Oxford University Press to publish a dictionary of African-American English
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Oxford University Press and Harvard University collaborate to create the Oxford Dictionary of African American English (ODAAE).
Henry Louis Gates, Jr., director of Harvard University’s Hutchins Center for African and American Research, will provide editorial advice at Oxford as he develops a dictionary dedicated to African American Vernacular English (AAVE).
“African American English has had a profound impact on the world’s most widely spoken language, but much of it has been obscured,” Casper Grathwohl, president of Oxford Languages at Oxford University Press, said in a written statement. .
“The ODAAE seeks to recognize this contribution more fully and more formally and, in doing so, to create a powerful tool for a new generation of researchers, students and scholars to build a more accurate picture of how the African-American life has influenced the way we speak, and therefore who we are,” he continued.
Each dictionary entry will include citations of concrete examples of language used and meaning, pronunciation, spelling, usage and history. According to the statement, this is intended to recognize the contributions of African American writers, ordinary artists “to the evolution of the American English lexicon and the English lexicon as a whole.”
“Every speaker of American English borrows heavily from words invented by African Americans, whether they know it or not,” Gates, Jr.
“Words of African origin such as ‘goober’, ‘gumbo’ and ‘okra’ survived the Middle Passage with our African ancestors. And words we take for granted today, such as “cool” and “crib”, “hokum” and “diss”, “hip” and “hep”, “bad”, meaning “good”, and “dig “, meaning ‘understand’ – these are just a tiny fraction of the words that have entered American English by African-American speakers, neologisms that have emerged from the black experience in this country, over the course of the hundred years,” he added.
The three-year project is partially funded by grants from the Mellon and Wagner Foundations. The Oxford Dictionary of African American English is expected to be published in 2025.