I’m ‘a get my eat on!
Is the above sentence following any grammatical rules?
I’ve been thinking recently about the way we black folks speak. Some of us don’t speak the same english as those who speak that other english. Our english is particular to us. Does that make it “sub-standard”?
I recently posted an article that explains a bit about a type of black American english that was spoken by the Gullah people of the Sea Islands of South Carolina. It was determined that the language they spoke was a creole language, with a combination of West African pidgin english, West African indigenous languages, standard english, and french. Because the people of the Sea Islands were isolated from the mainland for centuries, they were able to maintainand their creole language since the days of slavery when they first developed it. What stands out to me is the brilliance of those who created this language in the midst of the trauma of slavery.
As the Gullah/Geechee people were integrated into the mainstream, they were socialized to see their language as a broken down, ignorant version of standard english and were discouraged from speaking it. They were forced to speak standard english in school and in many cases, and over time, this beautiful creole language, which has been a testament of our identity has slowly disappeared–sadly, it’s being eradicated, a part of our black history that will never be known again.
Since black people have been in the Americas, we have gone through too much to mention concerning our identity. We don’t always understand the truth of who we are. We have accepted propaganda to a large degree that we are a broken, pathos filled people. We don’t trust or believe in ourselves. We believe that somehow, we just ain’t quite right.
Thankfully, this negative self concept can be changed, if we put in the necessary work. It’s a life long and worthwhile endeavor to deconstruct and deprogram all of the centuries of negative propaganda that has been forced on us. It’s hard work but the emotional freedom is worth every minute one spends doing the work–each victory translates into more freedom as a human being. I get to have self respect as I live my life. That’s pretty cool, IMHO.
There is a sister, Dr. Lisa J. Green is busy doing this hard work on the academic level. She’s Associate Professor of Linguistics at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, and Director of the Center for the Study of African American Language, and has done extensive research on so-called “black english” also known as African American Vernacular English (AAVE) aka Ebonics or black slang. She has written a couple of books on this subject entitled, Language and the African American Child, and African American English, a Linguistic Introduction . She also lectures and does presentations.
We tend to think of our black language as just a broken down version of standard english, which others have based on our profound ignorance, our utter inability to get it right, or our inherent penchant for butchering the language. But what Dr. Green has found is that AAVE actually has its own closely followed grammatical rules which do not follow Standard english rules. Imagine that!
What Dr. Lisa J Green describes in the above presentation is the grammatical rules of AAVE are different from those of Standard English, and are more closely related to West African and black Creole language structures that the enslaved Africans brought with them and imposed upon the new European languages they were forced to learn. Far fetched, hunh?
Black folks have held on to many of our “Africanisms“, and the language structure of AAVE is an example of that. Interestingly, everywhere this type of black creole language structuring happens, no matter which European language this phenomenon is superimposed, the black people are ridiculed for being ignorant because of our speech patterns, and we are stigmatized for simply being our African selves.
In this article I wanted to highlight, once again, our coping mechanisms despite the hardships we deal with. Even though we may have difficulty believing that we are genius people, our disbelief doesn’t negate the truth of the statement. We simply are genius. We prove it time and time again.
- Of creoles and other “undignified” speaks… (louella001.wordpress.com)
- http://people.umass.edu/lisag/CV.pdf Dr. Lisa J. Green Associate Prof of Linguistics, U of MA at Amherst – Researched Grammatical Rules of “Ebonics”
- Incorporating Non-Standard Variations of English into the Classroom (callanrogers.wordpress.com)
- Language News: Haitian Creoles and Education (lingeducator.com)
- Smitherman – Word From The Mother (latoyasawyer.com)