Alternative regularization patterning and ethnic marking in a tri-ethnic southern community

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Wolfram, Walt, and Jason Sellers. “Alternative regularization patterning and ethnic marking in a tri-ethnic southern community.” Paper presented at the Southeastern Conference on Linguistics 56, Charlotte, N.C., April 1997. 16 pages.


Robeson County in one of the few tri-ethnic communities in the United States in which Native Americans are the largest component.  Their “ancestral language was obliterated without any apparent vestiges generations ago,” but they have “a distinctive dialect identity, typified by a unique constellation of Southern-based (actually more Southern Highland) structures and some robust relic forms...” (p. 1). 

This paper discusses was leveling and were leveling in Lumbee Vernacular English, which is bringing about remorphologization of the allomorphs of past be.  It also discusses an analogy with generalized ain't.  Table 2 presents tabulations of the incidence of was/n't and were/n't, including positive and negative structures, in conversational interviews with 22 Lumbee speakers.  One interesting finding is that “the third person plural noun phrases strongly favor regularization over pronouns.  Thus, speakers are more likely to say The dogs was out there than They was out here” (81).  Also, “both negativity and person - number considerations may be involved in the configuration of weren't leveling...” (p. 10).  Tables 5 and 6 compare Lumbee regularization with Anglo-American and African-American in Robeson County. Table 7 presents summary comparisons of past be leveling in Robeson County speakers.

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