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Sound

One of the things that makes AAE so noticeably different from SAE is the way that its speakers pronounce words.  Although the words may occur in both dialects, they often do not sound the same.  Here are some reasons why (for a more exhaustive list, please consult John Rickford’s African American Vernacular English, from which this list has been adapted):

  • Word-final consonant clusters (more than one consonant sound immediately following one another), especially those ending in t or d.  Examples: han and des for hand and desk.
  • Voiceless th sounds (referred to as “theta” or /θ/ in the International Phonetic Alphabet) are pronounced as t or f.  Example: tin for thin.
  • Voiced th sounds (“thorn” or /ð/ in the IPA) are pronounced as d or v.  Example: den for then.
  • Deletion of l and/or r after a vowel sound.
  • Inversion or adjacent consonants (called “metathesis”).  Examples: aks for ask or waps for wasp.
  • SAE diphthongs ay and oy are pronounced as monophthongs.  Examples: boah for boy and ah for I.
  • Stress on the first syllable of a word, as opposed to the second.  Example:  PO-lice for po-LICE.

As is the case for the grammar rules, these variations will not occur in every utterance of every word, but they are possibilities.

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