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Black English - in a nutshell

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Black English - in a nutshell When one thinks of dialect variation in general, one usually thinks of dialects that depend on geographic location. This holds true for American English as well. Regional variation accounts for many lexical and phonological differences between different dialects in America. For example, one may pronounce "creek" differently in Oregon than in California. Depending on where one lives, one also chooses words differently; some regions refer to carbonated beverages like Pepsi or Sprite as "sodas", while others prefer saying "pop". Besides regional variation, however, dialects can also depend on social or ethnic factors. One particular example is the English spoken by the majority of Black youth, especially in the inner city. This dialect is often referred to as Black English Vernacular (BEV). Although it does not apply to all Blacks in America, nor exclusively to Blacks (some White urban youth and White southerners possess similar speech patterns), BEV applies to the majority of the Black population and is therefore considered an ethnic dialect. ...read more.


The point to remember here is that the numeral that preceeds the noun is a marker of plurality in itself, so the meaning is still understood. Saying "dem chair" instead of "the chairs" is no more confusing; "dem" (them) marks the plural. Another characteristic of BEV is the absence of the "s" suffix of verbs conjugated in the third person singular. One might hear a BEV speaker say "he sing" instead of "he sings". What these speakers are doing, in effect, is making the conjugation pattern of verbs more regular thatn in Standard English. Instead of "I sing, you sing, he sings, we sing, you sing, they sing," in BEV "sing" simply does not change in the third person singular. In regards to irregular verbs like "say", "have", and "do", there is this same lack of different conjugation. For BEV speakers, the past tense is sometimes indistinguishable from the present tense. "He miss the bus yesterday" would mean "He missed it". This is because the final "t" and "d" of words are often dropped in pronunciation. ...read more.


This "Distributive BE" is used in an example like "He be fooling around", meaning that "He always fools around". One might ask why the syntactical differences between Black English Vernacular and Standard English are so pronounced. Why is it that other dialects of American English do not vary in syntactical structure? To attempt to answer the question, one must take into account the unique history of Blacks in America. They were brought over as slaves, and were speakers of a wide variety of African languages. Not being formally taught English, they had to use an auxiliary form of the language to communicate with each other and with Whites. These pidgins and creoles probably shared many syntactical features with their native African languages. It is important to understand the syntax and background of Black English Vernacular to realize that it isnt merely an erroneous way of speaking English. BEV has its own distinct rules and logic. Anyone who believes that BEV speakers have only "an inferior way of speaking" is not familiar with background of American Black English. BEV, like any other dialect, is a perfectly valid communication system. ...read more.

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