Journal for Language Teaching

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Students’ Comprehension of the representation of African American Vernacular in Alice Walker’s The Color Purple

M Pretorius


This article was prompted by observations in tutorial lectures on African American Literature and reports on a subsequent pilot study. It explores students’ responses to African American Vernacular (AAV) as used in the novel The Color Purple by Alice Walker. A questionnaire was used to explore students’ comprehension of AAV. The results indicate that although students were confident of their understanding of AAV, most could not correctly translate it into Standard English (SE). The findings have implications for the field of Applied Linguistics, in terms of the way linguistic features affect the reading and teaching of a literary text, and suggests that students will benefit from guidelines for interpreting Walker’s representation of AAV.

Keywords: African American Literature, African American Vernacular, dialect, Standard English (SE), literary text, reading, teaching
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