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date: 18 November 2017

Abstract and Keywords

This chapter explores the ways that authors represent African American Language (AAL) on the printed page. Throughout the history of American literature, authors have used literary dialect in order to represent characters’ nonstandard speech in the narrative. Eye dialect is a form of literary dialect that alters standard orthography to reflect and sometimes demean the speech of nonwhite characters. Briefly tracing the phenomenon from its early categorization as “Remus orthography” to the particular strategies behind the use of literary dialect in contemporary African American literature, reveals certain arbitrary ways of spelling characters’ speech as being indicative of American racial attitudes. This chapter engages contemporary discourses, critical assessments, and other examples of this understudied sociolinguistic phenomenon. Beyond the debates and the deep criticisms of how standard orthography is incapable of articulating AAL, contemporary writers continue to use eye dialect, particularly “Remus orthography” for socially and culturally various reasons.

Keywords: African American Language (AAL), Remus orthography, African American Literature, eye dialect, literary dialect

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