1st Edition

Word from the Mother Language and African Americans

By Geneva Napoleon Smitherman Copyright 2022
    232 Pages 8 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    232 Pages 8 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    This classic text by Geneva Smitherman, pioneering scholar of Black Talk, is a definitive statement on African American Language (AAL). Enriched by her inimitable writing style, the book outlines past debates on the speech of African Americans and provides a vision for the future. As global manifestations of AAL increase, she argues that we must broaden our conception of the language 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, from Hip Hop lyrics to the rhyme and rhetoric of the broader Black speech community. 

    Smitherman explores AAL's contribution to American English, includes a summary of expressions as a suggested linguistic core of AAL, and features cartoons that educate readers on the broader relationship between language, race, and racism. This classic edition features a new foreword by H. Samy Alim, celebrating Smitherman's continuing impact on Black Language scholarship and her influence on the future of the field.

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


    Foreword to the Routledge Linguistics Classics Edition: She Do It for the Culture: The Deep Structure of Geneva Smitherman’s Radical Linguistics of Black Love - H. Samy Alim

    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 (aka Dr. G) is University Distinguished Professor Emerita in English and Core Faculty, African Studies Center at Michigan State University in the U.S. A linguist and educational activist, she has been at the forefront of the struggle for language rights since the 1970s. She is the author of several books, among them, Talkin and Testifyin (1977), Black Talk (2000), and Talkin That Talk (2000).

    "Many scholars, students and laypersons across the globe have an informed appreciation for the Language of Black America, because they got the Word from the Mother, Dr. Geneva Smitherman. Like no other, 'Dr. G,' the Signifying mother, captures the wit, humor, joy and critical edge that speaks forth from this language of history, culture and experience of the descendants of enslaved African people in these 'United' States of America. This is a classic text and precious gem from an OLE SKOOL Womanist scholar of the people that should be read by generations to come!"

    Elaine Richardson, Ohio State University, USA, author of Hiphop Literacies and African American Literacies

    "As Aretha Franklin is the Queen of Soul, 'Dr. G,' as she’s affectionately known, is the Queen of Black Language. She gave us the name 'African American Language' to express the expansiveness of language use in African American communities. Word from the Mother is a must-read in any course that includes African American Language in conveying our language, linguistics, and cultural journey that honors our ancestors and strengthens us by confirming their worth and ours." 

    Sonja L. Lanehart, University of Arizona, USA , author of Sista, Speak! Black Women Kinfolk Talk about Language and Literacy