Teaching: updating AAVE?

Mai Kuha mkuha at BSUVC.BSU.EDU
Sun Sep 23 17:18:18 UTC 2001

I apologize for having taken this long to acknowledge the helpful feedback
on my question about approaches to the AAVE verbal system in introductory
courses-- it took a while to mull over the ideas.

One important point emerges from the discussion so far: we should keep in
mind the goals of the particular course and the background of the

I'm collecting the sources of examples suggested. My memory of the ones
that I had read before is that I would've liked to see even more of a
variety of structures represented in the examples: how do speakers form
negatives and interrogatives with various combinations of "bin" and
"d at n"...?

There seems to be a general sense on both teach-ling and ADS-L that
approaching AAVE verbal issues as a system is important, but excessive
terminology (and excessive exposure to complexity??) would do more harm
than good, so a reasonable approach might be to focus on a few structures
and look at the rest of the system in less detail.

Actually, this is similar to what I've been doing so far: I focus on
habitual BE and stressed BIN, indicating that they are part of a larger
system. I've felt that the existence of the overall system gets lost in
this approach, but maybe the key is to give the rest of the system a
little more air time, but not too much. (But what to do with "is 'bin d at n'
on the test?"...) Probably it would also be better not to rely on standard
AmE "paraphrases" or "translations", but to explain meanings visually
(time lines?) or by giving enough conversational context, as in Rebecca
Wheeler's example.

The helpful discussion from the lists has also helped me articulate a
point I couldn't quite pin down earlier: highlighting just a few parts of
the verbal system may make it difficult to avoid terminology that
implicitly assumes standard AmE as a reference point. That is, what will
we call "BE omission" or "BE deletion" if the whole system is not under

Thanks to all for your help.


Mai Kuha                mkuha at bsuvc.bsu.edu
Department of English   (765) 285-8410
Ball State University

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