1st Edition

Word from the Mother Language and African Americans

By Geneva Smitherman Copyright 2006
    186 Pages
    by Routledge

    192 Pages
    by Routledge

    Written by the hugely respected linguist, Geneva Smitherman, this book presents a definitive statement on African American English. Enriched by her evocative and inimitable prose style, the study presents an overview of past debates on the speech of African Americans, as well as providing a vision for the future. Featuring cartoons which demonstrate the relationship between language and race, as well as common perceptions of African American Language, she explores its contribution to mainstream American English and includes a summary of expressions as a suggested linguistic core of AAL.

    As global manifestations of Black Language increase, she argues that, through education, we must broaden our conception of AAL and its speakers, and further examine the implications of gender, age and class on AAL. Perhaps most of all we must appreciate the ‘artistic and linguistic genius’ of AAL, presented in this book through rap and Hip Hop lyrics and the explorations of rhyme and rhetoric in the Black speech community.

    Word from the Mother is an essential read for students of African American English, language, culture and sociolinguistics, as well as the general reader interested in the worldwide ‘crossover’ of black popular culture.

    1. African American Language: So Good it’s Bad  2. Words and Expressions, Proverbs and Familiar Sayings  3. The N-Words  4. Honeyz and Playaz Talkin that Talk  5. 'I Used to Love H.E.R.': Hip Hop, in its Essence and Real  6. 'All Around the World, Same Song'  7. 'Negro Dialect, the Last Barrier to Integration?'


    Geneva Smitherman is University Distinguished Professor of English at Michigan State University. A linguist and educational activist, she has been at the forefront of the struggle for language rights for over 25 years. She is the author of several books, among them, Talkin and Testifyin (1977), Black Talk (2000), and Talkin That Talk (2000).

    'The author of Word from the Mother has written brilliantly in the language of the African American community without apologies. I am awed by its depth, comprehensiveness, and relevance. This is a powerful and provocative turn in the intellectual arena and readers will return to Word from the Mother for many years to come.' - Professor Molefi Kete Asante, Temple University, USA

    "...Geneva Smitherman needs little introduction; she has produced seminal works on the history, development and structure of AAL (African American Language)...this is a lively text that will have great appeal for both undergraduate and graduate students studying language--students will no doubt appreciate its lively language and hipness (to use an AAL word), but who will also have their awareness of the cultural and political nature of language use greatly enhanced by reading it."  - Teaching as a Second or Foreign Language

    'In short, although Smitherman has been more scholarly in her past book, in Word from the Mother she deliers the inspirational message we need to hear.' - Nancy Effinger Wilson