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Southern English 1. Double Negatives

6 years ago
Typically English textbooks teach Standard American English -- English as spoken by most Americans.

But there are other dialects within America, particularly in the South, that have different rules.

One such dialect is Southern American English (SAE), which is spoken in states like Louisiana, Alabama, Mississippi, and Texas.

Another dialect is African American Vernacular English (AAVE), which is spoken among black Americans in certain informal situations. ("Vernacular" means "relating to casual conversation.") It's considered rude for someone who isn't black to use AAVE, but it's worth discussing some of the rules it has in common with SAE.

In Standard American English, a phrase can only have one negative word (not, no, none, nobody, etc.) So --
"I have no luck" or "I do not have any luck."

But in SAE and AAVE, a phrase can have two negatives:
"I don't have no luck."

This double negative is more typical of Romance languages like Spanish:
"No tengo nada de suerte."

The double negative is something you've probably heard in American music. In the blues classic "Born Under a Bad Sign," Albert King sings:
"Born under a bad sign, Been down since I began to crawl.
If it wasn't for bad luck, you know I would not have no luck at all."