Black Street Speech

[ American Studies ]

Black Street Speech

By John Baugh

The history, linguistic structure, and survival within white society of black street speech, based on a long-term study of adult speakers.



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6 x 9 | 160 pp.

ISBN: 978-0-292-70745-0

In the minds of many, black street speech—the urban dialect of black Americans—bespeaks illiteracy, poverty, and ignorance. John Baugh challenges those prejudices in this brilliant new inquiry into the history, linguistic structure, and survival within white society of black street speech. In doing so, he successfully integrates a scholarly respect for black English with a humanistic approach to language differences that weds rigor of research with a keen sense of social responsibility.

Baugh's is the first book on black English that is based on a long-term study of adult speakers. Beginning in 1972, black men and women in Los Angeles, Philadelphia, Chicago, Austin, and Houston were repeatedly interviewed, in varied social settings, in order to determine the nature of their linguistic styles and the social circumstances where subtle changes in their speech appear. Baugh's work uncovered a far wider breadth of speaking styles among black Americans than among standard English speakers. Having detailed his findings, he explores their serious implications for the employability and education of black Americans.

Black Street Speech is a work of enduring importance for educators, linguists, sociologists, scholars of black and urban studies, and all concerned with black English and its social consequences.

1. Introduction: Street Speech as a Social Dialect
2. The Birth of Black Street Speech
3. Street Speech and Formal Speech: Linguistic Survival in Black and White Societies
4. The Scholar and the Street: Collecting the Data
5. Specialized Lexical Marking and Alternation
    Code Switching versus Style Shifting
    Topic-Related Shifting
    Syllable Contraction and Expansion
    Variable Forestressing of Bisyllabic Words
    Lexical Summary
6. Unique Grammatical Usage
    Locating Suitable Examples
    Syntactic Constructions and Their Functions
    Grammatical Summary
7. Phonological Variation
    Suffix /-s/ Variation
    Consonant Cluster Reduction
    Is and Are Variation
    Postvocalic /r/ Variation
    Summary of Phonological and Morphological Variation
8. Educational Insights
9. Impediments to Employability
10. Dynamic Black Speech: A Nonideal Linguistic State

"Outstanding. As the first black man to write a book of this caliber on black English, Baugh draws heavily on his own experiences and feelings, and his work is enriched thereby."

—William Bright

"Baugh is a thorough, rigorous scholar. Technical adequacy is right up there with Labov."

—Walter A. Wolfram