Where did African American Language Come from?

  • Charles DeBose


This chapter focuses on contested issues or the origin of African American language, beginning with the idea that has been a pivotal point of ongoing discussion of the question, the so-called creolist hypothesis. I begin the chapter by recalling the pioneering work of scholars such as Lorenzo Dow Turner, and Melville Herskovits – who stood out from their contemporaries in taking an adversarial stance to the dominant paradigm through which academic work on persons of African descent was being carried out; the notion that distinctive characteristics of African peoples are the manifestation of underlying pathologies and deficits. When focused on questions of language, the typical approach taken by scholars of the deficit orientation has been to characterize the distinctive language varieties that developed in African diaspora communities as broken or babified corruptions of the European colonial languages from which they derived much of their vocabulary and structure.


European Language African Language Language Shift African Diaspora Language Contact 
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Copyright information

© Charles E. DeBose 2005

Authors and Affiliations

  • Charles DeBose
    • 1
  1. 1.California State UniversityUSA

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