African American Vernacular English/Why?
"Why study AAVE?"
That, in its many variations, is the question most frequently asked of linguists who research and teach the subject, and students who take the class.
To be fair, a similar question is asked of most subjects in linguistics, by individuals who don't see the value; but with AAVE, the question takes on another, more troubling form. The question is often accompanies by commentary, observations about why AAVE is not a "real" language, and complaints about political correctness gone mad.
AAVE is, of course a real language, or more specifically, a dialect of the English language, with a long history, distinct grammar, and associated culture. Complaints about political correctness, generally the issue of AAVE as a medium of education, will be discussed below. Though the question generally betrays an underlying prejudice, the question is valid as any of linguists. And so we will answer the question at face value.
Why study any language?
Before we can address our reasons for studying AAVE, it is first necessary to answer that question that is so frequently asked of all linguists: Why study any language more than is absolutely necessary to, as a practical matter, get by with its speakers.