African-American Vernacular Term Paper

Pages: 3 (914 words)  ·  Bibliography Sources: 0  ·  File: .docx  ·  Level: College Senior  ·  Topic: Black Studies

Origin and Evolution of the African-American Vernacular

It has often been suggested that the so-called "African-American vernacular" is largely attributable to the influence of oral traditions based in sermons and prayer services of black churches. Alternatively, it has also been suggested the African-American vernacular is more a function of secular influences in general and of the music of African-American artists in particular. I would argue, instead, that the contemporary African-American vernacular is a natural result of more general influences that predate both religious and artistic contributions. In that view, the relationship between the African-American vernacular and both religion and secular artistic influences is precisely the reverse. Specifically, neither the religious sermons in black churches nor jazz artists of the early and mid 20th century is responsible for the evolution of the African-American vernacular. Instead, both are actually results rather than causes of an African-American vernacular that predated both and contributed to their evolution and not the other way around.

Likely Historical Origin of the General African-American Vernacular and Accent

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The most general and virtually universal aspect of tonal speech patterns and vernacular among American-born African-Americans is simply the domestic southern accent. That should be surprising if it were not the case since the overwhelming majority of the captive African slaves throughout the 18th and 19th centuries lived their entire lives in the southern American states. They learned English and received whatever early socialization they absorbed outside of their families directly from their captors, all citizens of the southern states.

TOPIC: Term Paper on African-American Vernacular Assignment

Even the relatively few Free Blacks in the 19th century and those fortunate enough to live in the Free states descended directly from southern-raised slave families and slave owners. To this day, the most significant influence and determinant of the so-called African-American vernacular is no different from its comparable influence among a community of Caucasian-Americans only two or three generations from their "roots," as it were, in the southern states. Moreover, typical southern regional variations are also likely to be discernable to the trained ear among contemporary African-Americans.

Undoubtedly, more than a century of intense racial prejudices and persecution and discrimination ensured that African-Americans of the early and middle of the 20th century interacted as little as possible (or as little as necessary) with the dominant Caucasian populations. That likely resulted in much greater retention of the southern "twang" than among southern Caucasians who migrated North (or elsewhere) at the same time. Southern Caucasians were much freer to assimilate into their adoptive societies and lose their southern accents much more over comparable time periods.

The Influence of Racial Inequality and the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s

Racial inequality and the overt discrimination throughout the first three decades of the 20th century excluded African-Americans from musical careers in… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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African-American Vernacular.  (2011, February 27).  Retrieved July 28, 2021, from https://www.essaytown.com/subjects/paper/african-american-vernacular/4683097

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"African-American Vernacular."  Essaytown.com.  February 27, 2011.  Accessed July 28, 2021.
https://www.essaytown.com/subjects/paper/african-american-vernacular/4683097.