Habitual hiring

I recently came across a couple of images of African American English use in hiring signs. I think they could be an excellent tool for teaching about AAE in Introduction to Linguistics, or Intro to Sociolinguistics, since

  1. neither is 'standard' English
  2. they have a difference in meaning
  3. The difference in meaning affects strategy for someone on a job hunt.

So without further ado, let's say you've been out hunting for work, and you're down to your last resume. Which of these two places do you take your last resume?


If you don't speak AAE and don't know about its system of tense and aspect (which is more complex than mainstream American English), you may think it's a toss-up between the two.

However, you'd be wrong.

  • we hiring features what's called copula deletion, which is common in many languages (including Russian, Arabic, and others). It means "we're hiring (right now)".
  • we be hiring makes use of habitual 'be' which is a grammatical marker of, well, habitualness. It means "we are usually/habitually/often hiring."

Therefore, if we're to trust the signs, you've got a better chance of being hired right now going to the first store.



©Taylor Jones 2017

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