Archive for November, 2012

photo from flickr user macwagen

Dave Chappelle is a renowned comedian, screenwriter, television/film producer, and actor who pushes the envelope with his controversial, racy satirical sketches. The Dave Chappelle Show first premiered on January 22, 2003 becoming the funniest show on TV. The second and last season premiered on January 21, 2004. Chappelle’s Show became an overnight sensation when season one was released on DVD it outsold every DVD in the history of TV. Season 3 was in the process of contract negotiations when Dave Chappelle abruptly left and went to South Africa for two weeks. The show never commenced after his return. (Murphy & Ruben, 2008)

photo from oprah.com

Via Oprah Interview: After an incident when Dave was filming a pixie skit in Black Face and a white person on set laughed in a condescending manner Dave describes his sentiments about the situation. He states, “I know the difference of people laughing with me and people laughing at me”. Dave began thinking about the message he was sending to millions of viewers. He states, “I don’t want black people to be disappointed in me for putting that [message] out there. … It’s a complete moral dilemma.”

Dave Chappelle’s material focuses on race, class and popular culture. He takes on the role of the extreme stereotypes of different races with a particular focus on black and white depictions using Standard English (SE) and African American Vernacular English (AAVE). His attitudes towards these varieties along with the folk and sociolinguistic views of these varieties will be discussed through our analysis that you will have a chance to explore on our site. As you go through the site consider what views you may have towards AAVE. Furthermore putting this in an educational context as a current or future teacher, how would you educate your students about language attitudes to different varieties?

We will present to you the following sketches:

Season 1

Big Al and Reparations

Roca-Pads

Season 2

When keeping it real goes wrong

Black Bush

(Disclaimer: The dialogues analyzed in this project contain derogatory and vulgar terms. Please be warned that these dialogues may be viewed as offensive.)

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Big Al and Black Reparations Sketch Link

1:53-3:20

Description of Characters

Chuck- Newscaster

Big Al- Weatherman

Summary of Sketch

In this sketch Chuck the newscaster from New Center 3 is delivering breaking news entitled Reparations 2003. Congress approved paying over a trillion dollars to African Americans as reparations for slavery. There are several scenes depicting the reaction of African Americans to their newfound wealth. In this particular scene Big Al, the well-known weatherman, reveals his true identity.

Dialogue

Chuck:     Anyhow, here with the weather is our old pal, reliable, friendly, portly Big Al

Big Al: (starts with a clap, dressed in jewelry) Happy Reparations Day. Happy Juneteenth. Haha, Just kidding.

Chuck, I don’t know if you know this but I just handed in my resignation at News Center 3 hours ago and I’ll tell you something else you probably didn’t know and that is this. This is not my real speaking voice.

(Changes voice) Actually Chuck, this my real speaking voice. I talk like a straight up gangsta, bitch.

(Camera switches to Chuck with a shocked look on his face)

Chuck:      b-

My name ain’ Big Al. It’s Altin Sims ok.

Chuck:      Big Al seriously what’s the forecast for the tri-state area

Big Al:      Oh I don’t know Chuck. Why don’t we take a look at my tri-state area map which looks a lot like my big fat ass.

(Turns around)

Ok here we have Connecticut. (points to his back). White folks drive down 95 and go straight into the Holland Tunnel. Uh oh look out. Here comes a big brown truck. Wait a minute that ain’ no truck. (farts)

Chuck:      Oh my god that is disgusting

Big Al:       I’m paid, I’m paid, I’m paid in XXX (begins beat boxing)

Chuck:      Is that beat boxing?

Big Al:      You ol’ pasty bastard. Look at you Chuck. You look sick man. You look like you just walked off from ground zero

(Camera switches to Chuck looking at his skin)

This job sucks. Kiss the rings bitch (puts up pinky with a ring on it). I’m out (lips this phrase)

In this scene Chuck starts off with a preface of Big Al giving the audience a positive, neutral depiction of his character. He states the following:

Chuck:      Anyhow, here with the weather is our old pal. Reliable, friendly, portly Big Al.

