"You makin sense but you don't be makin sense." That
sentence in Black English makes perfect sense to students in C.N.
Keach's course that analyzes nonstandard English dialects. It means
"At the moment I understand you, but in general, I'm clueless
as to what you're saying," explains Keach, a visiting professor
with the program in linguistics and an associate professor at Temple.
Her 26 students learn that Black English, also known as African
American Vernacular English (AAVE), like other nonstandard English
dialects, adhere to grammatical rules and principles that are unconscious
to speakers. By studying the grammar, word formation, sentence structure,
and phonology, the students "make those unconscious rules conscious,"
Dominic Notario '03, a chemistry major who speaks four languages,
says the course has "changed my opinion on AAVE. I don't see
it as a bad form of English. ... I see it as a form of English that
makes more sense" because standard English has more exceptions
to its grammatical rules than does AAVE.
Students also study Hispanic English English that uses
Spanish grammatical rules such as pronunciation, word formation
and sentence patterns and Native American English, which
emerged in the wake of the forced separation of Native American
children from their parents in the late 1800s.
For assignments the students analyze the rules in their own dialect
and those of a different dialect, interview people about their attitudes
towards nonstandard English dialects, and translate passages from
Standard English into a nonstandard dialect and vice versa.
Keach hopes that her students will "question the way we decide
that certain groups of people speak in unacceptable ways."
Her "subversive goal" with the course: "If they ever
had it, and most people do, their snobbery with respect to vernacular
dialect would diminish."
Spoken Soul: The Story of Black English, by J.R. Rickford
and R.J. Rickford
Exploring Language, edited by Gary Goshgarian
English with an Accent: Language, Ideology, and Discrimination
in the United States, by Rosina Lippi-Green