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According to Smitherman, What is African American Vernacular?

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According to Smitherman, What is African American Vernacular? What is Her Criteria for This Definition?

Smitherman defines African American vernacular as a language that came into existence as a result of mixture of mixture of words and patterns of African and English languages (Smitherman 6). She points out that this African American English developed out of enslavement and involved mixture of different linguistic traditions. In justifying her definition, Smitherman explains that the general principles that apply to any language are also applicable to those who speak African American language. Here criteria for coming up with the definition is based on the features of African American English which are: systems of semantics, grammar, and pronunciation as well as verbal traditions. Therefore, it is evident that African American English does not consist of simply a group of words. Instead, it has its unique grammar, syntax, and vocabulary. More importantly, social rules that guide the use of a language are also applicable to this form of English.

  1. What is Signifyin’? What Type of Language Actions Does it Describe?

Based on the work by Henry Louis Gates, “signifyin” is a vernacular form of wordplay in African-American dialect. It involves a verbal strategy based on figurative as well as denotative word meanings. From the story of Signifying Monkey, it is clear that the word describes several types of language actions. Based on this narrative, “signifyin” is a trope. Several other tropes are subsumed within it. They include metaphor and irony. In Black discourse and based on the story of Signifying Monkey, “signifyin” could imply the ability to talk with great innuendo, to lie, to cajole, to carp, or needle. It also implies making fun of a situation or person, speaking with eyes and hand, or to talk around a topic or subject and never heating the point on the head.  According to Smitherman, What is African American Vernacular?

 

 

 

 

 

Work Cited

Gates Jr, Henry Louis. The signifying monkey: A theory of African American literary criticism. Oxford University Press, 2014.

Smitherman, Geneva. African-American English: From the hood to the amen corner. University of Minnesota, 1996.