Is Black English more Black (African) or English?

In other words, which has shaped BE more: African Languages, or English? Is BE principally related to African languages, with some English effects, or is BE principally English, with some African language effects? The two authors of our texts take decidedly different stands on this issue. Your job will be to write a paper that argues in favor of one stand or the other.

It is probably not a wise idea to say “Black English is completely African based” or “Black English is completely English (with no African language effects),” but I want you to conclude either “Black English is principally African” or “Black English is principally English.” How will you arrive at your conclusion?

First, remember that you should investigate multiple aspects of language: phonology, syntax, semantics, discourses, etc. Don’t, for example, base your conclusion on pronunciation facts alone. It is probably a good idea to address different aspects of language in different paragraphs/sections. For example, one paragraph might start off “Several key facts of BE pronunciation indicate its African origins” and the next might start with “African languages also shape the syntactic patterns that we find in BE.”

You will find evidence in both the Smitherman and McWhorter texts. Sometimes they use similar evidence to argue contrary points! You need to evaluate the validity of the arguments as you make your claim.


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