English Phonological Features

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As an ethic variety in the USA, African American Vernacular English (AAVE) has been the topic of many language discussions. Regarding the ongoing debate between white and black culture in the US, this research has become even more significant. Sadly, speakers of AAVE must deal with discrimination and several disadvantages, already starting at a young age. Non-linguists believe that AAVE is ‘wrong’ English and that it has no rules. But is that true? Is AAVE simply ‘lazy’? This paper presents the most prominent features of AAVE, with the goal to answer the questions just mentioned. The objective hereby is to prove that AAVE is in fact a complex system and that the speakers do have many rules to obey.
It will also take a closer look at the
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Studying the features of a language is important to discover the set of rules it relies on.
3.1. Phonology
The following will highlight the most important phonological features of AAVE.
Bailey and Thomas (cf. 1998, p. 85-86) state that phonology plays a huge part in ethnic identification and has a huge impact on discrimination. They also mention that phonology is one of the reasons many African American children face troubles in their education. Furthermore, the study of phonology is important since an accent is easily noted, sometimes intonation alone is enough to notice the background of speaker (cf. Bailey and Thomas 1998, p. 86).
To begin with, “the basic phonemic span of AAVE is much the same as in other varieties in English” (Edwards 2008, p. 183)
AAVE shares phonological features with other varieties of English, though some might be more frequent in AAVE or realized in another way. According to Labov (Bailey & Thomas 1998, p. 93), AAVE did not participate in the Northern City Chain Shift nor the Southern Shift. Both describe certain phonological changes that affect the speech of white speakers in their respected areas, for example tensing or lowering
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Speakers pronounce a voiced, plosive consonant at the end of the word like their respective voiceless counterpart, for example cap instead of cab (cf. Green 2002, p.116). Research has shown that this oftentimes leads to ambiguity and to understanding difficulties, especially in a teaching environment (cf. Green 2002, p.116).
Furthermore, [θ] and [ð] are pronounced like [t], [d], [f] or [v]. This feature appears consistently and not because speakers do not know how to pronounce the th sounds (cf. Green 2002, p.119). Green (cf. 2002, p.118-199) explains in internal and final positions, voiceless [θ] sound like [t] or [f], as in [baf] (SE: bath) and [wit]/[wif] (SE: with), while in word initial positions the [θ] does not change. She also says, if the voiced [ð] occurs in Standard English, it is realized as [d] or [v], usually in word initial or final positions.
The liquid sounds [r] and [l] are often vocalized, meaning they sound more like vowels than consonants, as in [floə] (SE: floor) or [hɛp] (SE: help) (cf. Edwards 2008, p.186). He mentions, [l] could turn into [w] after back vowels ([bew] (SE: bell)). Also, the sounds may also be deleted in some forms, for example, [kaəl] (SE: Carol) or [ro] (SE: roll) (cf. Edwards 2008, p.186). This feature also occurs in many varieties, like in Southern dialects, though it is more frequent in AAVE (cf. Edwards 2008,
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