Borrowed blackness: African-American Vernacular English and European-American youth identities

1997 1997

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Abstract (summary)

This dissertation is an investigation of European American teenagers' use of and attitudes toward African American linguistic and cultural forms. The data are taken from an ethnographic study of European American teenagers at a multiracial high school in the San Francisco Bay Area. Some of these teenagers, in the white mainstream of the high school, use the resources of African American Vernacular English (AAVE) to define white identities for themselves in opposition ›o the black cultural authority of the school, while others use the variety to produce urbanized white identities that oppose mainstream identities, both black and white. Still other nonmainstream students reject the variety altogether as part of their construction of an oppositional youth identity that is strongly linked with whiteness: nerd identity.

The first chapter explains the theoretical issues that inform the analysis, especially recent theories of racialization and whiteness. The second chapter provides a discussion of the ethnographic context of the study and an examination of the sources of the school's black/white racial dichotomy. The linguistic practices of those who cross this racial division are the subject of Chapter 3, which explores the ways that nonfluent white users of AAVE linguistically index their affiliation with black youth culture. Chapter 4 demonstrates how, despite this cultural alignment, both black-affiliated and mainstream white students use African American linguistic forms and interactional styles to mock AAVE and to highlight black students' linguistic and cultural alterity. The diverse social meanings of the dialect are also the concern of Chapter 5, which challenges sociolinguists' traditional linking of AAVE and masculinity and argues instead for a more ethnographically grounded interpretation of the variety's use among European Americans--in this case, one that recognizes AAVE's associations with the urban sophistication of street culture. Gender is also at issue with another group of students examined in this chapter: those whose nonmainstream identities as nerds prevent them from viewing AAVE as a symbolic resource. The dissertation therefore treats three central positions that European American students may take up in relation to AAVE and African American youth culture: affiliation, appropriation without identification, and rejection.

Indexing (details)

Cultural anthropology;
Minority & ethnic groups;
0290: Linguistics
0326: Cultural anthropology
0631: Minority & ethnic groups
0631: Sociology
Identifier / keyword
Social sciences; Language, literature and linguistics; English; sociolinguistics; vernacular
Borrowed blackness: African-American Vernacular English and European-American youth identities
Bucholtz, Mary Helen
Number of pages
Publication year
Degree date
School code
DAI-A 59/03, Dissertation Abstracts International
Place of publication
Ann Arbor
Country of publication
United States
9780591810936, 059181093X
Lakoff, Robin Tolmach
University of California, Berkeley
University location
United States -- California
Source type
Dissertations & Theses
Document type
Dissertation/thesis number
ProQuest document ID
Database copyright ProQuest LLC; ProQuest does not claim copyright in the individual underlying works.
Document URL
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