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Evolutionary Syntax

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Academic Paper

Title: S marks the spot? Regional variation and early African American
Author: Gerard Van Herk
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Institution: Memorial University
Author: James A. Walker
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Institution: York University
Linguistic Field: General Linguistics; Sociolinguistics; Historical Linguistics
Subject Language: English
Abstract: The different population ecologies of slavery-era America necessitate an investigation into the issue of regional variation in Early African American English (AAE). This article addresses this issue through the Ottawa Repository of Early African American Correspondence, a corpus of letters written by semiliterate African American settlers in Liberia between 1834 and 1866. We investigate nonstandard verbal -s and its conditioning by linguistic and social factors, including each writer's regional origin in the United States. Results show that, despite differences in overall rates across regions, the linguistic conditioning largely remains constant. These results suggest that subtle regional distinctions in Early AAE existed when specific settlement and population ecologies encouraged them, but that the shared history and circumstances of language contact and development led to an overall identity of forms and conditioning factors across regional varieties.


This article appears IN Language Variation and Change Vol. 17, Issue 2, which you can READ on Cambridge's site or on LINGUIST .

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