Chuck emphasizes his characterization of Big Al, by uttering each descriptor followed by a pause. The writers are painting a picture of Big Al as a reliable, unwavering representation of a friendly African American, unlike the negative representations of the stereotypical African American in prior scenes. This is demonstrated by the depiction of Tron, the local dice player turned world’s wealthiest man. His character uses derogatory language, and uses a dialect that is associated with the stereotypical character he is playing. Alim (2010) explains this perceptual dialectology and states, “blackness is expected to be unclean, dull, unattractive, bad, and yes inarticulate” (p. 207).

After Big Al’s introduction, he starts with what is considered articulate and Standard English (SE). His use of SE is a reflection of the folklinguistic view of articulate being associated with clean, bright, attractive, and good (Alim, 2010). Big Al unexpectedly, makes an announcement of his resignation and surprises Chuck with the following statements:

Big Al:     …This is not my real speaking voice. (Changes voice) Actually Chuck, this my real speaking voice. I talk like a straight up gangsta, bitch.

Big Al feels empowered to diverge from his use of SE and use AAVE. He emphasizes his distinctiveness through using his real speaking voice and shifts to the dialect he identifies with. AAVE represents his social identity and a symbol of solidarity. This is also folklinguistic representation of how speakers of AAVE feel the need to suppress their use of the dialect in order to accommodate to social norms. Reparations disbursement provided Big Al with the social motivation to use AAVE in a SE environment.

Towards the end of the scene Big Al expresses his excitement for his reparations payment through what Baugh and Alim refer to as performativity, which is “the stylistic dramatization of the self that individuals infuse into their behaviors” (Alim & Baugh, 2007, p. 104). Big Al uses performativity in the following dialogue:

Big Al:      (Begins to dance) I’m paid, I’m paid, I’m paid in XXX (begins beat boxing)

His use of stylistic dramatization is a feature that relates to the Black hip-hop culture. He emphasizes his statements “I’m paid” by ticking (a popular hip-hop dance style) and then concludes by beat-boxing another popular feature of the Black hip-hop culture. Big Al’s use of performativity intensifies his social identity with AAVE.

There are particular AAVE language negative structures that are present in this sketch. Dillard (1973) describes the origin of the simple negative structures in AAVE:

From the simple negative structure of Plantation Creole and the antecedent pidgin, decreolized Black English, there developed three negators (dit’n, don’ and ain’) as well as elaborate double negative structures particularly in the following example of ain’: It ain’ no use me workin’ so hard.( p. 102)

Big Al uses the negator ain’ in the sentence “My name ain’ Big Al..”. He also uses the double negative ain’ no in the sentence “Wait a minute. That ain’ no truck”. While this negator is viewed as simple improper English, it is a common feature of AAVE. From the view of the sociolinguist, it is just as significant as the SE form of negation.

Roca-Pads

Posted: November 26, 2012 in Roca-Pads

Roca-Pads Sketch Link

Summary of Sketch

This sketch is a fake commercial for the new feminine product, “Roca-Pads”, that are being promoted by Damon Dash, the CEO of Roc-A-Fella Records, a famous hip-hop record label. In this sketch, Dave Chappelle is poking fun at the wide and growing array of rapper-endorsed products. One female is in need of a feminine sanitary product and asks her friend, Pam, for something. The female obliges and gives her a “Roca Pad”. There is a short interlude where the rapper describes the virtues of “Roca-Pads”. This is followed by a scene where the females happily leave the room together but run into some linguistic irregularities along the way.

Description of Characters

Pam

Unknown Female 2

Damon Dash

Dialogue

Roca-Pads dialogue, Part 1

0:00-0:16

(Sitting on a bed together)

Pam:   Hey what’s the matter?

F2:      Pam, do you have anything sanitary? I’m all out and my flow is heavy.

Pam:   Do I? Girl, I got something that will keep your flow muthafuckin’ tizz-ight!

F2:      Muthafuckin tizz-ight?

Roca-Pads dialogue, Part 2

0:37-0:45

(Both coming out of the bathroom laughing)

Pam:   You feelin’ fresh now?

F2:      (doing a dance move) mmm, fo’shizzle my bizzle!

Pam:   What are you doing?

F2:      What? Nothing.

Roca-Pads Analysis

Posted: November 26, 2012 in Roca-Pads Analysis

There are two females in this commercial. One of the females is white and the other is mixed—black and white. The racial difference creates an important dynamic that can be seen in the language used by the two females. The mixed female, Pam, seamlessly switches from SE to AAVE and back. When the white female switches from SE to AAVE, it seems absurd and Pam points this out to the other female through her reaction. The absurdity of the white female’s language and dialogue when she switches to AAVE is immediately apparent to the viewers of the sketch. This is especially apparent because, in the first part of the dialogue, the white female seems confused by the AAVE while in the second part she tries to adopt it herself.

