This article attempts to document the history of finite be in New England folk speech, a phenomenon thus far neglected in scholarly publications devoted to American historical dialectology. The authors aim at proving that even though plural indicative be had been brought to the early colonies with the first settlers, be as a singular indicative form was a New Englandism, not attested until the late seventeenth century—consequently, the authors engage in a comparative analysis of the linguistic contexts attracting the feature in focus respectively in Early Modern British English, early and late colonial New England English, and postcolonial New England English. In terms of textual selection, the authors make use of a vast array of primary sources, ranging from documents containing “close-to-oral” language through vernacular letters and comments by coeval language specialists to literary representations of the New England dialect; as for the latter, the authors have not shunned fictional portrayals but approached them with necessary caution both by means of careful selection of reliable dialect writers and comparison of the retrieved data with the ones obtained from other sources, such as the Linguistic Atlas of New England.

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