about the language of her father, about his properness and his use of r, which suggests that the use of r was quite absent in the speech of her community: A year later our father came to Stamps without warning….
His voice rang like a metal dipper hitting a bucket and he spoke English.
Examples can be found in African-American speeches by leaders including Martin Luther King Jr., who was a contemporary of Angelou, as well as in spirituals, gospel songs and twelve bar blues. Don’t you take it awful hard ‘Cause I laugh like I’ve got gold mines Diggin’ in my own backyard.
And finishes with: Out of the huts of history’s shame I rise Up from a past that’s rooted in pain I rise I’m a black ocean, leaping and wide, Welling and swelling I bear in the tide.
Every word Angelou wrote was a choice between one language variety or another, and the way in which she decided between them is a significant part of how her words resonate with so many people.
Perhaps surprisingly, Angelou was vocal during the Ebonics debate of the 1990s against the celebration of language variation.
A successful writer ultimately celebrates the idiolect, the intimate language of the individual and the individual experience. Angelou sounded like my grandmother and all of the Winston-Salem Baptist English educators that I wanted to be as a child. As a daughter of Winston-Salem, in Southern honorific tradition, where attention to titles conveys respect, I would have never dreamed of calling her by her first name. You were quite literally who I wanted to be when I grew up.
Poet, dancer, singer, activist, and scholar, Maya Angelou is a world-famous author.
Even just in English, she occasionally used eye dialect, that is, alternate spellings that convey a specific pronunciation, so that the dialect strikes the eye through the printed word rather than appealing to the ear through sound or more accurate phonetic representation.
When she does use eye dialect, it conveys dialogue in her autobiographies and allows her to take on the roles of characters in her poems.