The “folk” would most likely view Pam’s code-switching as a tool for comedic expression. The sudden and deliberate switch to AAVE is unexpected which creates a comical twist, especially considering that it is uncommon to see AAVE used in television commercials. The set and costume designers obviously try to create a “pure” atmosphere with the long, flowing white dresses and bed sheets where one would expect a nice, sweet, and feminine dialogue to occur between the two females. However, upon analysis, the writers are making a statement about people that cross languages. In this sketch the writers seem to be making fun of people who try too hard to use AAVE as if it’s their own language.

Roca-Pads dialogue, Part 1

(Sitting on a bed together)

Pam:   Hey what’s the matter?

F2:       Pam, do you have anything sanitary? I’m all out and my flow is heavy.

Pam:   Do I? Girl, I got something that will keep your flow muthafuckin’ tizz-ight!

F2:       Muthafuckin tizz-ight?

Pam seems very concerned about her friend, F2, and asks in a very caring manner, “Hey, what’s the matter?” After F2 explains her problem, Pam switches from a standard style of English to AAVE by stating, “Do I? Girl, I got something that will keep your flow muthafuckin’ tizz-ight!” This code switch as serves multiple functions. First, by switching to AAVE, Pam is able to place a stronger emphasis on what she is saying and is able to exert more authority on the topic. Mestherie et. al (2009) citing Gal point out, “switches…can fulfill other functions—for instance, they can express expertise or knowledgeability when a speaker is giving an opinion. “ (p. 165) This is what is happening with this dialogue. The switch allows Pam to show her expertise with this product.

Pam’s use of AAVE marks part of her social identity. The switch allows Pam to represent herself more expressively. A social gap is created which is apparent in F2’s response. She repeats part of Pam’s dialogue when she says “Muthafuckin’ tizzight” but her rising intonation of the words illustrates that she is confused by and questions the meaning. By doing this, F2 is reinforcing the social distance between herself and Pam.

Roca-Pads dialogue, Part 2

(Both coming out of the bathroom laughing)

Pam:   You feelin’ fresh now?

F2:       (doing a dance move) mmm, fo’shizzle my bizzle!

Pam:   What are you doing?

F2:       What? Nothing.

In the second part of the sketch, F2 attempts to adopt AAVE has her language and it does not work. Pam asks in AAVE, “You feelin’ fresh now?” F2 now attempts to switch to AAVE with her response, “mmm, fo’shizzle my bizzle!” By doing this she is crossing languages. She is attempting to lower the social distance between herself and her friend by adopting a language from a group that she doesn’t belong to.

Rampton (1995) states, “[Language crossing] is concerned with switching into languages that are not generally thought to belong to you. This kind of switching, in which there is a distinct sense of movement across social or ethnic boundaries, raises issues of social legitimacy that participants need to negotiate.” (p. 280)

F2 adopts AAVE although she would not be considered a speaker of AAVE. This adoption of AAVE is a “movement across social or ethnic boundaries.” She even performs a dance move to try to move her closer to Pam, a speaker of AAVE. She uses a common language augmentation in AAVE by using “fo’ shizzle” instead of “for sure” and “bizzle” instead of “bitch”. F2’s “performance” is meant to seem quite ridiculous and Pam’s response to it, “What are you doing?” demonstrates that. Realizing that crossing languages has created an issue with Pam, F2 hastily responds in her normal dialect by answering, “What? Nothing?” as she attempts to downplay or move away from her AAVE switch/performance once she realizes her faux pas and act as if it has not occured.

Black Bush

Posted: November 26, 2012 in Black Bush

Black Bush Sketch Link

Summary of Sketch

In this sketch, Dave Chappelle imagines what it would be like if President George W. Bush were a black man. He places the character “Black Bush” in the same situations that the President was in.. All the cabinet members are black as well. This sketch chronicles the build-up of the Iraq War and its aftermath. These moments are noted in sketches such as “The lead up to war”, “British Intelligence”, “Proof”, “Oil”, “U.N.”, “Invasion”, “Victory”, “Civil Unrest”, and “Saddam Captured”.

