African American Vernacular English (AAVE) is developing a class of previously undescribed function words, facilitated by the semantic generalization of the word nigga. Here we demonstrate nigga is unspecified for race, gender, or humanness. We argue that there are multiple n-words, fulfilling different grammatical and social functions. Using a variety of sources, we show that there are new pronouns in AAVE based on nigga–moreover, we demonstrate they pattern with pronouns, not imposters (Collins & Postal, 2010) with respect to binding, agreement, and theta-role assignment. We also discuss vocatives and honorifics. We conclude by discussing the origin of these forms, and discussing their relevance to both linguistic controversy and to societal controversy around the stigmatized dialect.

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