chapter  9
Another Look at the Creolist Hypothesis of Aave Origins
WithDonald Winford
Pages 15

This chapter addresses the question of creole influence in the origin and development of African American Vernacular English (AAVE), employing the Naturalistic Second Language Acquisition (NSLA) framework that has been used by many scholars to account for creole formation. I focus my attention on certain structural features of AAVE, which distinguish it from its British dialectal input as well as from its close relative Southern White American Vernacular English, and which have been at the center of the debate over the origins of AAVE, and particularly the role of creole influence in its history. I argue that these features arise from two sources—processes of creative learning, and processes of contact-induced change due to African and/or creole influence. With regard to the former, I argue that various features of AAVE grammar such as the absence of inflectional morphology are due to universal processing constraints on the acquisition of morphology, which operate in all cases of second language acquisition. At the same time, other aspects of AAVE structure such as its pattern of variable copula absence, result from contact with both West African and creole languages, resulting in processes of transfer or imposition also associated with NSLA. Such influence would have presented itself at various stages in the history of AAVE, and in different regions as AAVE spread throughout the South. In particular, I argue that several distinctive features of AAVE morphosyntax can be accounted for in terms of influence from Gullah, as well as possibly Caribbean input that also shaped Gullah itself.