Rural African American Vernacular English

Varieties of rural, or “non-metro” African American Vernacular English (AAVE), are spoken by several million working-class African Americans living in small, more-geographically remote communities in the Southern United States, though there are some representative rural African American communities in the Northern United States and in Canada. More than 70 percent of these residents are concentrated in the Southern states of Alabama, South Carolina, North Carolina, Mississippi, Georgia, and Louisiana. Rural Southern AAVE varieties served as the foundation for the development of current-day AAVE, thus providing an important sociohistorical and sociolinguistic context for examining the earlier status of AAVE as a socioethnic variety. Some small, rural Black Southern communities have been continuously maintained for up to three centuries, transitioning from earlier slave and sharecropping communities into predominantly African American, independent communities. For many structural linguistic features, Southern rural varieties of AAVE are more closely aligned with their regional working-class white Southern dialects than their metropolitan counterparts. At the same time, rural African American varieties typically maintain a distinctive base of socioethnic dialect traits that differentiates them from white cohort dialect communities.

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