Oral And Written Language Patterns Of African American Vernacular English Speakers  

My first strand of research on the oral language and written literacies of AAVE speakers began with an investigation of the organizational patterns in the oral and written expository language of African American adolescents. This research went beyond previous work on language use in the inner city and examined the structures of exposition used by these students in informal and academic settings. It supported the hypothesis that devices young African Americans use in informal exposition constituted an untapped language resource that educators can use in designing language arts curricula. This research had both practical and theoretical implications. From a practical perspective, it demonstrated that African American adolescents have preferred patterns of expository organizations and it conceptualized what those patterns look like for students and teachers. From a theoretical perspective, the research contributed to a socio-cultural theory of language learning and use by identifying specific educationally-relevant cultural patterns and linking that information to theoretical principles that help scholars and teachers gain deeper understandings of how students' social and cultural practices influence their academic learning.

An expansion of this research made explicit links between linguistic theory and educational practice. Linguistic research in the 1960s and 1970s focused on the language features of students at-risk for educational failure in order to raise broader and more critical issues, e.g., how to reverse educational failure in the inner cities, how to resolve conflicts and paradoxes that center around bilingual/bidialectal education, and how to break down barriers to social mobility. In spite of the considerable work by earlier scholars, recent research indicates that the theoretical research was seldom translated into practice within classrooms. Today many African-American, Latino, Native-American, and some Asian students - especially those who speak non-prestige varieties of English - are still faring poorly in the nation's urban schools. Unresolved language issues affecting the academic success of speakers of non-prestige varieties of English still require further research to better understand how to achieve more effective teaching and learning in school and non-school settings.


Ball, A. F. & Lardner, T. (2005). African American Literacies Unleashed: Vernacular English and the Composition Classroom. Carbondale, IL: Southern Illinois University Press.

Makoni, S., Smitherman, G., Ball, A. F., & Spears, A. K. (Eds.) (2003). Black Linguistics:  Language, Society and Politics in Africa and the Americas. NY:  Routledge Press.

Ball, A.F. (2002). Three decades of research on classroom life: Illuminating the classroom communicative lives of America’s at-risk students. Review of Research in Education, pp. 71-111.  NY: AERA Publication.

Ball, A.F. (2000). Preparing teachers for diversity:  Lessons learned from the U.S. & South Africa. Teaching and Teacher Education,16, 491-509.

Ball, A.F. (2000). Empowering pedagogies that enhance the learning of multicultural students. Teachers College Record, 102(6), 1006-1034.

Ball, A.F. & Farr, M. (In press). Dialects, culture, and teaching the English language arts. In J. Flood, J. M. Jensen, D. Lapp, & J. R. Squire (Eds.), Handbook of research on teaching the English language arts. New York: Macmillan Publishing Company. (pdf)

Farr, M. & Ball, A.F. (1999). Standard English. In B. Spolsky (Ed.), Concise Encyclopedia of Educational Linguistics. Kidlington, Oxford: Elsevier Science Ltd.

Ball, A.F. (1998). Evaluating the writing of culturally and linguistically diverse students: The case of the African American Vernacular English speaker. In C. R. Cooper & L. Odell (Eds.), Evaluating writing: The role of teachers' knowledge about text, learning, and culture, pp. 225-248. Urbana, IL: National Council of Teachers of English Press. (pdf)

Ball, A.F. (1997). Expanding the dialogue on culture as a critical component when assessing writing. Assessing Writing, 4(2), 169-202. (pdf)

Ball, A. F. (1995). Text design patterns in the writing of urban African-American students: Teaching to the strengths of students in multicultural settings. Urban Education, 30(3).

Ball, A. F. (1994). Investigating language, learning, and linguistic competence of African-American children: Torrey revisited. Linguistics and Education, 7(1), 23-46.

Ball, A. F. (1993). Incorporating ethnographic-based techniques to enhance assessments of culturally and linguistically diverse students' written exposition. Educational Assessment, 1(3), 255-281.

Ball, A. F. (1992). Non-Standard English. In L. Jones (Ed.), The Encyclopedia of Career Change and Work Issues. Phoenix: The Oryx Press.

Ball, A. F. (1992). Cultural preference and the expository writing of African-American adolescents. Written Communication, 9(4), 501-532. (pdf)

Rickford, J. R., Ball, A. F., Blake, R., Jackson, R., & Martin, N. (1991). Rappin' on the copula coffin: Theoretical and methodological issues in the analysis of copula variation in African-American Vernacular English. Language Variation and Change, 3(1), 103-132.


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Oral And Written Language Patterns Of African American Vernacular English Speakers

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Rowman & Littlefield

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Cambridge University Press

Book 3
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Southern Illinois University Press

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Teachers College Press

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Arnetha F. Ball
Professor of Education,.Stanford University
Director, African & African American Studies Program...