This article presents an analysis of subject-verb concord in earlier white Southern American Vernacular English (SAVE). The data were taken from the Southern Plantation Overseers Corpus (SPOC), a collection of vernacular letters dating from the late eighteenth to mid-nineteenth century. Part one focuses on the effect of two internal linguistic constraints that govern the occurrence of present-tense verbal -s: The first constraint affects the auxiliaries have and be and predicts higher rates of -s when compared to lexical verbs. A second, functional constraint, which to the author's knowledge has not been investigated in other studies to date, operates on be, depending on its function as copula or other auxiliary verb. Part two investigates was/were variation in the early SAVE past-tense be paradigm. Separate analyses of all idiolects that combine to make up the community grammar of the overseers demonstrate that idiolects need to be considered in a sound interpretation and explanation of the results of group analysis.

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