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Words in Time and Place: Exploring Language Through the Historical Thesaurus of the Oxford English Dictionary

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Thesaurus of English Words and Phrases

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Academic Paper


Title: African American English in Appalachia: Dialect accommodation and substrate influence
Author: Becky Childs
Email: click here to access email
Institution: Coastal Carolina University
Author: Christine Mallinson
Email: click here to access email
Homepage: http://christinemallinson.com
Institution: University of Maryland, Baltimore County
Linguistic Field: Sociolinguistics
Abstract: Recent studies of bi-ethnic enclave dialect communities in the American South suggest that earlier versions of African American speech both accommodated local dialect norms and exhibited a persistent substratal effect from the early African-European contact situation. We examine this hypothesis by considering the sociolinguistic situation in Texana, North Carolina, a small African American community in the Smoky Mountain region of Appalachia. Though its population is only about 150 residents, it is the largest African American community in the Smoky Mountains. This study considers diagnostic sociolinguistic variables for Texana residents in order to examine the extent to which the members of this African American community align their speech with local dialect norms as the basis for evaluating the status of earlier and contemporary African American English (AAE) in Appalachia. Morphosyntactic variables examined are 3rd pl. -s attachment, 3rd sg. -s absence, copula absence, and past tense be leveling; phonological variables include rhoticity, syllable coda consonant cluster reduction, and /ai/ glide weakening. When compared to cohort white Appalachian speakers, data from older Texana residents confirm the regional accommodation of earlier AAE and at the same time point toward a substrate influence in the historical development of AAE. However, unlike AAE in other enclave regional contexts, we find that the dialect of younger residents is not moving toward a supraregional norm of AAE. Instead, young speakers are accommodating several key features of Southern American English, specifically the Southern Appalachian English (AppE) variety that is characteristic of the Smoky Mountain region of North Carolina. Explanations for the diachronic change as well as future trajectories of change for Texana speakers must appeal to sociopsychological factors such as regional identity and orientation to explain local community language norms.
Type: Individual Paper
Status: Completed
Publication Info: English World-Wide 25(1): 27-50


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