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Earlier African American English (Schneider, Kautzsch)

The origin of African American English, the informal dialect spoken by African Americans, has been a hotly debated issue in American linguistics. The main question has been whether the dialect is strongly determined by creole and ultimately African linguistic structures or whether it goes back mainly to British English dialect features. Edgar Schneider's dissertation (German 1981; revised American version 1989) systematically investigated this issue by analyzing old texts preserved verbatim in "ex-slave narratives"; it became widely known and influential in American sociolinguistics.
Since then this issue has continued to be a major topic of our research, partly in individual projects and partly in the compilation of large-scale text collections to investigate the issue. Notably, Alexander Kautzsch's dissertation (2002), also often quoted in the US, compares a range of available sources with the goal of analyzing ongoing change in the early African American English speech community; and the large-scale collaborative BLUR (with Ulrich Miethaner) and COAAL (with Lucia Siebers and Michael Montgomery) projects (see project separate descriptions) have provided extensive evidence on the nature of black dialect in earlier periods.


Kautzsch, Alexander. 2012. "115.English in Contact: African American English (AAE) early evidence." In Alexander Bergs and Laurel Brinton, eds. Historical Linguistics of English (HSK - Handbuecher zu Sprach- und Kommunikationswissenschaft). Berlin et al.: de Gruyter, 1793-1807.
Kautzsch, Alexander. 2012. "Earlier African American Vernacular English". In: Kortmann, Bernd (ed.), World Atlas of Variation in English: Grammar. Berlin/New York: Mouton de Gruyter.
Kautzsch, Alexander. 2011. "Earlier African American Vernacular English". In: Kortmann, Bernd and Kerstin Lunkenheimer (eds.), The Electronic World Atlas of Variation in English: Grammar. München/Berlin: Max Planck Digital Library in cooperation with Mouton de Gruyter.
Kautzsch, Alexander. 2004. "Earlier African American English: morphology and syntax". In Bernd Kortmann, Kate Burridge, Rajend Mesthrie and Edgar Schneider, eds. A Handbook of Varieties of English. Vol. 2:Morphology and Syntax. Berlin and New York: Mouton de Gruyter, 341-355.
Kautzsch, Alexander. 2002. The Historical Evolution of Earlier African American English. An Empirical Comparison of Early Sources. Berlin and New York: Mouton de Gruyter.)
Kautzsch, Alexander, & Edgar W. Schneider. 2000. "Differential creolization: Some evidence from Earlier African American Vernacular English in South Carolina." In I. Neumann-Holzschuh und E.W. Schneider, eds., Degrees of Restructuring in Creole Languages. Amsterdam, Philadelphia: Benjamins, 247-274.
Miethaner, Ulrich. 2005. "I can look through muddy water" — analyzing Earlier African American English in blues lyrics (BLUR). Frankfurt a.M., New York: Peter Lang.
Schneider, Edgar W. 1989. American Earlier Black English. Morphological and Syntactic Variables. Tuscaloosa, Ala.: The University of Alabama Press.
Schneider, Edgar W. 1993. "Africanisms in the grammar of Afro-American English: weighing the evidence." In Salikoko S. Mufwene, ed., Africanisms in Afro-American Language Varieties, Athens, Georgia: University of Georgia Press, 209-221.
Schneider, Edgar W. 1997. "Earlier Black English Revisited", in Cynthia Bernstein, Thomas Nunnally, & Robin Sabino, eds., Language Variety in the South Revisited. Tuscaloosa, London: University of Alabama Press, 35-50.
Schneider, Edgar W. & Ulrich Miethaner. 2006. "When I started to using BLUR: Accounting for unusual verb complementation patterns in an electronic corpus of Earlier African American English." Journal of English Linguistics 34: 233-256.
Schneider, Edgar W. 2015. "Documenting the history of African American English: a survey and assessment of sources and results." In Sonja Lanehart, ed., The Oxford Handbook of African American Language. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 125-139.

  1. Faculty of Languages, Literature, and Cultures
  2. Department of English and American Studies

English Linguistics

Research Center for

World Englishes 


Universität Regensburg
Department of English and American Studies
93040 Regensburg