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African-America Dialect: Phonological Variation



African-America Dialect: Phonological Variation

African-American dialect, which is commonly known as African-American English, refers to a variety of English that is spoken by most working and middle-class African-Americans in addition to Black Canadians. This vernacular has unique vocabulary, grammar, and ascent. Most of the African-Americans that I have interacted with use it to communicate to others in an informal and casual setting. In class, they tend to switch to Standard English grammar although they still retain elements that characterize the nonstandard accent. In this paper, I will analyze the African-America dialect and explain its characteristics best on my experiences I have had after interacting with African-Americans.

Throughout the period that I have interacted with African-Americans, I have noticed that black accents exhibit regional difference. For instance, a person speaking African-American dialect from Georgia sounds different from the one from Mississippi or California. During one of my summer vacations, I visited my friends studying in Mississippi and realized that most of his black classmates had a southern accent. After listening keenly to conversations involving African-American friends, I noticed that there are close similarities between Black English and Southern English.  Irrespective of where they were raised, speakers of this dialect have a rap song-like accent. Although there may be others that may have a different accent, it follows that unique characteristic of African-American dialect is as a result of their genealogy and phonology. In fact, when analyzing African-American dialect, I have noticed that certain features across morphology, syntax, phonology, and semantics are unique to African-America English. One of the many linguistic variations I have noticed in AAE, the verb “be” as well as its different variants have been deleted. As a result, the dialect is commonly seen to have a coarse tense-marking system by those who speak Standard English. For instance, while a sentence such as “John is Sad” could imply that John is currently sad or that John has a habit of being sad at all time in Standard English, the AAVE plays around with the verb to be to communicate these two different meanings. First, “John sad” in African –American dialect means that John is sad at the moment. On the other hand, “John be sad” means that John is always a happy man.African-America Dialect: Phonological Variation

I many of the casual or informal conversations that I have held with speakers of African-American dialect, I have noticed the tendency not to use “ed” to mark past tense as is usually the case in Standard English. At one point in time, we were discussing with a classmate about a football tournament that was going on. Upon inquiry on whether our class had played or not, the response I got was “Last Wednesday they play. We lose!” The response could have been, “They played last week” in Standard English. Moreover, I have noticed that possessive “s” is rarely used in African-American vernacular. For instance, my friend pointed out that it was “Terry last-minute goal” that saved our opponent team. For sure, he meant “Terry’s last-minute goal”.

In other conversations that I have had with African-Americans, the extensive use of negations has been difficult to ignore. One of them is “ain’t,” which replaces several Standard American English words including “am not”, “aren’t”, and “isn’t”. Contractions such as “haven’t”, “hasn’t” and “don’t” are also replicable by “ain’t” in African-American English. For instance, “I ain’t going to the pitch today” means “I’m not going to the pitch today”.African-America Dialect: Phonological Variation



An analysis of the African-American dialect reveals that it is a vernacular common among black people in the US. It cannot be regarded as an intentional dialect. More importantly, it is not a new phenomenon given that it dates back to tens of decades ago. Indeed, it reflects part of American cultural history given that its characteristics arise from a combination of grammar changes similar to creole. According to historical information learned in class, the dialect developed to facilitate communication among African slaves that were being shipped from what is West Africa today to North America. These slaves were forced to pick up the English language without having basic education. In the end, they ended up replacing it with the new language. As more slaves from different tribes arrived to work on farms, this new language continued as its use gained momentum. Since slavery continued for many years especially in America, African-American dialect ended up forming as a distinct dialect. Moreover, the segregation that characterized the American society before the mid-1950s encouraged little communities to use AAE as their pidgin.

In conclusion, I would argue that African-American dialect should not be viewed as bad or inferior English. I choose several examples that I illustrated above to show that in reality, the vernacular is simply another form of the English language. My feeling is that America, being a country of immigrants, does not have what can be termed as “American” accent. I am of the view that there are hundreds or even thousands of accents that could equal the number of tribes or nations from different countries residing here. Consequently, we all have a responsibility to appreciate each other regardless of our accents. African-America Dialect: Phonological Variation