African American Vernacular English (AAVE) is developing a class of previously undescribed function words, facilitated by the semantic generalization of the word nigga. The authors demonstrate that nigga is unspecified for race, gender, or humanness. They argue that there are multiple n-words, fulfilling different grammatical and social functions. Using a variety of sources, they show that there are new pronouns in AAVE based on nigga—moreover, they pattern with pronouns, not imposters, with respect to binding, agreement, and theta-role assignment. Vocatives and honorics are also explored. The article concludes with a discussion of the origin of these forms and their relevance both to linguistic controversy and to societal controversy around the taboo word and the stigmatized dialect.
Grammatical Reanalysis and the Multiple N-Words in African American English
Taylor Jones is a Ph.D. candidate at the University of Pennsylvania. Much of his research is on topics in African American Language, camouflage constructions, and cross-dialect comprehension, with a focus on the interaction between language ideology, miscomprehension, and structural racism. His dissertation research is on regional variation in the vowel system of AAL. He also works on Mandarin, Farsi, and Zulu. Email: email@example.com.
Christopher Hall is a linguist and a consultant with CulturePoint, LLC. Originally trained at the University of Rochester, focusing on Romance languages, he now has a primary research focus on sociophonetics, morphosyn-tax, and identity construction in African American Language. N-word use in AAL, identity construction and stance through AAL accent, and perceptions of AAL as prestige variant in minority communities in Harlem and the Bronx are among his recent research projects. In his work with CulturePoint, Hall facilitates diversity and inclusion training for high-performance organizations in the federal and private sector. Topics of specialization include leadership and performance across diverse workstyles, including diverse communication styles. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Taylor Jones, Christopher Hall; Grammatical Reanalysis and the Multiple N-Words in African American English. American Speech 1 November 2019; 94 (4): 478–512. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/00031283-7611213
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