The Grammar of African-American English (AAE)

During this third module of the course, participants will learn about the grammar of African-American English. Participants will understand how speakers of African-American English form words, create phrases, and structure sentences to express meaning with the same degree of precision and expressive range as speakers of Standard English and other English varieties.

Module 3 Summary (Slides)

  • The Module 3 summary includes concise information that highlights key points and will guide participants through the module. The summary clearly indicates how much time will be spent on each component and activity.

This module’s estimated workload: 8 to 10 hours

Module 3 Learning Objectives

After completing this module, participants will:

  1. Refresh their understanding of the terms morphology and syntax
  2. Learn how the morphology of AAE differs from that of SE:
  • Verb paradigms and invariant 3rd person singular verb forms
  • Possessive pronouns
  • Lack of possessive marker ’s

3. Learn how the syntax of AAE differs from that of SE

  • Negative concord
  • Word order in wh-questions
  • Copula deletion/zero copula

4. Understand the distinctive verb system of AAE

  • Auxiliary verbs in AAE and SE (including double modals)
  • Aspectual markers been and done
  •  Habitual be
  •  Preterite had
  •  Preverbal markers finna, boutta and tryna

Essential Questions Addressed in Module 3

  • In what significant ways do AAE and SE differ morphologically?
  • In what significant ways do AAE and SE differ syntactically?
  • How is the verb system of AAE distinctive?
  • What grammatical categories does the AAE verb system express that the SE verb system does not?
  • How can knowledge of the grammatical structure of AAE be used to answer students’ questions about AAE?

Resources for Module 3

Module 3 Activities

Module 3 Lesson Plan (180 minute presentation and discussion)

Presentation and Discussion
1. Introduction (10 minutes)
2. Review of the terms morphology and syntax (10 minutes)
3. The morphological structure of AAE: verb paradigms, possessive pronouns, lack of genitive marker ‘s (20 minutes)
4. The syntactic structure of AAE: negative concord, word order, copula deletion/zero copula) (20 minutes)
5. Activity 3.1: Zero copula in AAE (20 minutes)
6. The distinctive verb system of AAE: grammatical categories, auxiliary verbs, aspectual markers been and done, habitual be, and preterite had (30 minutes)
7. Activity 3.2: How the habitual be works in AAE (20 minutes)
8. Preverbal markers finna, boutta, tryna (10 minutes)
9. Activity 3.3: The many forms of finna (10 minutes)
10. Applying knowledge of the grammar of AAE when answering students’ questions (20 minutes)
11. Wrap-up, independent research project and study group assignments, and exit ticket (10 minutes)