The question Why you're laughing vs Why are you laughing? asks (paraphrasing):

Is the word order "Why you're laughing?" acceptable in colloquial spoken English?

The question African American Vernacular English asks (also paraphrasing):

I've attempted to write several sentences in African American Vernacular English; are these sentences correct AAVE?

On the face of it, these questions don't seem to be related in any way. The first question is a question about using "subject, verb" (SV) word order in a wh-question, and has nothing to do with AAVE. The second question is a question about AAVE, and has nothing to do with SV word order.

But if we dig a little deeper and look at the questions more closely, can we find a significant similarity between them? I think the answer is still no.

I brought this up in the comments on the first question. Edwin pointed out something I didn't know, which is that SV word order in wh-questions is a feature which is sometimes found in AAVE. But it's a feature which isn't even mentioned at all in the second question. In other words, nowhere in the entire thread of the second question is the topic of the first question even mentioned.

What's more, I really don't see how any question could reasonably be marked as a duplicate of the second question. It's a very specific question, asking if these particular sentences (written by the asker) are correctly written. The only way another question could be a duplicate of it is if that other question also asks if a particular sentence is correct AAVE, and the sentence is substantially identical to one of the sentences in the second question here.

But apparently 5 people, including a moderator, all saw a significant connection between these two questions that I have failed to see. What am I missing?

  • 1
    The question may have been closed and marked as a duplicate even if not everybody who voted to close it checked the "duplicate" box. Nov 17, 2019 at 0:33
  • @PeterShor True, but it is none the less closed, and the reason we have access to is because of its 'dupe-ship'. the initial close-voter cited this, and the deleterious direction of subsequent answers was, in my view, a result of this claim of duopeship with an AAVE question. Nov 17, 2019 at 20:02

2 Answers 2


It's not really clear to me if the question is asking about "standard" spoken English or any dialect of English. From the context of the question, it looks like the OP is not a native speaker, so I'd assume the first. But either way, the African American Vernacular English question is not a good duplicate:

  1. Standard English:
    • It doesn't give an answer for standard English, for obvious reasons. (And therefore adding such an answer would be inappropriate.)
  2. Dialects of English:
    • It doesn't explain anything about whether "Why you are...?" is acceptable in AAVE. In fact, nobody has really presented any evidence that this is acceptable in AAVE. I am not an expert in AAVE, but I could not find any evidence that "Why you are...?" specifically is used, even though other similarly structured questions are.
    • If "Why you are...?" is acceptable in another dialect, nobody can post that answer to the AAVE question.

What's more, I really don't see how any question could reasonably be marked as a duplicate of the second question.

Yeah the AAVE question is clearly a proofreading question, so it's technically off topic. And AAVE is pretty different from standard English, so the request for specific rules for AAVE is also very broad (I'm pretty sure books have been written about it). However, the question's also 5 years old so I don't really care about closing it...


(1) The need for subject-auxiliary inversion in standard English in sentences like "Why are you laughing" (a) has been well covered before on ELU and (b) is quite possibly of ELL rather than ELU standard.

(2) The question about the overall acceptability of question forms such as "Why you're laughing?" must hinge upon the register under consideration. Since this is a recognised form in AAVE (regardless of sub-register), it seems very reasonable to look at acceptability within this framework ('echoing [AAVE} or merely a re-invention'). I asked OP whether this was relevant (ie whether this answered their question satisfactorily). There has been no response to date.

I have corrected OP's question 1a to standard English (as I believe is intended) at the thread on AAFE referred to. The acceptability of AAVE can be checked by looking at the dedicated article in Wikipedia linked to in the AAVE thread. Included is the comment 'Educators traditionally have attempted to eliminate AAVE usage through the public education system, perceiving the dialect as grammatically defective.'

If OP is merely asking "Is this acceptable within standard English?" the question should merely be closed as a duplicate of 'Why is the sky blue?' vs 'Why the sky is blue?' (unless the 'more suitable for ELL' consideration is deemed to take precedence). Not re-answered.

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    I actually don't believe that "Why you're laughing?" is grammatical in AAVE (although I'd be happy to be corrected by somebody who knows AAVE better). Googling, it seems that "Why you laughing?" is quite common, which agrees with my intuition. However, "why you're laughing" only appears as a subclause of a longer sentence (i.e., "I don't understand why you're laughing.") Nov 17, 2019 at 0:42
  • @Peter Shor From the Wikipedia article: AAVE ...Other grammatical characteristics ... 'Word order in questions: Why they ain't growing? ("Why aren't they growing?") ... lack the inversion of most other forms of English.' Nov 17, 2019 at 14:18
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    Read that Wikipedia article that you reference. It says "The copula be in the present tense is often dropped" and "only the forms is and are (of which the latter is anyway often replaced by is) can be omitted." You put ain't in why ain't they growing? because you don't drop the copula ain't in negative sentences. So the most common form of the question in AAVE would certainly be why you laughing? Nov 17, 2019 at 15:24
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    @Peter Shor Check the formatting. You're conflating 1(d) with separate point 5. (Not that I disagree with your last statement after 'so'). Nov 17, 2019 at 16:57

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