LEXICON OF BLACK ENGLISH by J. L. Dillard

LEXICON OF BLACK ENGLISH

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KIRKUS REVIEW

A partial lexicon of Black English, intended as a seedbed for a more comprehensive work. As in Black English (1972) and subsequent books, Dillard comes up with some surprising conclusions. Contrary to popular expectations, the language of the street hustle--prostitution, gambling, narcotics--contains few Africanisms or words traced to pidgin usage. Rather, the Black influence on language comes from other areas of experience: music, sex, religion, rootwork and conjure. Dillard probes these areas conscientiously, objecting to past guesswork and rationalizations, offering wiser alternatives--some documented, some likely but speculative. Some are obvious: hip and cat come from the Wolof hipicat (an aware person) and boogie comes from the Sierra Leone Krio bogi-bogi (to dance). Other links, more difficult to detect, cross over from one area into another (conjure terms in lyrics and literary works) and show signs of outside influences (the British ""nominee"" formula in folktale endings). In addition, Dillard cites an impressive variety of sources and discusses serious problems of reliability and sensitivity to context and speech patterns; he favors the works of folklorists such as Zora Neal Hurston, the writings of Brown, Chestnutt, and Wright, the recordings of Lomax and Courlander. A felicitous beginning which should inspire more extensive investigation.

Pub Date: June 1st, 1977
Publisher: Seabury