This study investigates how American English speakers from within and outside the Appalachian region interpret negative auxiliary inversion (NAI). Previously observed in Appalachian and other English varieties, NAI has surface syntax similar to yes-no questions, but receives a declarative interpretation (e.g., didn’t everybody watch Superbowl 53, meaning ‘not everybody watched’). Previous work shows that NAI is associated with a reading in which some but not all people participated in an event, as opposed to one in which no one participated. Results from an interpretation task revealed that Appalachian participants tended to obtain the not all and not the no one reading for NAI. In contrast, non-Appalachian participants’ interpretations exhibited greater inter- and intraspeaker variability. Appalachian participants with more not all interpretations reported positive attitudes toward NAI use, and they also distinguished between attested and unattested syntactic subject types (e.g. everybody, many people, *few people) in a naturalness rating task. Appalachian participants with more no one interpretations had more negative attitudes toward NAI use, and made no distinction between subject types. These results highlight how individuals from Appalachia interpret NAI differently than individuals not from this region, and suggest that within a non-mainstream speaker group, language attitudes may impact semantic interpretation.
Linguistic Diversity in Appalachia: The Case of Negative Auxiliary Inversion
Frances Blanchette is Assistant Director of Penn State's Center for Language Science and Assistant Research Professor in Psychology. She has a PhD in linguistics from the CUNY Graduate Center. Her research uses theoretical, experimental, and quantitative methods to document and understand relationships between structure and meaning, with a particular focus on vernacular features. More broadly, her research aims to contribute toward a better understanding of linguistic diversity in areas like Appalachia and Central Pennsylvania.
Paul E. Reed is assistant professor of phonology/phonetics in the Department of Communicative Disorders at the University of Alabama. His research interests center on sociophonetics—specifically how the way we talk signals aspects of who we are—and phonetics more broadly, particularly the phonetics/phonology interface. Much of his work focuses on English varieties in the American South, with a special focus on Appalachian English varieties and on how a speaker’s relationship to place affects linguistic production.
Erin Flannery is an undergraduate student at Penn State University studying Chinese and Security Risk Analysis with a concentration in Cyber and Information Security. She has been an undergraduate research assistant under Dr. Carrie Jackson for three years, and has been involved with multiple projects concerning second language acquisition.
Carrie Jackson received her PhD in Germanic linguistics from the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 2005. She is a professor of German and linguistics at Penn State University. She uses psycholinguistic research methods to investigate how native and second language speakers use and acquire lexical and grammatical information during real-time comprehension and production, with the goal of advancing our understanding of the linguistic and cognitive mechanisms that drive language acquisition and use.
Frances Blanchette, Paul Reed, Erin Flannery, Carrie Jackson; Linguistic Diversity in Appalachia: The Case of Negative Auxiliary Inversion. American Speech doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/00031283-8220988
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