This article discusses the linguistic, social, and geographic distribution of a-prefixing data in the Linguistic Atlas Project (LAP) of North America. Over 3,800 instances of the a-prefix were extracted for analysis from the LAP interview data of 1,527 speakers from across the United States, collected between 1931 and 2006. While the LAP a-prefix data do not generally deviate from patterns observed in the sociolinguistic literature, they do offer a more nuanced picture of infrequent prefixed forms, including uncommon constructions and verbs that appear as a-prefixed forms less frequently. A-prefixers in LAP tended to be White men, although it should be noted that 30–47% of the female speakers in four of the surveyed LAP projects also used this feature. The geographic distribution of the feature suggests that the a-prefix is not Southern so much as it is Eastern, with pockets of lesser and greater usage as one moves westward across the country. Additionally, the data cast the a-prefix as a rural phenomenon, rather than as a strictly Southern one, which opens the door to discussions of the feature as a means of indexing participation in (or affinity for) a rural lifestyle. Overall, this article demonstrates that LAP data are a tremendous resource and a key piece of the puzzle of understanding regional and social variation.
A-Prefixing in Linguistic Atlas Project Data
allison burkette is a professor in the Department of Linguistics at the University of Kentucky, where she currently serves as director of graduate studies. She is the editor of the Linguistic Atlas Project, and her research areas include language variation and change, American English dialects, and language and material culture. Her books include Language and Material Culture (Benjamins, 2015) and Language and Classification (Routledge, 2018). Email: email@example.com.
lamont antieau is inventory specialist for the Linguistic Atlas at the University of Kentucky. His research areas include language variation, dialects of American English, and the language of pop culture. The second edition of his textbook, Language and Linguistic Diversity in the US: An Introduction (Routledge, 2015), coauthored with Susan Tamasi, is forthcoming. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Allison Burkette, Lamont Antieau; A-Prefixing in Linguistic Atlas Project Data. American Speech 1 May 2022; 97 (2): 167–196. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/00031283-9308373
Download citation file: