Linguistic Links: An Ebonics Primer

With the DEA’s recent call for linguists who specialize in Ebonics, Gabriel Arana presents a basic reminder on how AAVE is not based on lexical differences alone. For instance, in terms of syntax there is a difference in expressing state of being:

(1) James happy.
(2) James be happy.

In (1), the omission of the verb ‘to be’ expresses that James is happy right now, whereas in (2), its inclusion signifies that James usually a happy person. As one commenter points out, this is the same distinction between the Spanish verbs ‘estar’ and ‘ser’, a split common in many other languages as well.

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