What’s up? Ya’ll good? Yes my dear reader, this is an educational article despite the few sentences you will catch of a different dialect: Black English Vernacular (BEV) to be exact. I apologize for any headaches or bottomless confusion I may cause in advance to any “Standard English” or “Strict Grammar” readers that may stumble across this article. Don’t let the confusion of this dialect deter you, let it motivate you to learn it and become “articulate.” You may come across words that looked misspelled but certainly, in BEV, these words are spelled phonetically correct. For instance the word “mouth,” phonetically speaking, BEV speakers replace the ᶿ sound, which pronounces the “th” sound in “mouth” and instead use “f” so the word will actually be spelled “mouf” that’s basic BEV phonology 101 for ya’. All the contractions, the twangish vocabulary words that I type up, or any other complex Black English grammar that I may lose the reader in, my bad. So, if you can tolerate my unbearable black syntax, stick around and you just may learn something!

Growing up in a heavily African American/Black American populated area, I got the dialect I’m so proud to call my own. My BEV is so deeply rooted inside my heart that it’s clear where I come from the moment I speak. Detroit, Michigan, raised on the east side to be exact. All my life, I was corrected for the way I talked. I had to be extremely careful, to make sure I pronounce every word with clarity and don’t I dare incorporate those BEV grammar rules or governing syntax. Of course, I only had to monitor my speaking in school, because I wanna sound intelligent and I want the teacher to see that I am intelligent. My whole thing is, do I not sound intelligent?

Just because I speak with this minority dialect, does that really make me stupid? Nah I ain’t stupid, clearly the President Barack Obama has the same vernacular I do. If anything, my BEV is what’s up because it shows that I’m multi-dialectical. Yep, I can switch between speaking Black, and then switch to speaking what people call “Standard English.”

So my next question, my dear audience, do you know anybody that speaks with a BEV dialect? Were they speaking clear English but you just couldn’t grasp why, for some reason, they decided to put that habitual “be” in the place of an adverb such as usually? Did I lose you? Don’t worry, I have examples for days: Have you ever heard someone say, “She be eating a lot?” Or, for more of a direct college experience, “He be studying?” Do you be confused? I hope so. ‘Cause, now that you’re confused, I can pull you out of that confusion pit and teach you a thing or two. I can teach you something that linguists have been trying to educate people on for years.

Black English Vernacular is not stupid, it’s not a dysfunctional piece of English, and it’s a dialect that has developed a complex system of rules and syntax. Seriously, can you really say something is dumb or not right when it has a full-blown system, which if not followed carefully will make the speaker sound outright wrong and garner the confused looks of every natural BEV speaker? For instance, if a non-BEV speaker tries to use the habitual “be,” they would probably say something such as, “He is studying,” which makes no sense BEV syntax-wise. In Standard English and non-BEV, speakers will use the verb “to be” correctly, but BEV natives have a different way of saying it. For quick and easy BEV speakers, we use that good ol’ BEV syntax and drop that “to be” verb “is” and turn that into a habitual “be” and you have “he be studying.” The beauty that comes with the habitual “be” is that it does not have no specific time frame. Standard English speakers would hear “Travon be studying,” and think that I’m off somewhere studying at that very moment. According to BEV natives I could be studying now, later, or sometime last week, just know I be studying.

My dear readers, BEV is a great dialect where you must possess the correct rules to speak it, but you need to have that slur/paused way of speaking, the nice little twang that compliments it. Ms. Jamila Lyiscott explained a perfect rule in her TED Talk “3 ways to speak English” (haven’t heard of her? Please educate yourself now) when she said her mother mocked BEV saying, “Y’all be madd going to the store” and Ms. Lyiscot instantly corrected her in response saying, “never does madd go before a present participle.” This is in fact true. Now, you’re thinking that mad is an emotion, actually mad turned into an adverb that modifies adjectives or verbs, for example “that was mad cool yo.” Don’t worry my dear readers, I won’t delve deep into the various vocabulary terms and the way how their definitions switch in accordance to the syntax of BEV.

My point is, however, next time you see that friend/classmate/person speaking with a twang and mixing up that “Standard English” syntax and turning it into another perfect English dialect known as BEV, don’t downplay their intelligence. PLEASE don’t ask them to steady repeat themselves, and whatever you do, don’t try and imitate the way they mouf’s form and shape them words because trust and believe, if you don’t sound right you will get the straightest, coldest and blankest stare of your life. Cause guess what, BEV gotta complex system of syntax, that to speak it properly and be able to code-switch into “Standard English” makes you what me and Jamila like to call articulate.

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