In this article, the authors analyze data from recorded interviews archived in the Corpus of Regional African American Language (CORAAL) database with 20 “lower-working-class” speakers in the DCA corpus (1968–69) and 16 “working-class” speakers in the DCB corpus (2015–17) and present a qualitative summary of the use of three grammatical features of African American Language (AAL): copula absence, third-person singular -s absence, and invariant habitual be. They then focus on present-tense marking and provide a more detailed description of the distribution of zero third-person singular across four age groups in each corpus. They find that the occurrence of the three features varies considerably among the speakers examined, even within the same age group, and overall, note parallels with what has been shown for AAL speakers of similar social backgrounds in other urban and rural locations. They discuss the data and conclusions about change over time in light of methodological issues specific to quantitative sociolinguistics, such as interview structure, field-worker effects, including the relationship between field-workers and interviewees, and small numbers of tokens.
Exploring Grammatical Variation in the Corpus of Regional African American Language
PATRICIA CUKORAVILA is professor of linguistics at the University of North Texas. Her primary research focuses on linguistic variation and change in African American Vernacular English (AAVE). Her longitudinal panel study (1988–present) of AAVE in the rural Texas community of “Springville” has provided much of the data for publications concerning approaches to sociolinguistic fieldwork, transmission and diffusion, and language over the life span. She is coeditor, with Guy Bailey and Natalie Maynor, of The Emergence of Black English: Text and Commentary (Benjamins, 1991) and is working with Guy Bailey on a book-length manuscipt, The Springville Project: Explorations in the Synchronic Approach to Language Change. Email: email@example.com.
ASHLEY BALCAZAR is an undergraduate Honors College student at the University of North Texas and a recipient of two undergraduate research fellowships. She presented her undergraduate thesis, “#politicallyincorrect: The Pejoration of Political Language” at the 2018 American Association of Behavioral and Social Sciences Conference. She is currently conducting research on the language of sexual violence and will begin working toward an M.A. in linguistics in the spring. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Patricia Cukor-Avila, Ashley Balcazar; Exploring Grammatical Variation in the Corpus of Regional African American Language. American Speech 1 February 2019; 94 (1): 36–53. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/00031283-7321989
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