African American Vernacular English is a form of American English which is used by mostly African American. It was originally known as the Black English. In non academic circles it is referred as Ebonics. This form of English shares a common pronunciation with the South American English which is mostly spoken by the African Americans and other non African American living in United States of America. African American vernacular English is a variation of English which has some unique characteristics which are not shared by any other variant of English.
The language has several similar vocabularies with other forms of English that are spoken in America including the Standard English. ( Allyene, M 56 1980) It is almost hard to estimate the number of people who use this dialect. Scholars have put forward that there are people who may be using the AAVE pronunciation and vocabulary but they do not use the grammatical characteristics of the dialect. There are others who may only be using only a typical aspect of the variant.
For along time linguists have been using the term African American vernacular English to refer to all those variants which portray particular grammatical characteristics such as copula removal, omitting of letter- s in third person or generally double negation. These features do happen in a variable manner, this means that the Standard English has been altered in one way or another. This point makes it hard to specifically state the number of people who speak this language.
The variation experienced in this dialect has been argued to portray the intricate collective attitudes that revolve around the AAVE. This may be one of the reasons why it had attracted the type of interest from various sociolinguists and also the focus it has generated from the general public. (Allyene, M 87 1980) There have been arguments that the African American English may have contributed some words that are used in Standard English.
There are regional variations as far as this form of language is concerned; this variation is described as little by linguists. Proponents of Creole hypothesis argue that this form of American English has some of similarity with the languages that are spoken in West Africa. (Winford, D 234 2000) There have been suggestions that African American vernacular English (AAVE) is an African language. The origin of the AAVE remains a controversial issue where scholars have never agreed on the various aspects concerning this dialect.
Debate over the origin and development of the language has been alive and the scholars argue that the history of the speakers of this form of English make it a unique and special case. There have been two main hypotheses which have dominated the discussion about the basis of the African American vernacular English. These hypotheses are the Creole and Anglicist. Anglicist theory is also referred to as the dialectal hypotheses. The Anglicist hypothesis was set by its proponents during the twentieth century.
They argued that the AAVE origin is traceable in the same way that the European English dialects were developed. The proponents of Anglicist hypothesis are of the assumption that the Africans who were taken to America as slaves learned a new language out of need to communicate. The proponents of this hypothesis belief that the Africans slaves learned English that was being spoken by the native English but in the course of learning it they made several mistakes which have been passed through generations. To Anglicist AAVE is bad English, a belief that has been greatly challenged by many linguists.
The Africans who had different languages simply learned English and as time went on their languages gradually disappeared, only a few traces of the ancestral languages that were spoken by the African slaves remained. This hypothesis is based on the observation that when a given group of people who speak the same language are separated or diverged they tend to have variation in their speech. Language has been said to be a static and dynamic system a language spoken by a certain community will change since the groups have to continue communicating even when they are drawn apart due to various reasons.
One notable example which has been used to explain this hypothesis is the variation which exists between American and the British English, the dialectical variation between these two forms of English has been said to have resulted due to the geographical distance that exist between the users of the two dialects. Isolation of the African Americans in the United States of America during the slavery period is of great importance as far as this hypothesis is concerned. Dialectal or the Anglicist clearly gives the facts on the origin of non Standard English through their unique explanations.
Double and multiple negations are some of the examples through which the proponents of the theory state that were taken directly from the traditional forms of speech as the language developed. AAVE is known to have inherited some forms from the ancient traditions while at the same time making some modifications through innovations. To angilict this is what happens when two dialects move apart. Old characteristics feature are kept while at the same time the new ones are brought to the picture. A good example is a point where the AAVE lost the third person singular.
Several dialectologists of the twentieth century claimed that AAVE roots can be traced back to the earliest form of the American English dialects. (Bailey, G. 46 1993) Supporters of this hypothesis made an assumption that the Africans Americans slaves learned the different forms of English which were spoken by their masters who were mostly European whites. The Anglicist theory was later challenged by the creolist who noted that the early language circumstances for the descendants from Africa who were subjected to the slavery as totally different from the one experienced by the European immigrants.
The creolist focus on the origins of AAVE through assuming that it came from a creole language for example Gullah. They base their argument on the fact that it has the same features as the creoles that are spoken in the Caribbean. To the Creolist the segregation and subordination experienced by the African slaves only Yielded to development of a language which came to be referred to as Creole. This refers to a language that is formed by the groups which do not share a common language. Formation of a Creole is for purely communication purposes.
African slaves having come from different language groups needed to communicate among themselves and also had to communicate with their masters. The Creole hypothesis states that AAVE is an outcome of a Creole which is derived from languages spoken in western part of Africa combined with English. African Slaves who mainly spoke different Western African languages were usually put together when they were being taken to their destination. For these people to communicate in some way they came up with a pidgin which was as a result of using English and West African words.
This pidgin later passed on to through generations, and as soon as the pidgin became the main language it came to be described as a Creole. Over the years it has come to undergo a process which is known decreolization making it sound like the Standard English. Later it became the primary language of it’s speakers making it to be classified as a Creole. Over the years AAVE has gone through the process of decreolization and is beginning to sound more like Standard English (Bailey, G. 67 1993) Arguments over the early development of AAVE are just as contentious as the debate over its origin.
This is partly due to the unavailability of data concerning the language. The one which has been there has been insufficient and unreliable at the same time though there may have been some written information which dates back in the colonial era its reliability is usually doubted therefore linguists being unable to gather much about the development of this dialect. The actual speech of the spoken African American language is not available since recordings were not there until the early years of the twentieth century.
Peharps the lack of evidence coupled with the emergence of different schools of thought and hypothesis has made the dialect to be such unique making to attract too much public attention. (Rickford, J. Mufwene, S and Bailey, G, 254 1998) The creolist have continued to argue that the speech of the African Americans has continued to change significantly over the years but the characteristics of the creole language still exist in many other related dialects. African American vernacular English has developed up to the point where it is influencing other dialects.
Its growth can be linked to many factors such as the unique position in which the language came about. It has become extremely hard to say exactly which side holds water as far as the origin a development of African American vernacular English is concerned. It has been influenced by the regional context as well as the heritage situation of the language. The debate on the African American Vernacular English will always be an ongoing phenomenon. It will keep on experiencing changes as far as the grammar is concerned.
The current findings indicate that as the time goes by the distinctive characteristics of the language will continue to be stronger (Rickford, J. Mufwene, S and Bailey, G, 234 1998) African American vernacular English continue to be popular though at first was regarded as inferior English dialectal due to the historical background it is associated with. The dialect will continue to draw more debates in the years to come as it develops more closely to the Standard English.
Perhaps in some years to come it will be the dialect that most of the Americans will be using. The dialect may not get the necessary support to be used in school but the very nature that it touches on a very sensitive issue of race will make many linguists to continue doing more research on it so that they can be able to solve so many questions that have been left unanswered for such a long period. The two theories may have attempted to answer some pertinent issues that have arose but still gaps remain as far as the development of the language is concerned.