The testimony of Rachel Jeantel, close friend of Trayvon Martin and the prosecution's star witness in the trial of George Zimmerman, was the subject of considerable public commentary in the summer of 2013. Social media pilloried her for her "slurred" or "ungrammatical" speech and described her as stupid and ignorant.
But as Stanford professor John Rickford and second-year linguistics graduate student Sharese King show from analyses of her use of zero copula, absence of third singular present, possessive, and plural --s, and other features, she follows the systematic grammar of African American Vernacular English (AAVE) quite faithfully.
Rickford and King discuss the evidence of Jeantel's limited literacy that emerged during the trial, and the poor reading performance of African American students at her school, Miami Norland, which did not come to public attention. They ask about the extent to which speakers of African American Vernacular English and other dialects are misunderstood, disbelieved, or otherwise unfairly evaluated in courts, schools, and other settings.
This interview followed the SCOPE Brown Bag Lecture: "Race, Dialect Prejudice, and Literacy in the Zimmerman Trial and Beyond" on February 10, 2014.