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LINGUIST List 23.2086

Mon Apr 30 2012

Qs: Use of ''Do'' in AAVE

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Date: 27-Apr-2012
From: Calvin Gidney <Calvin.gidneytufts.edu>
Subject: Use of ''Do'' in AAVE
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My research is on African-American English use and reading skills among a
sample of 1st through 4th grade children in Indianapolis. I was wondering if
you could help me to understand something I observed in some of my
participants' transcripts. I greatly appreciate it if you have the time to do so!

I noticed that a number of the children used ''do'' in a manner distinct from
SAE, and I was wondering if you thought these usages were typical of a
variety of AAE, or were either developmental or idiosyncratic.

First, several children used ''do'' as an auxiliary in a nonstandard fashion.
Here are examples:
1. Do you heard of this restaurant?
2. I just do sit in the house. (this was not emphatic, and was describing a
habitual action)
3. I do is play my video games. (this one might not really be an auxiliary)

Next, several children used ''do'' as a main verb in a nonstandard fashion.
Here are examples:
4. She always do jokes.
5. We would do for dinner, we always have ice-cream and cake.
6. She wanted to do with her friends.

I've also noticed in casual conversations and song lyrics that ''do'' can be
used to mean something like the SAE ''treat.'' For example:
7. How come you do me like you do?
8. Should I do him like he did me?

And then there's Young Jeezy's lyrics:
9. You just do you, I'ma do me.
10. Wanna see how it's done? Then watch me do me.
I'm frankly not sure what ''do'' means in these lines, but it's clear there's a
meaning beyond a potential sexual innuendo, and I think it means something
like ''take care of'' in SAE.

So, I am looking for some literature on AAVE that might refer to this
construction. Would any of you know of anyone who has written about this?

Linguistic Field(s): Morphology

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