Black Vernacular English: A Unique Form of American English

Topics: African American, African American Vernacular English, Southern United States Pages: 3 (919 words) Published: July 19, 2006
Black Vernacular English from Virginia

Black Vernacular English, a dialect at times used by as many as 80 to 90 percent of African Americans and long identified by whites as substandard English, is in fact a different and unique form of American English. Black Vernacular English (BVE), or Black English, is fundamentally a spoken language derived from the slaves and still remarkably consistent throughout African American culture. Because of the roots and many unique aspects of Black Vernacular English, it qualifies as a unique form of American English just as other regional dialects, such as Southern English or Yankee English. Black English is remarkably similar in structure across many geographic boundaries in the United States. Spoken BVE in Florida is virtually identical to spoken BVE in Washington State. This lends credence to the argument pointing to a common origin for the language. However, where is that location? Many linguists and scholars point to African tribal language for the origins of Black English, proposing that some of the sentence structure and verb conjugations are similar to those used by tribes in Western Africa or to Gullah, as spoken in the West Indies and Caribbean nations. However, Dr. Walter E. Williams, syndicated columnist and chairman of the Department of Economics at George Mason University, points out the error in that assumption in his 1995 article for Social Science Quarterly. He writes: "Y'awl might axin me why I be writin dis way. Y'awl might tink ma fambly didn't gib me a gud upbringin. Y'awl might say Ah be a no-count, woebegone yaller dawg fit for nothin but taters and chittlins. What be wrong wid yo innards and book learning, Y'awl might be axing? Run that paragraph by your intellectual multiculturist at one of our universities. Ask him to comment on the language or dialect. Five will get you ten he'll perk up and say, ‘Why that's Black English; I'd know it anywhere!' But it t'aint. It is as white of...
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