African American Vernacular English: language, attitudes and education
Urigoitia Mendia, Olatz
MetadataShow full item record
African American Vernacular English (AAVE) is an English variety widely spoken by African Americans in the United States. It is one of the most studied ethnic varieties of English, especially since the second half of the 20th century. However, some controversial aspects remain unresolved. The main aim of this paper is to give a general overview of AAVE by studying the variety from a linguistic and sociolinguistic perspective and linking diverse topics to one another for a full understanding of the language. In particular, it focuses on the role of AAVE in U.S. education. Therefore, the paper is divided into four principal sections. After the introduction, section 2 discusses the history and origins of AAVE, which is still a matter of debate, by analysing two main hypotheses proposed by linguists. In the third section, the most important linguistic features of the variety are described: phonological and morphosyntactic characteristics as well as the lexicon. Section 4 analyses the attitudes towards AAVE: on the one hand, the beliefs of non-African American citizens about AAVE, and, on the other hand, the attitudes of AAVE speakers towards their own variety. The fifth section addresses the use of the variety in the American education system. For this purpose, it first explains when and how AAVE speakers were introduced into schooling. Then, different attempts to improve the conditions of African American children and their language are presented. In addition, the section describes the current situation of African American students. Finally, this last part examines the advantages and obstacles to using AAVE in schools as a tool for learning Standard American English (SAE). There are many benefits of using children’s mother tongue to acquire the standard language. Nevertheless, barriers like pejorative attitudes towards the variety have a negative effect on its users and its reputation. Consequently, in order to use AAVE in education, the ideology of American society needs to change first.