Articles and Essays, Questions, Words & Works of Others

African American Vernacular English and a lay brief history of dialect integrity!

As posted to the United Front-Civil Rights Organization:

posted by Lex Scott

 

When white people or teenagers in general use it, they are still using AAVE (African American Vernacular English). It’s not only used by African Americans anymore, since our culture is mixed, and (especially suburban teenage male) whites were sold Black culture in pop culture (namely hip hop in the late 80s), and people who are not Black/African American feel a right to co-opt it. Also, I think since AAVE is an American dialect, Americans in general (of all colors and creeds) might use it sometimes, in certain settings–whether an authentic way they learned to talk or not, a later adopted dialect. I agree it can make people sound “uneducated,” but that’s because of race (and class) hegemony pushing whiteness=rightness in education.

The responses to the original anonymous Tumblr post point out that there is a grammar system, i think it’s also called a pattern of syntax, to “You [delete to-be conjugation] + article + noun object-of-sentence” or “You [delete to-be conjugation] + adjective.” And that in fact it *matches* the grammatical system (or pattern of syntax?) of Standard American English (SAE), or “proper” English.

Of course in actual life, in reality, at a job interview or in a professional situation, yeah, it sounds uneducated or is considered unprofessional–but that’s because the Anglo dialect (SAE) is the one given clout. It’s also why AAVE is termed a “vernacular,” language spoken in daily life, colloquially.

African American Vernacular dialect functions with the same if not more complexity as Standard American English.**

See, even though AAVE (and other dialects) actually have grammar or syntax patterns = rules…they’re devalued simply because they’re not the norm (SAE) that white Americans developed for English, by natural random language evolution and on purpose, especially for education and for professional speaking.

Ask yourself: How does it sound when someone speaks with a British cockney accent? Educated or uneducated?

If you are a person who’s not African American and/or did not learn to speak AAVE growing up, do you ever say phrases like, “Where you going?” or even “Where ya going?” These also omit the “are,” the to-be conjugation (though I don’t know if it is happening in the same way linguistically!).
And would you say this, would you speak like this in a job interview or in a professional setting?^^

**African American vernacular dialect functions with the same if not more complexity as Standard American English:

Because English is largely lacking in the subjunctive and other general or what-if verb tenses (cases? Linguists please help me out here!), or doesn’t have a different-sounding word or verb conjugation for the subjunctive or a certain verb tense, Africans who were brought here retained these tenses from their African languages. For instance, saying “She be…” + adjective or + -ing verb, using the infinitive auxiliary, or helping, verb is actually from Yoruba tribe language structure! And from some other African languages, if I remember right what I’ve learned. And it’s a structure **more complex** than that of English! It makes for an additional verb tense. English is missing this kind of verb tense and murky with others: for instance, describing a chronological spot on a timeline that’s distinctly in the present but also a lasting, though undefined, length or range–so when Africans from many different tribes were learning English, suddenly forcibly put into English-speaking American environments as slaves, people or a single person from one tribe mixed up with people from all different tribes who spoke different languages, and communicating, especially learning some English was a matter of life and death, these verb tenses / sentence structures stuck around! The African language infusions clarify the English or add to it.
(Linguists, please correct, if the infinitive in “pronoun + infinitive” structure is not an infinitive auxiliary!)

^^…What if in your job, and maybe in your life in all aspects, you never have to use “professional” speak…? When African Americans and other race people of color, and poor whites and light-skinned people before the category of “white” was so omnipresent as the norm, were kept out of “professional” jobs and business and life, there was no need to learn or adapt to “professional” English of the dominant educated class/race/group. So in that sense of course it is just as “professional” to use whatever dialect you speak–or even a different language or what’s called a “pidgin” (mixture of two languages into a business/commerce dialect) or a “creole”!  If you *are* a business person, say, a butcher or owner of a butchery, and you, say, talk to the German shepherd (no pun intended nor offense meant!) to get lamb and the Jewish Rabbi who speaks Hebrew to get Kosher meat and first-generation Italian immigrants and Irish immigrants, etc., will you speak perfect King’s English or Standard American English of the year 18-something-or-other or the early 1900s? If you are an African American who until segregation mostly was only interacting to do business with other African American people, except maybe sometimes with a few working-class People of Color and/or white, probably immigrant, people…what dialects of English would you speak?

Advertisements
Standard
Articles and Essays, Ruffled Draft, Works in Progress

Oh the Joys of (Obesity and) Poverty

A Brief Encounter with Obesity, Poverty, and Entitlement

In the U.S. there is so much poison crap in the food, especially if you are poor, you can’t help poisoning yourself into near obesity.

