Why do African Americans have a Southern accent?

sparkling   Thu May 15, 2008 1:30 am GMT
Why do most African Americans have sort of a Southern accent no matter where they grew up?

Most of them have non-rhotic, laid-back and rapsong-like accent.

Why is that?
Skippy   Thu May 15, 2008 1:55 am GMT
I'm not well versed in the AAVE literature, but they really don't have a "Southern" accent typically. Their dialects are a combination of their genealogy, as many of their recent ancestors were likely L2 English speakers; also, I'm assuming that the number of African-Americans living in the South was much more vast than that living in the north.
Josh Lalonde   Thu May 15, 2008 2:48 am GMT
AAVE is essentially a dialect of Southern American English. The vast majority of Blacks in the US lived in the South until ~1900. See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Great_Migration_%28African_American%29
Ed   Thu May 15, 2008 3:32 am GMT
Blacks often lack happY tensing, GOOSE and GOAT fronting, and tend to be non-rhotic.
Skippy   Thu May 15, 2008 3:42 am GMT
Actually the vast majority of blacks still live in the South.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/New_Great_Migration

Although I believe this migration actually started earlier.
Guest   Thu May 15, 2008 4:05 am GMT
<<Why do most African Americans have sort of a Southern accent no matter where they grew up?>>

They're families and communities preserve that accent. Most of them that don't live in the south, are only one or generations removed from the south.
Guest   Sun May 18, 2008 8:07 am GMT
I've noticed Black speakers have a very closed o (think Italian/French/German very closed o, as in córso, beau, Hose): on [o(u)n], dawn [do(u)n]
Hispano not Hispanico   Sun May 18, 2008 11:41 pm GMT
I think it is more of a social and cultural phenomenon rather than a generational one, there is too much influence from movies/music and how they're supposed to talk, etc. in contrast that doesn't happen in Canada, Black Canadians are just like any other citizen therefore they don't feel the need to speak different of have "their own identity".
Josh Lalonde   Mon May 19, 2008 12:06 am GMT
<<I think it is more of a social and cultural phenomenon rather than a generational one, there is too much influence from movies/music and how they're supposed to talk, etc. in contrast that doesn't happen in Canada, Black Canadians are just like any other citizen therefore they don't feel the need to speak different of have "their own identity".>>

That's not really how dialects work. In most of the US, Blacks live in specific areas and have fairly limited contact with Whites, whereas in Canada, the density of Black populations is a lot lower, so there's more contact with general Canadian English. Also a lot of Canadian Blacks are immigrants from the Caribbean, so their parents wouldn't speak AAVE anyways.
Josh Lalonde   Mon May 19, 2008 12:37 am GMT
<<I've noticed Black speakers have a very closed o (think Italian/French/German very closed o, as in córso, beau, Hose): on [o(u)n], dawn [do(u)n]>>

That's mostly a feature of New York AAVE, rather than AAVE as a whole. Southern AAVE speakers generally have [Q:] or [Qo] or even [Ao].
bill from Warwick   Thu May 22, 2008 1:35 am GMT
For most of America's history, black people have inhabited its lowest ranks. Their opportunities for education were extremely limited, and their manner of speech reflected this inequality. Over time, speech patterns become ingrained in a social group, and consequently most black people in America still speak with a recognizably different accent than the majority. In fact, many black people in America consider other black people who speak with a "standard" accent to be traitors to their heritage. This sentiment encourages others within the group to maintain older, traditional speech patterns inherited from their time of enslavement in the South as a symbol of solidarity and resistance to the cruel treatment they received at the hands of their oppressors.
rose   Mon May 26, 2008 8:37 pm GMT
Bill from Warwick,

That is absolute BS. Most African Americans came from the south. matter of fact, most african Americans still disproportionately live in the south. This is why they have the accent. Blacks also live in communities wiht mostly other blacks, so their accents have been maintained...
Ed   Mon May 26, 2008 10:51 pm GMT
Also, Bill's post carries the implication that people with Southern accents are inherently "lower class."
Skippy   Mon May 26, 2008 11:46 pm GMT
The main flaw with Bill's argument is the fact that it assumes the Southern accent is indicative of lower social class, which is not the case.
Bill from Warwick   Tue May 27, 2008 4:20 am GMT
Hey all- didn't mean to imply that Southern accents were inferior in any way. In fact there's nothing more aristocratic-sounding than the very Southern accents you'll hear from old people in Charleston or Savannah! Absolutely sublime! Chocolate for the ears! Rose- I think your belief that most American blacks still live in the South is outdated. There was a huge migration northward after both world wars, and nowadays most african Americans reside in urban areas in the North. And yes they have retained many Southern speech patterns- non-Rhotic habits for example