[Ads-l] jaa / jaav / jive / jaab / jibe: 'really, very, too, quite'

Z Sohna zrice3714 at GMAIL.COM
Tue Jan 26 16:17:41 UTC 2021

I haven't found any discussion here on the adverbs *jaa*, *jaab* / *jibe*,
and *jaav* / *jive* in Native Black American language. Its typical
pronunciation features [ɑː]; it is sometimes transcribed as *jai*, as well.
When employed as an adverb, it means 'very, really, too'.  According to
both younger and older informants, *jaab* and *jaav* are the earliest
pronunciations - with *jaa* and *jai* evolving more recently among the
younger generation of Native Black Americans (often to the dismay of

The above adverb(s) should not be mistaken for the homonym *jaav* / *jive*
'to play with, to tease, jokes, Native Black American language, etc.' <
Fulfulde *jaaɓ-* 'the Fulfulde radical/root-stem meaning "to play with, to
tease"'; Fulfulde *jaabi* 'jokes, banter'. While the previously mentioned
adverb may sound like the Fulfulde-derived jaav / jive, they are unrelated
and have completely different etymologies.

The adverb *jaav* / *jive*, *jibe* / *jaab* (and the later *jaa* / *jai*)
is derived from the Mandinka *jawuke* 'very, extremely, too, quite' <
Mandinka *jawu* 'the Mandinka root meaning "bad, cruel, mean"' (also *jaw*,
*jawoo* in Mandinka) + *-ke* 'a Mandinka suffix equivalent to the English
adverbial suffix *-ly*.'  Among (some) Native Black Americans, the Mandinka
suffix and word-final vowel was elided resulting in today's *jaav* / *jaab*
'very, really, too' (and the later incarnations *jaa* / *jai*).

However, there are also the very frequently occurring adverbs *jaav-like* /
*jive-like*, *jaab-like* / *jibe-like*, and *jaa-like* / *jai-like* which
bear identical meaning. This is clearly the living predecessor to today's
adverbial *jaav* / *jive*, *jaab* / *jibe*, and *jaa* / *jai* - offering a
living, surviving snapshot of the change that the Mandinka adverb underwent
in transmission to Native Black American. One sees the Mandinka *jawu* root
phonetically adapted to the Native Black American *jaav* / *jaab* / *jaa*
(etc.) + the Mandinka suffix *-ke* 'meaning -ly' adapted as a calque to the
Native Black American suffix *-like. *(I am assuming that readers
understand the relation between the English adverbial *-ly* (from Old
English -*lice*) and the English *like*.)

Adverbs are extremely rare among African transmissions in the languages of
the Black Diaspora, so this is particularly striking.

I have included the below publicly available usage examples:

1.   *jive like* think my 10 year old daughter mighta kinda tied me in a
foot race...#ImOneHundredPercentSureThat

2.  since the early 2000's...I need to know if you have the potential to
whip my ass cause my mouth *jive* slick

3.  Hate Mickey Mouse club house  my daughter *jive like* this shit

4.  My sister think she *jive* slick, got me babysitting on my day off!

5.  *Jibe* tired anyway.

6. Yo this fucking Tarot shit be *jibe* crazy this man said “the Capricorn
in your life is coming g with apology affection and marriage love is very
close for you” and I kept yelling at the phone “WHAT ABOUT THE BAG”

In field research, I have thus far encountered this word with particular
frequency among Native Black American informants from North Carolina,
Virginia, D.C. and Maryland. Among those interviewed outside of these
states, they or their extended families consistently hailed from the
aforementioned regions of the United States.

The forms *jaa* and *jai* occur more frequently with younger Native Black
Americans. Among this younger demographic, it also occurs with the meaning
"quite, pretty". In this sense, it seems to have taken on some of the
duality of the English *quite* which can mean "very" or "pretty, fairly".

Zola Sohna

The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

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