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Revitalizing Endangered Languages

Edited by Justyna Olko & Julia Sallabank

Revitalizing Endangered Languages "This guidebook provides ideas and strategies, as well as some background, to help with the effective revitalization of endangered languages. It covers a broad scope of themes including effective planning, benefits, wellbeing, economic aspects, attitudes and ideologies."

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Dissertation Information

Title: The Evolution of AAVE in a Rural Texas Community: An ethnolinguistic study Add Dissertation
Author: Patricia Cukor-Avila Update Dissertation
Email: click here to access email
Institution: University of Michigan, Department of Linguistics
Completed in: 1995
Linguistic Subfield(s): Discourse Analysis; Sociolinguistics;
Subject Language(s): English
Director(s): John Swales
Rosina Lippi-Green
Guy Bailey
John Myhill

Abstract: This dissertation explores the evolution of African American Vernacular English (AAVE) during this century in a rural Southern community, here called 'Springville,' Texas, by investigating the distribution of invariant 'be,' copula deletion, the loss of third person verbal -s, and the use of 'had'+past as a simple past form in the speech of its residents.

The study analyzes tape-recorded data representing several generations of speech in one community and explores the cultural, social, and historical contexts within which that speech has developed. The fieldwork used principally focuses on recordings at sites rather than with individuals, making it possible for fieldworkers to become participant-observers. The recordings are then the natural interactions of community members with each other, rather than with fieldworkers.

The data show a trend towards the acquisition of urban vernacular features for speakers born after World War II. In addition, this dissertation documents real time acquisition of the urban vernacular by reporting on data from a five-year longitudinal study of a Springville child/adolescent. These data suggest that innovations in Springville speech first develop in the city and subsequently spread to the country only as speakers extend and solidify their urban social network ties. The analysis indicates that age-grading is not a plausible explanation for the use of urban vernacular forms; in fact, the data show that as speakers get older they acquire more, not fewer, vernacular features, and use these features more frequently.

Changes in the present and past tense systems documented for Springville speech strongly support Bailey's (1993) hypothesis that demographic shifts in the South, resulting from World War II, have had a dramatic effect on Southern AAVE. The Springville data further suggest that grammatical changes which cluster around World War II, and the continuing changes after the war, provide additional support for the divergence hypothesis.