Description of Characters

Black Bush
Black Tony Blair
Black Head of the CIA
Some Black Dude (Although the screen says “Some Black Dude”, the character is referred to as “Jeb” in the dialogue so we can assume this is supposed to be Jeb Bush)
A white female reporter
A white male reporter
A black male reporter

Dialogue

“The lead up to war”

0:09-0:31

Black Bush:                 After carefully examining the region me and my cabinet agree that that area is definitely ripe for regime change…but if I can be real about it?
Cabinet Member:     Be real, son.
Black Bush:                 Real?
Cabinet Member:     Be real real, son.
Black Bush:                 He tried to kill my father, man. I don’t play that shit!
Cabinet Member:     Yo say word he tried to kill your father, son.
Black Bush: (grabbing the microphone from above): THE NIGGA TRIED TO KILL MY FATHER!!
Cabinet Member:     Word to everything we love we comin’ to see yall, son!

“Saddam Captured”

5:48-6:02

Black Reporter:      Mr. President. Mr. President, sir. How do you explain the continual upheaval in Iraq even after the capture of Saddam Hussein?

Black Bush:              Why you doin’ this man? I thought yous my black brother. Why yous aks me questions like dat?

Black Bush Analysis

Posted: November 26, 2012 in Black Bush Analysis

Chappelle wants to show how the decisions made by President George W. Bush might have been more scrutinized had he been a black man. While setting the scene for this sketch he explains,

If our President were black, we would not be at war right now. Not because a black person wouldna done something like that, it’s because America wouldn’t let a black person do something like that without asking them a million questions. Ya know, they always do polls like “Minorities just don’t seem to trust the government.” Because you don’t understand what it looks like for us, so let me help paint the picture.

Season 2, Episode 13, April 14, 2004

This description by Chappelle illustrates that he has two intentions with this sketch. The first is to show what it would be like if President Bush were black. The second is what the political system looks like to minorities. Chappelle even switches to his “white” voice (the voice that he always uses in sketches when he is portraying a white character) when he says the sentence “Minorities just don’t seem to trust the government.” He makes this switch during the monologue when he is not in character—he is simply himself at this moment. This provides further evidence of his feelings that minorities are not represented by the government or the political process. His intentions of what he hopes to show are made clear even before the sketch begins.

The “folk” that view this might come away with several conclusions about AAVE. First, a viewer that is not very familiar with AAVE might assume that speakers use AAVE when they are upset, angry, or emotional. As Black Bush is peppered with questions from the White House reporters, he often gets frustrated and uses AAVE to vent his frustration. Second, it can be assumed from watching this that a speaker of AAVE can seamlessly switch back and worth between Standard English and AAVE. Because Black Bush easily makes the transition back and forth between SE and AAVE, the “folk” might assume that AAVE is simply a tool that speakers can use when they want to and that it is not a dialect that people speak all the time. Lastly, the “folk” could assume that AAVE speakers use many derogatory terms such as “nigga” and “bitch”. That happens often in this sketch and one might assume that derogatory terms are a common part of AAVE.

“The lead up to war”

Black Bush:              After carefully examining the region me and my cabinet agree that that area is definitely ripe for regime change…but if I can be real about it?

Cabinet Member:    Be real, son.

Black Bush:              Real?

Cabinet Member:    Be real real, son.

Black Bush:              He tried to kill my father, man. I don’t play that shit!

Cabinet Member:    Yo say word he tried to kill your father, son.

Black Bush: (grabbing the microphone from above): THE NIGGA TRIED TO KILL MY FATHER!!

Cabinet Member:    Word to everything we love we comin’ to see yall, son!

In this opening scene, the viewer is introduced to Black Bush and there are some linguistic elements to note. He starts off the scene in which he is answering a question to reporters about the reasons for invading Iraq. He starts off by speaking a standard variety of English while answering the question when he is explaining his desire to invade Iraq. However, he switches to AAVE to state the “real” reason that he wants to invade Iraq. He even asks if he can be real about it and is urged by his cabinet member to be real about it. Black Bush jumps up and grabs the microphone and yells, “THE NIGGA TRIED TO KILL MY FATHER!!” This switch from the less important “regime change” answer to the more important fact that Saddam Hussein tried to kill his father is a topic-related shift. Baugh’s (1983) examination of the data from Labov’s research states, “When emotions ran especially high some consultants resorted to more standardized speech, while others made deeper shifts into the vernacular.” (p. 60) Black Bush seems to shift into the AAVE because this is an emotional and personal matter. This is emphasized even further when Black Bush stands up and grabs the microphone and yells into it. The language shift and his actions illustrate that this is an important personal matter that he wants to deal with by invading Iraq.

