Variation in African American English: The Great Migration and Regional Differentiation

Taylor Jones, University of Pennsylvania


While African American English is among the best studied language varieties, it was historically taken to be relatively uniform, and it is only recently that regional variation in AAE has become an object of sustained study among sociolinguists. There has been as of yet no comprehensive, large-scale description of regional variation in AAE comparable to existing descriptions of white varieties of English, like that in the Atlas of North American English (ANAE). In this dissertation, I provide the first ever analysis of regional variation in the AAE vocalic system, across the United States, arguing that there is considerable regional variation in AAE, that it patterns with movement of people during the Great Migration, and that it cannot be characterized solely by the presence or absence of the proposed African American Vowel Shift. To do so, I introduced a novel reading passage specifically designed to elicit naturalistic AAE speech, read by hundreds of participants across the US, and apply traditional sociophonetic methods, spatial statistics, and clustering analyses.

Subject Area

Sociolinguistics|African American Studies

Recommended Citation

Jones, Taylor, "Variation in African American English: The Great Migration and Regional Differentiation" (2020). Dissertations available from ProQuest. AAI27955096.