William Alexander Stewart

William Alexander Stewart (September 12, 1930 – March 25, 2002) was a linguist specializing in creoles, known particularly for his work on African American Vernacular English.

William Alexander Stewart
Born(1930-09-12)September 12, 1930
Honolulu, Hawaii
DiedMarch 25, 2002(2002-03-25) (aged 71)
Manhattan, New York
Scientific career
Fieldscreoles, sociolinguistics
InfluencedHeinz Kloss[1]


Stewart was born in Honolulu, Hawaii to Scottish parents, and grew up speaking four languages (English, Spanish, Portuguese and Hawaiian). At the age of 8, he moved with his family California. His parents were killed in a car crash one year later, and he was raised by his father's parents. He served as an army translator before enrolling at the University of California, Los Angeles, where he obtained his Bachelor's and Master's degrees.[2][3]


Working for the Center for Applied Linguistics, Stewart undertook pioneering work on creoles in the Caribbean in the early 1960s. In 1965, he discovered that reading problems of some African-American children were caused not by vocabulary or pronunciation, but by differences between the grammar of African American Vernacular English and standard English.[2][3] In the late 1960s, he explored the sociolinguistics of multilingualism, introducing the notions of polycentric languages,[1] autonomy and heteronomy.[4]

See also


  1. Ammon, Ulrich (1995). Die deutsche Sprache in Deutschland, Österreich und der Schweiz: das Problem der nationalen Varietäten [German Language in Germany, Austria and Switzerland: The Problem of National Varieties] (in German). Berlin & New York: Walter de Gruyter. pp. 45–46. ISBN 3-11-014753-X. OCLC 33981055.
  2. Saxon, Wolfgang (April 10, 2002). "W. A. Stewart, Linguist, 71; Studied Ebonics". New York Times.
  3. "Linguist William Stewart Dies – Pioneer in Studies of Afro American Vernacular English" (Press release). City University of New York. April 1, 2002.
  4. Stewart, William A. (1968). "A Sociolinguistic Typology for Describing National Multilingualism". In Fishman, Joshua A (ed.). Readings in the Sociology of Language. The Hague, Paris: Mouton. pp. 529–545. doi:10.1515/9783110805376.531. ISBN 978-3-11-080537-6. OCLC 306499.
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