In this scene, along with several others in the sketch, the denigration of the term “nigga” is used.  As Smitherman (1999) points out in Talkin’ that Talk, it is important to look at the context in which this term is used. In the context of this sketch, “nigga” is used as a denigrative term. She explains that when “nigga” is being used for denigration, it can be referring to someone who is “lazy, trifling, scheming or wrong-doing” (p. 62) Black Bush uses this term to refer to Saddam Hussein. A visibly upset and angered Black Bush yells, “THE NIGGA TRIED TO KILL MY FATHER!!” This choice of term shows that Black Bush feels that Saddam Hussein has done something wrong (tried to kill his father) and therefore uses this particular term when he switches to AAVE.

“Saddam Captured”

Black Reporter:      Mr. President. Mr. President, sir. How do you explain the continual upheaval in Iraq even after the capture of Saddam Hussein?

Black Bush:              Why you doin’ this man? I thought yous my black brother. Why yous aks me questions like dat?

In this scene, the idea of speech communities and communities of practice are introduced. In the build up to this scene, Black Bush has had to answer many questions about the war from reporters. Here, a black reporter poses a question to him. In order to create an even greater distance between Black bush and the black reporter, the black reporter overtly uses SE with his speech and intonation. The actor was most likely directed to ask the question in an overt manner, especially the intonation he uses with the phrase “even after the capture of Saddam Hussein.” Even to a “folk” viewer, this utterance sounds peculiar. Black Bush is disappointed because he expected that this “black” reporter would not ask him questions such as the one he posed. The manner in which the black reporter asked his question suggests that the two men exist in different speech communities. To emphasize the differences further, Black Bush uses AAVE quite overtly in his response (just like the black reporter did with SE), which shows the social distance between the two men.

From a sociolinguistic prospective, we can also say that they exist in different communities of practice. It’s not only how the reporter asks his question, it’s why he asked the question as a black man that has Black Bush disappointed. Black Bush had falsely assumed that race would be a determining factor in speech and attitude that the black reporter would have. Black Bush asks him “Why you doin’ this man?” This shows that he is obviously disappointed that someone from his own race would ask him a question like this. Eckert and McConnell-Ginet (2006) state, “a community of practice develops ways of dong things, views, values, power relations, ways of talking” (p. 1) It is apparent that, although they are the same race, they exist in different communities of practice. Communities of practice are not determined by race but Black Bush falsely assumed this to be the case.

When Keeping it Real Goes Wrong Sketch Link

0:30-1:45

Description of Characters

Vernon Franklin – VP of Viacorp Corporation

Frank Murphy – Officer of Viacorp Corporation and Vernon’s mentor

Summary of Sketch

In this sketch Vernon Franklin is described as a rags to riches success story. He was the valedictorian of his high school class and the first in his family to attend college ending the cycle of drugs and violence. He was the youngest Vice President of the Viacorp Corporation. In this scene the officers were rapping up the usually Thursday meeting when Vernon’s mentor, Frank Murphy, made an awkward comment. Vernon  negatively reacts to his comment.

Dialogue

Narrator:      The officers of his company were raping up the usual Thursday meeting in the south conference room when Frank Murphy the man who had mentored Vernon made an awkward comment.

Frank:            Vernon great job buddy. You the man. Give me some skin huh. (Raises hand in Vernon’s face for high five)

Narrator:     Vernon got along with all of the people he worked with, which in his heart of hearts made him feel like an Uncle Tom. Though he could have ignored this simple comment his mentor made, Vernon decided to keep it real.

Vernon:        Get your motha-fuckin hand out of my face. You heard me motha-fucka. Get your hand out of my face. (Slaps hand away)

Whatcha think this is man? Just shake my hand like a man. (Stands up) I gotta give you some five on the back hand side with all of this crazy jive. (Does a dance and changes voice) That’s bullshit. Wanna soft shoe should I juggle some watermelon for you boss (does a dance and changes voice). Fuck all that nigga.

