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Chapter 10

ANTB21H3 Chapter Notes - Chapter 10: African American Vernacular English, American Anthropological Association, Vocal Folds

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Jessica Taylor

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Chapter 10: Language, Race and Ethnicity
- American Anthropological Association maintained that most white Americans believe in
an inaccurate “folk theory” of race
- “Race” is a basic category of human biological variation, combined with a belief that
each human being can be assigned to a race or sometimes a mixture of races
- Race is clearly an important social category that influences people‟s trajectories and
- Race is more salient in the U.S.
- For instance in Nepal caste, ethnicity and religion have been most salient forms of social
differentiation for Nepalis.
- Anthropologists have studied how certain Nepali ethnic groups have come into being
o Formation of single Tharu identity
o Tharu do not have single shared language or set of cultural practices
o The Nepali state however grouped all Tharus together in its key classification of
all casts and ethnic groups
o A common ethnic identity does not have to be predicated on a shared culture
- Ethnic groups are thus not fixed phenomena but are constantly being created and
recreated anew
- Bonnie Urciuoli studied Puerto Ricans in New York City contrasting ethnicization with
racialization in context of class and gender identities in U.S.
- RACIAL discourses frame group origin in NATURAL terms
- ETHNIC discourses frame group origin in CULTURAL terms
- RACIALIZED people are considered out of place, dirty, dangerous, unwilling or unable
to participate constructively in the nation state
- ETHNICIZED people are considered safe, ordered and a contribution to the naion state
offered by striving immigrants making their way up the ladder of class mobility
Rule Governed Nature of African American English
- African American English (AAE) sound like incorrect or sloppy Standard American
English (SAE)
- SAE speakers think AAE is English with two added factors: special SLANG terms and
- AAE is actually rule governed and has its own phonology, morphology, syntax,
semantics and pragmatics
- Not all African Americans speak AAE
- Regional differences and different language ideologies within AAE
- AAE is a language variant and is LEARNED in particular social settings
- Many African Americans code switch between SAE and AAE
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- Such code switching can help subtle alliances or identities or can index unequal power
relations among speakers
Invariant or habitual “be”
- Most stigmatized and misinterpreted features of AAE is the use of “be”
- Using it does not mean failure to conjugate the verb “to be”
- Instead the invariant “be” does important grammatical work in sentences because it
indicates habitual behaviour or a usual state of being
- Ex. “She is happy” = perpetual state of happiness, “She be happy” = indicated
momentary feeling of happiness
- The invariant “be” is the only one of a whole class of auxiliaries that enable AAE speaker
to choose among a much wider array of moods and aspects in their verb forms than are
available to SAE speakers
- Mane African Americans recognize that SAE is the prestige dialect solely because its
speakers are the group with the most prestige socially, politically and economically in the
Copula deletion
- In other words the OMISSION of form of “to be.”
- In AAE it is perfectly normal to say “She happy” instead of “She is happy.”
- This is not a random or haphazard omission
- Copula deletion follows rigorous rules, even though they operate largely below the level
of awareness in the minds of AAE speakers
- Languages like Russian Hebrew, Arabic and Swahili also feature copula deletion in some
or all of the tenses of the verb “to be.”
Double Negatives
- Double or Triple negatives are another grammatical form that can be found in AAE
- Also common in: Working class Londoners who speak Cockney, works of Chaucer and
Shakespeare, popular culture like in the sone “I Can‟t Get No Satisfaction” by Rolling
- Multiple negatives fell out of favour when grammarians in the 18th century were
prescribing English for „polite‟ and „cultivated‟ members of society
- Some people argue that using two negatives is “illogical” because two negatives make a
positive according to formal logic or mathematical principles
- Preference of one dialect over another is one based on social, political or economic
- It cannot be based on linguistic factors because all dialects are equally logical and
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