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date: 22 November 2017

Abstract and Keywords

African American Church Language (AACL) refers to a distinctive sub-variety of African American Language (AAL) that is used in markedly sacred contexts. Given its frequent use in African American worship by fluent speakers of Standard English, it is not adequately characterized as dialect. The ability to communicate artfully and well is highly valued in African American culture, and cultivated through distinctive ways of speaking known in secular life by such names of signifyin and playin the dozens. In the domain of Black Church life they bear such names as preachin, prayin, testifyin, moanin and The Amen Corner. The diverse genres of Black performance have in common such African continuities as call and response, improvisation, poly-rhythms and a sacred to secular continuum. We conclude that AACL is best characterized, not as a dialect, but as a classical language, and the H variety in a situation of diglossia.

Keywords: African American Church Language (AACL), amen corner, Black Church, testifyin, call and response, improvisation, poly-rhythms, sacred to secular continuum, diglossia

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