Frank:            Hey Vernon, buddy (reaches out hand to Vernon)

Vernon:        Get your motha-fuckin hands off me Frank. This ain’ a game.

Frank:           This isn’t the Vernon I know.

Vernon:        Allow me to reintroduce myself. My name is Hov. Haven’t heard that before have you. Rap music is dangerous.

(Turns to other colleague)

I used to beat motha-fuckas up just like you just for walkin around my way nigga (pointing at colleague).

(Frank gets up and reaches for Vernon)

Frank:        Vernon, buddy

(Vernon turns around and points to Frank’s seat)

Vernon:     You better sit the fuck down Frank

Frank:       Excuse me

Vernon:    I said sit down bitch. Thug life (pushes Frank in his seat) You think this a game nigga. (barks three times) Wu-Tang (throws up Wu-Tang sign)

In this sketch Vernon is depicted as an amicable employee who goes above and beyond, thus climbing the corporate ladders and being promoted to the Vice President of Viacorp. In this particular scene Frank, Vernon’s mentor, who is white, makes the following awkward comment:

Frank:      Vernon great job buddy. You the man. Give me some skin huh. (Raises hand in Vernon’s face for high five)

Vernon first reacts nonverbally with a perturbed look on his face. He looks down before he responds in anger to Frank’s condescending ploy at building solidarity. What Frank exhibits here is known as language crossing. Ben Rampton (1995) defines language crossing as switching into languages that are not generally thought to belong to the speaker. Frank’s use of the words “You the man. Give me some skin” signals the audience that he is not a part of the AAVE speech community, but is attempting to lessen the social distance between Vernon and himself by language crossing and styling the AAVE variety. On the other hand, Vernon, as the narrator mentions, “could have ignored this simple comment his mentor made, but decided to keep it real.” Vernon already had reservations about his identity in the workplace environment, feeling like an Uncle Tom (black man submissively loyal and servile to white men) to his co-workers, so his reaction to Frank double-voicing was exacerbated (Uncle Tom, n.d.). Double voicing was used in a uni-directional manner in Frank’s attempt to positively align himself with AAVE, however Vernon was insulted by his attempt.

Vernon’s reaction expressed many instances of performativity. As mentioned earlier in the Big Al and Black Reparations sketch, performativity is the stylistic dramatization infused into the speaker’s behavior. In this particular scene Vernon is using performativity to make a point about his resentment towards Frank’s comment in the following dialogue:

Vernon:      Whatcha think this is man? Just shake my hand like a man. (Stands up) I gotta give you some five on the back hand side with all of this crazy jive. (Does a dance and changes voice) That’s bullshit. Wanna soft shoe should I juggle some watermelon for you boss (does a dance and changes voice). Fuck all that nigga.

Vernon stands up and begins to articulate some of the notions associated with being an Uncle Tom, such as “ give you some five on the back hand side” and  “soft shoe, should I juggle some watermelon for you boss.” He also emphasizes performativity by doing a minstrel like dance similar to those performed by black face depictions of African Americans who would juggle and dance to entertain the white audience. The writer’s/Dave Chappelle’s intention of this scene is to introduce the audience to the negative affective connotations that language crossing can have. A speaker of the AAVE variety may interpret Frank’s attempt at building solidarity as a blatant attack on his culture and a tool to belittle him in front of the other officers in the meeting.

Vernon now attempts to further distance himself from his work identity of being amicable to diverging further into the AAVE variety. We assume that he does speak SE usually because the officers are shock when he gets angry. This is illustrated in the following dialogue.

Frank:      This isn’t the Vernon I know.

Vernon:   Allow me to reintroduce myself. My name is Hov. Haven’t heard that before have you. Rap music is dangerous.

He goes deeper into the variety in his last line in this scene.

