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date: 23 October 2019

Abstract and Keywords

While African American male comedians have community license to deploy features of African American Language (AAL) as a tool for building solidarity and authority essential to successful performance, African American women seeking careers in comedy lack such license. As a result, they may face high levels of heckling and sexist harassment. The female comedians presented in this chapter employ a broadly vernacular AAL. But within it, they draw on features specifically associated with African American women to create a women’s style. This African American Women’s Language (AAWL) is a variety of AAL containing a multidimensional array of lexical, discursive, prosodic and other features associated with African American women conversing with close friends. The style that the comedians create builds a “friendship” and solidarity with female audience members which discourages the occurrence of sexist heckling and harassment.

Keywords: women’s style, African American Women’s Language (AAWL), comedy, African American Language (AAL), prosodic features

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