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Transforming Anthropology

GEOGRAPHICAL DIVERSITY, RESIDENTIAL SEGREGATION, AND THE VITALITY OF AFRICAN AMERICAN VERNACULAR ENGLISH AND ITS SPEAKERS

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Abstract

William Labov's argument that there is an inverse relationship between the continued segregation and endangerment of African Americans and the survival of African American Vernacular English (AAVE) is a strong one. Nevertheless, it is worthwhile to question some of the details of this argument. It may be inappropriate to believe that AAVE is uniform across geographic locations, and even where it is uniform, it is important to ask how such uniformity was developed and maintained. Assuming a direct link between using AAVE and low scholastic achievement among African American students may be overly simplistic as well, and it is essential to consider the ways in which teachers can influence this relationship. Moreover, many African Americans value aspects of their linguistic and cultural distinctiveness, so it is not a foregone conclusion that widespread integration will lead to the disappearance of Black speech.

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