Grammatical and phonological manifestations of null copula in a tri-ethnic contact situation

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Dannenberg, Clare J. “Grammatical and phonological manifestations of null copula in a tri-ethnic contact situation.” Paper presented at 1997 NWAVE session on Grammatical Structures in AAVE.


Looks for differences among ethnic groups in Robeson County in their use of the null copula (ex. she ugly, you ugly). Studies the overall occurrence of null copula among the groups; the incidence with regard to is vs. are; patterns of phonological and grammatical constraints on null copula among the groups; and gives hypotheses for the variable patterning that is seen. Extracted over 1,851 tokens of full, contorted, and null copula among for is and are from 39 interviews (9 Lumbee, 10 Anglo American, and 10 African American). The speakers were divided into three age groups. Three separate binomial VARBRUL analyses were run. The Lumbee were found to be similar to the Anglo American speakers in terms of overall frequency of null copula and low frequency of null copula with is. There is a high degree of linguistic uniformity among the three ethnic groups in their use of null copula. Speakers age 30 and younger have far less incidences of null copula, perhaps due to school desegregation in the early 1970's. The author concludes, “In Robeson County, North Carolina, the qualitative and quantitative distribution of null copula demarks a boundary between AAVE versus Anglo-American and Native American groups in terms of the overall incidence of null copula and the distinction between is and are; AAVE speakers delete both are and is and Anglo and Native Americans delete primarily are” (p. 19).

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