Varieties of English: Re-viewing the origins and history of African American Language

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

1 Scopus citations


This chapter reviews the differing positions concerning the history and development of African American Language (AAL), the impact of each position, and conclusions about the direction of these positions for future research in AAL and the communities involved. The positions discussed are: (1) Anglicist (aka Dialectologist), which purports that Africans in American learned regional varieties of British English dialects from British overseers with little to no influence from their own native African languages and cultures; (2) Creolist, which purports that AAL developed from a prior US creole developed by slaves that was widespread across the colonies and slave-holding areas (though Neo- Creolists acknowledge there likely was not a widespread creole but one that emerged in conditions favorable to creole development); (3) Substratist, which purports that distinctive patterns of AAL are those that occur in Niger-Congo languages such as Kikongo, Mande, and Kwa; (4) Ecological and Restructuralist, which is a perspective within the Anglicist position that acknowledges the difficulty of knowing the origins of AAL but proposes that we can say something useful about Earlier AAL (not nascent AAL) given settlement and migration patterns as well as socio-ecological issues; (5) Divergence/ Convergence, which purports that AAL diverges and converges to white varieties over the course of its history with respect to changes in and degrees of racism, segregation, inequalities, and inequities that fluctuate across time and differs regionally; and (6) Deficit, which purports that AAL is based on the assumption that Africans in America and their culture are inferior to whites and their language learning as a result was imperfect and bastardized. Though the substance of and support for each position varies, ideological and epistemological perspectives of their originators and supporters cannot go unexamined.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationEnglish Historical Linguistics
PublisherDe Gruyter Mouton
Number of pages14
ISBN (Electronic)9783110251609
ISBN (Print)9783110202656
StatePublished - Oct 1 2012
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Arts and Humanities
  • General Social Sciences


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