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This chapter begins with a review of the early literature on William Labov’s 1972 concept of the linguistic lame, its influence on the study of African American English, and its role in shaping linguistic perceptions of middle-class speakers. The chapter then proceeds with a summary of the small, but growing, body of research on the use of AAE by middle-class speakers, including studies of social stratification, intraspeaker variation, performative language practices, and attitudes and perceptions. The chapter ends with an overview of the topics covered in subsequent chapters of the book.
This chapter provides an analysis of the performative use of African American English by a panel of African American public figures in Tavis Smiley’s “State of the Black Union” symposium. The chapter considers the implications of such stylized uses for traditional definitions of "lame" linguistic behavior, as well as traditional understandings of the functions and motivations governing intraspeaker variation.
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