Reference Work Entry

Encyclopedia of Child Behavior and Development

pp 56-58

African American English

  • Stacy A. S. WilliamsAffiliated withSchool Psychology, State University of New York at Albany Email author 


African American Vernacular English; Black dialect; Black English; Black English Vernacular; Black language; Ebonics


African-American English (AAE) is the term often used by linguists to define a variety of English spoken by most African-Americans.


AAE has been identified by several idioms in the research literature that are indicative of the socio-political and cultural climate of the time. For example, during the Black power movement in the 1970s, the term Black English or Dialect was often used to describe Black speech. In the nineties, the term Ebonics was used to define the language of some in the African-American community [4]. The thrust of the Ebonics debate in the mainstream media was a by-product of the Oakland School District in California’s decision to validate the home language of many of its African American students. The Oakland School District’s goals were to increase achievement and to address the media’s lack of understanding of the language ...

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