AAVE sample analysis, or a fun way of promoting the status of language variety

This is one of the most popular videos from the educational comedy web series Thug Notes on YouTube channel Wisecrack, summarizing and analyzing popular literature using the AAVE language variety.

From the quantitative analysis of the transcription, there are several features common in the speech pattern in the video, thus they are partially representative of the AAVE (Green, 2002; Pollock et al., 2007; Rickford, 1999; Wolfram, 2004). Those features are the specialized vocabulary, which needs specific cultural and linguistic knowledge to understand (ex. homies, cracka) (n=64) with the biggest amount of use present in the source, as well as grammatical and phonological features, which are almost equal in number. The highest amount of repetition is present in the instances of two phonological features – interdental fricatives replaced with stops (ex. brudda, dem) (n=6), realization of final ng /ŋ/ as [n]  (ex. talkin) (n=6), and one grammatical feature of copula/auxiliary absence (ex. he about to, he dead) (n=8). An interesting component of the sample is the translation of a sentence from “Standard English” into AAVE, which shows that even though both of them are English, they are two distinct language varieties:

“Mockingbirds don’t do one thing but make music for us to enjoy… That’s why it’s a sin to kill a mockingbird.” – Only a jive ass fool would bother capping a mocking bird, cuz all dem b*tches do is drop next level beats for your enjoyment (Wisecrack, 2013).

As the actor portraying the character Sparky Sweets, PhD in those videos states: “Thug Notes” is my way of trivializing academia’s attempt at making literature exclusionary by showing that even high-brow academic concepts can be communicated in a clear and open fashion.” (Hooper, 2013, p. 1) This video fosters a new outlook on the status of AAVE, which is often perceived as the language variety used by the “uneducated masses”. It discusses the education related topic of retelling and analyzing a book. Specific grammatical structures peculiar to AAVE featured in this video can be used to disprove the belief that Ebonics is just grammatically incorrect “Standard English”. This video exposes the viewers to the peculiarities of AAVE by using it in an unusual context, thus challenging the stereotypes about this language variety and at the same time creating a platform for  the discussion of the role of AAVE in the modern digital world.


Hooper, E. (2013). ‘Thug Notes’ delivers the innovation needed in education. Tampa Bay Times. Retrieved from: http://www.tampabay.com/news/education/thug-notes-delivers-the-innovation-needed-in-education/2139944

Wisecrack. (2013). To Kill a Mockingbird – Thug Notes Summary and Analysis [Video file]. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IntI62LWSJA


One thought on “AAVE sample analysis, or a fun way of promoting the status of language variety

  1. Fascinating post! (5/5) You have clearly raised an important issue that intersects race, culture, language, and literature. It reminds me of Video Spark Notes (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uqkohqLvClI), which try to accomplish the same goal of making literature accessible to more than just “high brow” audiences. Thug Notes seems to take it one step further, and in comparison to Spark Notes, makes even the latter seem high brow and inaccessible.


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