“American Slang” in Global Pop: The Adoption of AAVE by L2 English Speakers

Ashley Ghodsian, Maddie Kostant, Kat Escobar, Maxime Guerra

Much of the previous work that has studied African American Vernacular English (AAVE) has focused on either native speakers of AAVE or native speakers of Standard American English (SAE) who adopt certain language features of AAVE into their speech (a phenomenon known as “language crossing”). This study investigates the adoption of AAVE features into the language of individuals who speak English as a second language (hereafter, “L2”). We hypothesized that our L2 speakers would exhibit language crossing into AAVE in a manner similar to that of native SAE speakers’ crossing, but may have different (likely unconscious) motivations for doing so. Specifically, we expected that any language crossing into AAVE by our L2ers would not only be motivated by an attempt to index proximity to Blackness (as with non-Black, native SAE speakers) but also by a desired proximity to an international conception of “American-ness,” and that this indexicality would differ for men and women as has been observed for native AAVE speakers. We analyzed the English-language interviews of two fluent, L2 English-speaking hip-hop artists who sing in Spanish in order to understand both the rates at which and the act sequences in which they adopt features of AAVE, and found evidence in favor of our hypothesis.

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