Published Online:

Different Language, Different Rules

Article Tools
  • PrintPrinter-Friendly
  • EmailEmail Article
  • ReprintReprints
  • CommentsComments

The following are some of the linguistic differences between Mainstream American English and African-American language. The patterns in the latter, some linguists argue, are derived from the rules governing many West African languages and persist in the language that many African-American students speak, using English vocabulary.

Mainstream American English:

The "th'' sound is regularly used at the beginning of words.
So: then, they.

To show possession, speakers use an apostrophe followed by "s.''
So: John's cousin.

The "irregular'' past tense of the verb "to be'':

singular: I was, you were, he was
plural: we were, you were, they were

Two negatives in a sentence make a positive statement.
So: "It isn't likely that there won't be any rain'' means it will probably rain.

African-American language:

At the beginning of words, "th'' is pronounced as "d.'' The "th'' sound does not exist in many West African languages.
So: den, dey.

To show possession, speakers use word order and word stress.
So: John cousin.

The "regular'' past tense of the verb "to be'':

singular: I was, you was, he was
plural: we was, you was, they was

The more negatives used in a sentence the more negative the statement becomes.
So: "Nobody don't have no excuse'' means everyone is without an excuse.

Source: The Language Development Program for African-American Students, Los Angeles Unified School District.

Web Only

You must be logged in to leave a comment. Login |  Register
Ground Rules for Posting
We encourage lively debate, but please be respectful of others. Profanity and personal attacks are prohibited. By commenting, you are agreeing to abide by our user agreement.
All comments are public.

Back to Top Back to Top

Most Popular Stories

Viewed

Emailed

Commented