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LANGUAGES AND SPEAKERS: AN INTRODUCTION TO AFRICAN AMERICAN ENGLISH AND NATIVE AMERICAN LANGUAGES

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Abstract

The many connections between Native Americans and African Americans throughout US history provide a reason for discussing these peoples and their languages together. The similarities in their experiences in North America are primarily the product of US white supremacist racism, which, to take one example, has created black ghettoes and Native American reservations. One language, with many regional and social varieties, unites African Americans, while Native American languages number in the hundreds, divided into dozens of language families. As they struggle for social justice, Native Americans face urgent issues of language endangerment and revitalization. As African Americans continue the struggle for full equality, they will probably continue to speak the very robust African American Vernacular English, which in its current form has significantly been shaped by residential segregation but also by ethnic pride. There is every indication that the African American Vernacular will have to play an important role in the teaching of African American schoolchildren if the cycle of low educational achievement, as measured by test scores, is to be ended.

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