Study of African-american Vernacular English in America’s ‘Middletown’ Evidence of Linguistic Convergence

Author: Huang, Xiaozhao


This is a sociolinguistic study investigating African-American Vernacular English (AAVE) in Muncie, Indian, known as America’s ‘Middletown’. Since most of the studies on the divergence/convergence of AAVE relied on apparent-time data which have been criticized for inappropriateness for investigating language change, the goal of this study was to examine, though time-depth data, whether Muncie AAVE was diverging from or converging with White Vernacular English (WVE) from 1980 to 1993. The analysis focused on 23 syntactic and 5 phonological features collected from interviews of t32 African-American subjects. Equally divided into two groups of 1980 and 1993, the subjects consisted of both young and elderly. Therefore, both real-time and apparent-time data of Muncie AAVE could be compared and analyzed. The results show that the 1993 subjects used these linguistic features consistently less frequently. The findings based on the time-depth data in this study contradict the claim that AAVE is diverging from WVE on a national level.

“This book adds substantially to our knowledge about America’s most important minority dialect, African-American Vernacular English, and it contributes significantly to the ongoing discussion about Black-White speech relationships in the United States. The book should be well received by reviewers and cited often by scholars in the next decade at least. . . . The Muncie study is particularly useful because it is a real-time study, unlike the vastly less reliable apparent-time studies upon which nearly all previous contributions to the debate have been based.” – Ronald R. Butters

“Huang’s review of literature on the controversy in Chapter 2 would for many readers be worth the purchase price of the book by itself. But fortunately, the book is much more than that. . . this is the first book that not only pulls together the history, the nature, the research surrounding this controversy but also contributes its own piece of major research to the canon.. . . . since it comes down strong on the convergence side of the controversy, the book should provide a starting point for future studies that want to pursue this line of research. It should prove to be a work that socio-linguistics will be hard-pressed to ignore.” – Charles L. Houck

Table of Contents

Table of contents (main headings):
Foreword; Preface
1. Introduction: The Study of AAVE; Divergence/Convergence Controversy; The Present Study; History of Muncie and its African-American Community
2. The Debate on Linguistic Divergence and Convergence with respect to AAVE and WVE
3. The Design and Method of this Study
4. Phonological Analysis of Muncie AAVE
5. Syntactic Analysis of Muncie AAVE
6. Conclusions
Bibliography; Index