It is difficult for me to contain my excitement at seeing this book in print! Lisa Green is one of the newest, freshest voices to contribute to the linguistic study of African American English (AAE), and this is the first theoretically informed, book-length discussion by a native speaker of what it means to know and use this beloved, belittled language. (The author is from Louisiana, a state rarely cited in previous studies of AAE.)
Although linguists have done more work on AAE than any other variety of American English, at least since the 1960s, much of this focuses on the quantitative analysis of sociolinguistic variation (by internal, linguistic factors as well as by external ones like social class, age, and style), the historical development of AAE (including its African, Creole, and English origins), and its educational implications (as raised, for instance, by the 1996 Oakland “Ebonics” controversy). All of this is valuable, but without a detailed understanding of the structure and patternedness of this variety in the sense that has been fundamental to modern linguistics since De Saussure and Sapir, our efforts to pursue these larger questions are limited.
Lisa Green is fully aware of the sociolinguistic issues, more so than the average theoretical linguist. (Her graduate training was at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, but she has done postgraduate work at Stanford and regularly participates in sociolinguistic and variationist conferences.