On the other hand, I’ve met people in the U.S. Midwest who really did epitomize the problem of entitled ignorant Americans expanding their couch potato-hood ass-first. This couple sat around playing video games/Candy Crush, one spouse’s mother doing her nails all day long, and the father exclaimed retorts like, “How could I take the bus? I have a BABY!!” …Whereas my own mother—and hundreds of thousands of people, especially single mothers—took and take the bus with several young children/babies, carrying one, another in the stroller, and keeping an eye on the toddler.

I know another person who, like my own mother did, works and homeschools her children. My friend has simultaneously been going to school, and now that one of her children is 11 years old, she can finally buy a house, maybe, sort-of—only because she is lucky enough that her new partner has a parent in realty who is helping them with a rent-to-own mortgage that includes the down payment. Unlike my own mother and this other young mother I know, the couch potatoes considered Taco Bell food, food fit for a baby of one year, no less.

The equation goes something like this: If 1) You have to exercise, say, double to get rid of all the crap in processed and pesticide-sprayed/GMO foods, and 2) These foods do not give you enough nutrients and enough of the right nutrients to expend a daily amount of energy needed for exercise, let alone the extra exercise required to flush out the so-called food’s excess and over-processed sugar, which turns to fat, mutagenic toxins, and synthetics that unbalance metabolism and destroy the gastric biome and enzyme development, all while 3) These foods are the most inexpensive and the primary foods available to poor people–then the American diet and poverty and poverty-diet causes obesity.

Our culture in most places perpetuates the idea that mobility should require spewing fossil fuel in a hunk of thousands of dollars of metal, individually, even the able-bodied, and that we are entitled to this cyborg transportation, and that believing so is the norm. If you prescribe to this belief, then you have no idea that getting around should be exercise unto itself.

Disavowal, however, is difficult or may operate with fervor in the mind, but to compete in the culture–well, a person cannot compete in the culture at such a disadvantage of distance, speed, and energy having to physically hustle to arrive and return amidst those entitledly consuming massive amounts of ecological energy in isolated transportation cyborg chambers or Shell exoskeletons…especially when that person is trying to rise up from a hungry poverty.

On top of this personal physical struggle and physical struggle to participate and compete is the knowledge that getting around is exercise (the “epistemic advantage”). The struggle to challenge the hegemonically pervasive oppressively predominant belief and privilege otherwise makes for a higher level of struggle, though maybe only accessible with a cheat-code: attempting, much less achieving any explanation toward achieving understanding by those who have enough moments of rest and strength of mind (to realize it) requires some moments of rest and strength of mind on the part of the struggler. And then, additionally, to believe in themselves–quite a feat when you’re lugging laundry on a cart down the sidewalk in the winter or on your back and on the bus on your only time off that’s not eaten up by a walking and/or biking (if you’re able-bodied) and/or mass transit (if you’re lucky and don’t live in the Midwest) commute to a job that doesn’t actually afford you to do your laundry as often as the cyborg wasting 3 or 4 seats in a pollution vomiting car to work and the store and Zumba and the bar once a month or every day and night. Maybe there is the underlying notion of the reversal of reality.

Challenge this belief within yourself. Consider also reading The Omnivore’s Dilemma.  The much greater dilemma of forced time constraints and food accessibility and insecurity and limitation means fast food and “cheese food” by necessity or as prize. And not enough nutrition, often plain not enough food, to perform the exercise of getting around.

Keep in mind the task is exacerbated when you need to get around to jobs farther away because of zoning, red-lining, or not being able to afford to live near a commerce district, or to make better money or work two jobs, the second either when you’re tired from full-time already or in order to try to get full-time hours, but both usually doing repetitive motions at a winding speed (fast food, all other food service, cashiering, factory production lines, janitorial work).

The 20-year-old guy with Viking genetic ancestry might be able to lug laundry to the other dorm with the laundry room on a diet of Taco Bell and cafeteria genetically modified bleached flour and not even need the niacin enrichment. But the 45-year-old brown woman or black woman with osteoporosis, the 5-foot anemic, the pre-diabetic second-generation subsidized-housing renter and her daughter and secret undocumented niece cannot bike down the busy boulevard shoulder, across the bridge and the tracks every day to 6 to 16 working hours on a low-protein diet without developing fibromyalgia, or for 20 miles of highway to the next town where there’s work that might pay enough to get off food stamps or to grandma’s house for cooked farm food instead.

COMING SOON: more on zoning and red-lining, rural maps and NoLo geo-cash-ing (plus hobos in Boho), and response to your brain on sugar.

© Sabri Sky 2014, 2015

Standard