Vernon:      I said sit down bitch. Thug life (pushes Frank in his seat) You think this a game nigga. (barks three times) Wu-Tang (throws up Wu-Tang sign)

Once again Vernon, employs the use of performativity. He is using the stylistic dramatization of the Black hip hop culture verbally and nonverbally. In particular he references the rap star, Jay –Z when he says, “My name is Hov,” which is popular song by the artist. He emphasizes his existence in a different speech community than Frank when he states, “Haven’t heard that before have you. Rap music is dangerous.” Vernon emphatically stresses the word dangerous to show how a person of Frank’s speech community may view rap music as a violent, gang affiliated genre of music. This would be a common folk view of the Black hip hop culture. He goes on further to solidify his identity by saying ‘thug life” and “Wu-tang” and throws up the Wu-Tang (a popular hip hop group in the late 90s) hand sign using performativity. The writers of this particular scene demonstrate a purposely extreme stereotypical representation of what a speaker of AAVE would do in a situation where they are being belittled. They are bringing light to the intercultural communication errors that occur in the workforce, which may seem obvious or less obvious to the audience.

Pedagogical Implications

Posted: November 26, 2012 in Pedagogical Implications

The practice of language augmentation could be used for second language learners with these sketches. We could use these sketches to illustrate augmentation and how some words such as “tizzight” and “fo’ shizzle” have been created by speakers of AAVE. Some of these slang words have outgrown AAVE and can be heard by speakers that don’t speak AAVE. However, it can seem kind of absurd to use these if you are not a speaker of AAVE as the writers point out in some of the sketches.

Students can learn that liberal use, or any use at all, of words from a different dialect can be strange, or inappropriate, for speakers that are not members of certain groups that use the dialect. With the spread of hip-hop to a global audience, more and more second language English speakers are becoming aware of AAVE. Students should learn that just because they hear something in a hip hop song, it might not be a good idea for them to adopt it. It is important for the L2 teacher to point this out. As language teachers we must develop communicative competence in our students. For example, I had several high school students in Poland that did not understand the history and power of the N word. They sorely lacked the sociolinguistic competence when using this term. They would use it freely and mimic how they heard it in the hip-hop songs. I often had to explicitly inform certain students that this was not acceptable, especially the students that had plans to visit America. I fear what would have happened to those skinny white Polish kids had they come to America and said “What’s up my N” to every person they met! These sketches can illustrate that language crossing can be very inappropriate and reveal the ignorance of the speaker. Language educators must develop all the components of communicative competence in our students.

The prolific use of derogatory terms in some of the sketches could cause many teachers to not use these clips in their language classes. However, like SE, AAVE has different varieties with different levels of formality and politeness. Just like not every speaker of SE is going to speak formally and never use derogatory terms, AAVE speakers also demonstrate variation. This is illustrated in many sketches on the Chappelle show. Not every black speaker speaks with the same variety of AAVE. Different clips or sketches from this show could be used as comparison pieces with one another or with another show where the speakers use AAVE. In both clips, there would be speakers using AAVE. In one clip, derogatory terms are used. In the other, derogatory terms are not used. That way, the student can see that the stereotypical version of AAVE made famous in popular culture is not the version of AAVE spoken by everyone that uses it. All too often people associate AAVE with what they here in a hip-hop song. This is not the case and using these sketches for comparison exercises could make that apparent.

The sketches could be used to illustrate that not all black people use AAVE. The black reporter in the “Black Bush” sketch does not use AAVE. Taking this idea even further, we can illustrate that there are varieties within AAVE and SE that can be used. In addition to the comparison task mentioned above where students are comparing the varieties for levels of formality and the use of derogatory terms, students can look for differences between varieties of AAVE and see how SE and AAVE are not always mutually exclusive. A speaker does not necessarily speak one or the other. Speakers can use elements of both in their language. Chappelle’s Black Bush character uses a variety of different dialects. Sometimes he speaks SE, sometimes he speaks AAVE, and sometimes he mixes the two dialects. Al the weatherman also uses both SE and AAVE. We can use this sketch to show the diversity in language.

Lastly, from a macro perspective, we could use these sketches to teach our second language students about AAVE in general and discuss the different opinions that people have about the language. Because some of our students might be unfamiliar with AAVE, we could use the Chappelle show to introduce it. Then we could have our students read differing opinions on the use of AAVE. Reading these viewpoints, students would not only learn about AAVE but they would also learn about what constitutes a language. (This would be especially interesting in a place like Singapore that has a common dialect, Singlish, that is also frowned upon by many as not a “true” language.) After the students are familiar with both sides of the issue, we could create a mock debate in class. Having a mock debate in class would lead to further instruction of debate phrases, terms, or gambits. Through these clips, we could teach our students not only about AAVE but also about the issues surrounding it.