Lecture: Is Black English really black? Attitudes of Americans towards Black Englsh
Black English (BE) or African American Vernacular English (AAVE) has attracted much attention in contemporary sociolinguistics, especially since the movement against racial discrimination of the 1960s in the United States. Linguists have since been collecting data to substantiate their theories concerning the origin/development of BE. The majority of linguists have come to a degree of consensus that some features of BE can be systematically distinguished from American English and that BE is not a ‘bad’ or inferior English variety. Many of them have remarked that BE is more regional than racial and that most of its grammatical features can also be found in other English dialects. However, a problem lies in the label ‘Black English’ While AAVE is a product of Black culture, speaking AAVE is not what makes you black and being black does not make you a speaker of black English. If there is Black English, it then connotes the existence of White English. But it is difficult to point to a study with a major focus on ‘White English’. It is then important to examine the perception of Americans of AAVE.
This study investigates the attitudes of black and white Americans towards Black English. An interview-questionnaire approach is used to elicit the perception of the informants, exploring their experiential, attitudinal, and descriptive responses to AAVE. A few trends were found among the American respondents along two major concerns: problems with the label and social construction.