One Triflin’ Research Project: The Study of the Word Triflin’ and its Implications in African American Vernacular English

Student Author(s)

Sarah Harvin
Mariana Thomas

Faculty Mentor(s)

Dr. Sonja Trent-Brown

Document Type


Event Date



The present study seeks to explore aspects of African-American figurative language and styles of presentation and how factors of ethnicity, language background, cultural participation, and cultural contact contribute to awareness of African-American English figurative language use. The metaphoric use of the cultural phrase, triflin’, has been chosen as the exemplar for this study. Respondents will participate in an associative memory task to attempt to prime the target exemplar. Additionally, participants will answer comprehension questions following oral and written presentations of literary scenarios selected from both American and African-American literature sources in which the metaphoric use of triflin’ would be a potential response option. The hypothesis indicates that we expect significantly more accurate triflin’ response outcomes for participants of African-American ethnicity, for experience with African-American Vernacular English, for cultural identification as a participant in the African-American community, and for individuals with more diverse cultural cohort contact, regardless of ethnicity. Studies like this one strive to communicate the validity and cultural significance of linguistic structures in African-American Vernacular English. By identifying the metaphoric use of triflin’ as one example of figurative language specific to African-American Vernacular English, we hope to communicate the value of incorporating AAVE into school curriculums to aid in the education of students who were reared with extensive exposure to AAVE. Implications of this work are important for the awareness of educators, administrators, curriculum developers, and educational policy makers.

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