how language and meaning are shaped by culture and
context, using a poem by Paul Dunbar.
Paul Dunbar: American poet and writer,
late 19th and early 20th
centuries. He learned to read and write at a young age. His mother often read
the bible with him.
Born in Ohio, to parents enslaved in Kentucky before the (civil) war.
Many of his verse and short stories were written in dialect. Although he
had works in “normal” English, his works written in dialect are mostly what he
is best known for. Paul Dunbar was one of the first African-Americans writer to
achieve national eminence.
The Emancipation proclamation, issued by president Abraham Lincoln on
September 22nd 1862, stated that the slaves “shall be, then, thenceforward and forever free”. Although it did not free the slaves, it was a critical
point in the war as it transformed it to a strife for human rights. An
institution was established by the president, thorough which African-Americans
could join the U.S. Army.
The slaves still experienced racial discrimination and
were treated as inferior and as property.
The title of the text is, when
they listed colored soldiers, and was published in 1896.
The structure reveals that the text is a poem. The text has 5 stanzas,
each with 8 lines. Almost the whole text written is written in rhyming
couplets. It uses some figurative devices, such as anaphora (when BUT is
repeated) and epiphora (when war is). When looking closer to the text, one will
notice that it looks different from the conventional English that we are used
to. This is called the AAFE.
Or the African
American vernacular English , is a dialect of English, mostly spoken by
working- and middle-class African Americans. Due to historical relation with
the Southern United States, AAVE shares a considerable section of its grammar
and phonology with Southern American English. Another theory states that AAVE,
was influenced by Languages from West Africa.
/The use of AAVE in the poem would appeal to people from the south.
People from the south would recognize and appreciate this dialect.
“TH” sound changes to
Dropping Rs and Gs.
Some examples include” Den and Dey” which are “then”
and “they”. “Wid grievin” is “With Griving”. And we can also see the missing R