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Who are we?

Hi Folks.

My name is Renée Blake and I am a prof at New York University in the Department of Linguistics and the Department of Social and Cultural Analysis. I teach several courses on African American English, its linguistic structure, and issues pertaining to its use. I cover issues surrounding education, politics, culture and the origins of African American English.

This blog was created by Niki Hossack, a graduating senior in my African American English class during Spring 2009. For the final project, I asked students to create something that would aid in educating ourselves about issues pertaining to African American English. Niki followed through with the idea of a blog as a mechanism to share knowledge about African American English with the larger community.

I, along with my students, continue to maintain and update the blog. We  hope you like it.

A big shout out to Richard Lawson from Gawker who showed us love when we most needed it, and taught us some of the ins-and-outs of blogging.  Also a shout out to Cara Shousterman, my trusty graduate student who helped me to get this project off the ground, and continues to edit and write for us on a regular basis. Finally, big up to two of my mentors, John Rickford and Hubert Devonish, who remind us that we should train young minds to be “creators of knowledge,” not just imbibers.

By the way, while we predominantly use the term African American English (AAE), it is used interchangeably with several other terms including: African American Vernacular English (AAVE), Black English (BE), Black English Vernacular (BEV), Ebonics, and Spoken Soul.

Contributors in 2010: Ezekiel Abuhoff, Amy Antar, Ayeska Baez, Louisa Burch, Brittney Gerald, Francesca Himelman, Robert Chris Hoffman, Cara Shousterman, Shipra Srinivasan, Jessica Tauber (we couldn’t have done it without her!).

Contributors in 2011: faculty, graduate students, and undergraduates. Our core 2011 team included Cara Shousterman, Ayeska Baez (a graduating senior at NYU), and Renée Blake.

Currently, our core team includes Cara Shousterman (an advanced graduate student in the Department of Linguistics at NYU), Ayeska Baez, Nicole Holliday (a graduate student in the Department of Linguistics) and Renée Blake.

This blog has been supported by contributions from The Humanities Initiative at New York University.

12 Comments leave one →
  1. Kristelle permalink
    April 26, 2010 8:38 am

    Hi! I’m a french student in English Master. And my subjet for my final dissertation is “today’s AAE, to a convergion with mainstream English?”

    I’ve read your blog, and I’ve found so many helpfull things in! Thank you!
    If you have any comments or inteview or anything esle that could be intersting for me, please let me know.

    Thank you and congratualtions from France!

    • African American English permalink*
      April 26, 2010 2:30 pm

      Thanks Kristelle. We will blog on the divergence/convergence issue of AAE with mainstream English in the near future. Best, Renee

  2. Kirk Hazen permalink
    April 27, 2010 2:25 pm

    This looks great! I’m spreading the Word.

    Thanks for doing this!

  3. April 28, 2010 10:46 am

    I love and support your work!

  4. Kate Remlinger permalink
    April 28, 2010 1:21 pm

    This is a great site–informative, interesting–you hooked me from the start. I’m adding it to my into linguistics course’s web links list/suggested reading. Thanks!

  5. December 8, 2010 10:17 pm

    Hi, I like this blog/website. As a writer (and recent controversial link on this site), I find language an exhilarating experience of getting a message across. Just FYI for most of you, Black Bible Chronicles was actually written in the early 80s–but was part of my Sunday school class for urban teenagers. When talking about Joseph in the Bible and his refusal to enter into a sexual relationship with another man’s wife, one of my students said, “She was probably a dog anyway.” This generated laughter from the other young people, so my response was, “No, baby. She was a brick house!” And then we got down to real discussions rather than my finding his effort to be funny wasted. I used it. Still, some of your readers are correct when they say the language is problematic (which is why I want to reissue them), but like Zora Neale Hurston and Langston Hughes before me, it depends on a number of issues–place of origin (I’m from Texas and no, we don’t consider ourselves Southern), when the language took place (40s, 50s, 60s, 70s–different genres of slang), and male, female–the list is endless. Hope we can have further conversations. Great site.

  6. Angela permalink
    February 8, 2011 1:26 pm

    Hi! I’m a student from Germany and I’m currently attending a course about AAE at university. I’m planning to write my term paper about the controversial issue of dialect readers in schools. (in relation to the bridging approach). Now I’m desperately trying to find a real sample of a dialect reader, cause I need some “primary” data on top of the secondary literature that exists in this field.
    Do you know if some dialect readers can be found online? Or any other way I can get to one?
    This would really be a great help for me! Thanks!
    Your page seems really interesting to me!

    • African American English permalink*
      August 1, 2011 5:33 pm

      Hi Angela,
      Hope you found the dialect readers helpful. We hope to write more about these soon.
      Renee Blake

  7. Probal Dasgupta permalink
    April 5, 2011 12:45 pm

    I am writing to say hi, as a linguistics alumnus from New York University. I got my PhD in 1980. I was a friend of Margaret’s. When I finally got around to googling, I found, to my dismay, that Margaret Wade-Lewis had passed away. I think that of her children only Chaka is likely to remember me, but please pass my condolences on to her family.
    I’d like to know more about what is happening in the field of black studies. The main reason Margaret and I had connected, of course, was that we were persons of colour.

  8. Allan permalink
    July 19, 2011 3:14 pm

    Dear Mrs. Blake and The Online Journal on African American English

    I am a university student from Denmark and I am writing my final paper in linguistics and language variation. I have chosen to write about AAE. My adviser/ teacher has told me that I need to find and angle which, to a certain extent, has not been looked trough before. Currently I am reading about AAE and its relation to Standard English. There are many interesting aspects regarding AAE, community, identity and discrimination but I think it is very difficult to find a new angle/ approach. Do have any advice for me?

    Your Faithfully


    • Cara Shousterman permalink*
      July 22, 2011 10:27 am

      Hi Allan,
      In a lot of our posts, we present one perspective on an issue that has multiple points of view. Why not find an issue that interests you and present your point of view? Just make sure that you use research-based facts to back it up. Thanks for your interest!
      Cara (blogger and editor)

  9. Kaylin permalink
    April 30, 2015 4:25 pm

    Hi AAE,

    It looks like there hasn’t been much activity on the site lately, but maybe someone will see this and help me out. I am a graduate student of Applied Linguistics and an ESL teacher. I work with adult immigrants from Africa and Latin America in Washington, DC. My students have told me that they have trouble understanding AAE (I speak SAE and our curriculum is in SAE as well). My students are interested in increasing their communication abilities with their black colleagues and customers, but also view SAE as “real” English. I am designing a lesson to raise awareness of the features of AAE and to shape their perception of it positively. My students are low intermediate level ESL speakers and have limited education in their own languages. I want to find simple texts that demonstrate AAE. Do you have any advice for me?


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