Sociolinguistic studies of ethnically contrastive communities have typically focused on the analysis of phonological and morphosyntactic processes as a basis for delimiting the linguistic boundaries speakers mark between themselves and other groups. However, regionally influenced ethnic varieties may not always manifest differences in traditional variationist-based studies of diagnostic phonological and morphosyntactic variables. This study examines how members of an adolescent friendship group in the small black Appalachian community of Texana, North Carolina, use lexical items and meta-commentary on the use of these items when their phonological and morphological variables converge. Since most Texana residents maintain regional speech patterns, we argue that lexical items may serve a significant indexical function in the social construction of ethnicity in this community. Our data suggest that lexical items may take on marked significance as symbolic vehicles through which speakers assert and negotiate their ethnic identity.

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