mis" aside, this is very awkward, indeed ungrammatical. As a quick fix, remove "both".) It cites two sources. I have one of the pair, Green's book, open in front of me as I type. At first, Green doesn't compare the attitudes of "some African Americans" (which is how she describes them) with those of any other group. She starts off by reminding the reader that AAVE "deviates from the standard", and says that for "some African Americans", "not using the standard correctly suggests that speakers are ignorant, lazy or both". (Lovely potential ambiguity with the attachment of "correctly"; but I think that all L1 English readers will agree that no it does not modify "suggests".) She then doesn't call this a (mis)interpretation. (That it's a misinterpretation should be blazingly obvious to anybody who's paid any attention to the preceding two hundred pages, or indeed just read the first half of the short blurb that's on the back cover.) Instead, she approvingly cites Pullum's paper "African American Vernacular English is not Standard English with mistakes" (1999), quoting him as saying "The majority of English speakers think that AAVE is just English with two added factors: some special slang terms and a lot of grammatical mistakes. They are simply wrong about this." Green goes on to (approvingly) summarize Marcyliena Morgan's summary of AA attitudes in "The African-American speech community: Reality and sociolinguistics", a chapter in a 1994 book Morgan edited, The Social Construction of Identities in Creole Situations. Here we do find support for the WP article's "especially". Green: "She [sc Morgan] finds that a great deal of opposition to the use and acceptance of the speech variety has come from African Americans themselves." (All of this is to be found in the lower half of p.221 of Green's African American English.) ¶ So how about Other attitudes about AAVE, held strongly among some African Americans, misinterpret its deviation from Standard English as showing ignorance, laziness, or both. ¶ I can't speak for how this is justified by the other source that's cited: not only don't I have this source, I don't think that I can gain access to it. (Meanwhile, I do note that it's presented oddly: "Lanehart, Sonja, ed. (2001)". Uh huh. Which paper, and by whom, within this book?) -- Hoary (talk) 10:22, 17 September 2014 (UTC)
Perhaps "...held strongly among even some African Americans..." so that we don't imply that negative views come primarily from AA's. I think your suggested wording also implies that the attitudes are doing the misinterpreting, which goes against my understanding of what attitudes do. We could omit the bit about African Americans (since it's mentioned elsewhere in the article anyway). How about:
Other attitudes about AAVE are less positive; since AAVE deviates from the standard, its use is commonly misinterpreted as a sign of ignorance, laziness, or both."
The Lanehart citation is an article written by the editor. I don't have access to it anymore, but I might have notes on what I read somewhere... — Ƶ§œš¹ [ãːɱ ˈfɹ̠ˤʷɪ̃ə̃nlɪ] 00:22, 18 September 2014 (UTC)
Yes, that would be fine. -- Hoary (talk) 09:33, 18 September 2014 (UTC)

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)


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)

In Education[edit]

In this section- 'The statement that "African Language Systems are genetically based" also contributed to the negative reaction because "genetically" was popularly misunderstood to imply that African Americans had a biological predisposition to a particular language.'

Having lived through the media-storm the Oakland School Board's announcement made it is quite clear that the board members clearly thought 'genetically' was a biological reference, even if the author they were rubber stamping didn't mean it this way. If anyone has time it might make a good addition to the article to dig up some of their initial statements made to the media- before they started backpedaling and saying they knew what linguistic genetics were all the time and only meant it in that context. — Preceding unsigned comment added by 2602:304:cfe1:2959:ec29:f7ac:4514:f0ad (talkcontribs)

It would be interesting to see that. — Ƶ§œš¹ [lɛts b̥iː pʰəˈlaɪˀt] 02:05, 19 December 2014 (UTC)