Monday, December 04, 2006

AAVE or not AAVE?
or How Too Much Linguistic Knowledge Can Ruin an Otherwise Fun Book

I like reading Robert Parker's Spenser mysteries. Really, I do. My father addicted me, and the books are all over my parents house, begging to be picked up in idle moments. But sometimes, I find his writing distracting.

I've already mentioned his erratic use of the question mark. I'm working on moving beyond that. But when I read the latest Spenser novel a few weeks ago, I found myself being distracted by something else entirely. Something more subtle, more insidious, more niggling...

Is Spenser's partner Hawk really speaking AAVE? Parker describes Hawk as easily slipping between dialects of English, and becoming more "black" depending on his mood and the point he's trying to make. At which point my brain kicked in, trying to dredge up the little AAVE copular be usage pattern information I've picked up over the years from various classes and random reading, and before I knew it, I had read several paragraphs without really taking in the words, as the majority of my mind occupied itself with trying to analyze whether Hawk was speaking proper dialects of any kind or not.

Then, just when I convinced myself I didn't remember enough to know for sure without doing a lot of research, which I was clearly too lazy to do, I got distracted by trying to figure out what the pattern was in the plot for Hawk's dialect code-switching.

Clearly, there is some sort of sociolinguistic dialect paper in this. Too bad I'm not in school anymore. Maybe I should do it anyway. Any AAVE reference suggestions, world?

Comments: Post a Comment

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?