Abstract

Rachel Jeantel was the leading prosecution witness when George Zimmerman was tried for killing Trayvon Martin, but she spoke in African American Vernacular English (AAVE) and her crucial testimony was dismissed as incomprehensible and not credible. The disregard for her speech in court and the media is familiar to vernacular speakers and puts Linguistics itself on trial: following Saussure, how do we dispel such ‘prejudices’ and ‘fictions’? We show that Jeantel speaks a highly systematic AAVE, with possible Caribbean influence. We also discuss voice quality and other factors that bedeviled her testimony, including dialect unfamiliarity and institutionalized racism. Finally, we suggest strategies for linguists to help vernacular speakers be better heard in courtrooms and beyond.

pdf

Additional Information

ISSN
1535-0665
Print ISSN
0097-8507
Pages
pp. 948-988
Launched on MUSE
2016-12-20
Open Access
No
Back To Top

This website uses cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website. Without cookies your experience may not be seamless.