African-American Vernacular English

non-standard variety of English spoken by most working- and middle-class African Americans and some Black Canadians

African American Vernacular English (AAVE) is a name for the way some Afro-American people talk.[1] Linguists (people who study language) gave AAVE its name. Some non-black people use this dialect, too. Some of its pronunciations and grammar resemble the way people talk in West Africa.

It first came about in the 16th and 17th centuries.[2] African American Vernacular English became famous in 1996, when some educators in Oakland, California said they wanted to use AAVE to help teach black kids. They called it Ebonics. However, Ebonics often has a negative connotation.

There are many rules that govern how the sounds of AAVE are different from Standard English. Some have to do with pronunciation and vocabulary (or lexicon). Most have to do with grammar. This includes verb tenses and sentence structure.

Hip hop music has made AAVE more famous since the 1980s. Some people think it is cool and they try to speak it or learn it even if they are not really familiar with it. Some non-black people can speak it well.


  1. Mufwene, Salikoko 2001. What is African American English? In Lanehart, Sonja Sociocultural and historical contexts of African American English: varieties of English around the world. Amsterdam: John Benjamins Publishing Company, pp. 21–52.
  2. Kautzsch, Alexander 2004. Earlier African American English: morphology and syntax. in Edgar W. Schneider et al (eds) A handbook of varieties of English. Berlin & New York: Mouton de Gruyter, pp. 341–355.