African American English in the Mississippi Delta: A Case Study of Copula Absence and r-Lessness in the Speech of African American Women in Coahoma County
The chapter presents a quantitative analysis of copula absence and /r/-lessness of African American English (AAE) by African American women in Coahoma County located in the Mississippi Delta. The results of the current quantitative study show that (1) there is a connection between Coahoma County AAE and older, diasporic AAE varieties and English-based Caribbean creoles through the analysis of copula absence; (2) there are statistical differences in the production of the two features based on the women’s township; and (3) the educational level of the women and of their parent(s) plays a role in the production of both features.
Renée A. Blake, Cara Shousterman, and Luiza Newlin-Lukowicz
The ever-increasing numbers of second generation West Indian Americans affects the ethnic landscape and raises the question of what is African American Language in New York City today? In this chapter, we examine the English spoken by children of Black West Indian immigrants to New York City and their African American counterparts. The results of this research point to a similar linguistic repertoire for both groups of Black New Yorkers, with subtleties evident at the quantitative level. While both groups are quite /r/-ful, Caribbean American-identified Blacks have higher rates of /r/-fulness than African American-identified Blacks. Moreover, while both groups show the tensing and raising of /ɔ/ typically associated with New York City, there are differences in the length of the off-glide. Finally, while the realization of /oʊ/ is closer to a New York realization than the Caribbean Creole English varieties, off-glide differences exist between the two groups.
Jennifer Bloomquist and Shelome Gooden
This chapter examines variation in the North Midlands African American Language (AAL) varieties in Pittsburgh and the Lower Susquehanna Valley (LSV). The focus is on phonological/phonetic, lexical, and to a lesser extent syntactic variation. We review historical information on settler groups and African American presence in earlier periods in both areas and discuss implications for influence on the contemporary AAL. The results of a new data analysis of vowel variation in the LSV are compared with existing reports for Pittsburgh AAL. Whereas LSV AAL shows some similarities to Pittsburgh AAL (e.g., the pool/pull merger), it lacks other features (e.g., the cot/caught merger, which is pervasive in Pittsburgh AAL). We also find differences between LSV AAL speakers who seem to want to identify as both “authentically Black” and local and Pittsburgh AAL speakers who are concerned with differentiating themselves from Whites and where sounding “local” tends to be equated with “Whiteness”.
William Labov and Sabriya Fisher
An analysis of the vowel systems of 36 African American speakers in the Philadelphia Neighborhood Corpus compares their development over the 20th century with that of the larger community. For vowels involved in changes in the White community, African Americans show very different patterns, often moving in opposite directions. The traditional split of short-a words into tense and lax categories is a more fine-grained measure of dialect relations. The degree of participation by African Americans is described by measures of bimodality, which is applied as well to the innovative nasal short-a system. The prototypical African American speakers show no bimodality in either measure, recombining the traditional tense and lax categories into a single short-a in lower mid non-peripheral position. The lack of relation between the two short-a systems is related to the high level of residential segregation.
African American Vernacular English in California: Over Four Decades of Vibrant Variationist Research
John R. Rickford
Research in California has played a significant role in our understanding of variability in African American Vernacular English (AAVE) and its features since the late 1960s, beginning with the earliest studies of African American child language, and including, most recently, studies of age-grading vs. generational change, the use of AAVE features by other ethnic groups as identity markers, and experimental, perception studies. California research was important in confirming internal and other constraints on variability in distinctive AAVE features revealed in earlier studies from New York City and Detroit, but also in uncovering new features, and providing new analyses of existing features. California AAVE research is also striking for its use of ethnographic methods, focus on style-shifting, interest in attitudes and identity, and theoretical and methodological contributions to larger issues like defining the envelope of variation, social class variability, the divergence controversy, and panel studies of change in real time.
William A. Kretzschmar Jr.
Survey research in Atlanta suggests that the usual national generalizations about race and language need to be examined in the light of local evidence. Recordings of interviews with a number of African Americans from the 1970s set a historical baseline for the community. A contemporary random-sample study of African Americans in Atlanta showed that our speakers were highly variable in their vowel production. They not only did not match national generalizations, but appeared to have more of Labov’s “Southern Shift” than the local non-African American speakers who were supposed to be characterized by it. Only a minority of speakers show “mean” behavior for the whole set of vowels. History and contemporary evidence combine to show that African American voices in Atlanta belong to a complex system in which speakers can be themselves in their neighborhoods, while at the same time they participate in historical and national trends.
Peter Behnstedt and Manfred Woidich
Geographically, Arabic is one of the most widespread languages of the world, and Arabic dialects are spoken in an unbroken expanse from western Iran to Mauritania and Morocco and from Oman to northeastern Nigeria, albeit with vast uninhabited or scarcely inhabited areas and deserts in between. It is not easy to give the exact number of speakers, estimates from 1999 (i.e., from eighteen years ago) count 206 million L1 speakers, a figure which today seems too low rather than too high.1 This geographical range is marked by extreme dialectal differences in all fields of phonology, grammar, and lexicon, at times to the extent that different varieties are mutually unintelligible.
This article explores the relationship between linguistic form and function in the varying cultural landscapes of the contemporary Arabic-speaking world, including spontaneous speech, the contemporary electronic media (television, radio, the Internet), cinema, theater, and traditional performed oral literature, which have been revived and “reinvented.” It is shown that the relationship between orality and language in Arabic is complex. The layman’s mental landscape is of a “high,” literary, codified variety of the language strongly identified with a unifying religion (Islam) and a “golden age” of past imperial and literary glories, carrying great cultural prestige; and a “low,” chaotic (often regarded as grammarless) but homely variety associated with domesticity, intimacy, and the daily round. The emotional resonances of the two varieties are and always have been different. Consequently, they have, through the ages, occupied separate functional niches in all linguistically mediated communication, be it speech, writing, song, poetry, cinema, or theater.
Tracey L. Weldon and Simanique Moody
Gullah (also known as Geechee or Sea Island Creole) is an African American Language (AAL) variety spoken along the coast and Sea Islands of South Carolina and Georgia. However, the nature of the relationship between Gullah and other AAL varieties has remained a topic of contention. The earliest statements of the Creolist Hypothesis postulated that African American Vernacular English (AAVE) derived from a Gullah-like plantation creole that decreolized following the breakdown of the plantation system. This theory challenged earlier statements of the Dialectologist (or Anglicist) Hypothesis, which contended that AAVE derived from British English sources, like other English dialects. While most linguistic attention to the Gullah-AAVE connection has been directed at the past, some recent work has also considered the contemporary relationship between these varieties. In this chapter, we reflect on theories about Gullah’s origins and its role in the emergence and continuing development of AAVE.
Walt Wolfram and Mary E. Kohn
A focus on a core set of basilectal structures in non-Southern urban communities obscured regional variation in early sociolinguistic studies of African American English (AAE). However, community comparisons, particularly in the rural South, indicate that regionality has played an essential role in the past and present development of the variety. This current analysis compares apparent time evidence for AAE from a range of communities in the Southeastern United states. We consider a host of morphosyntactic, consonantal, and vocalic variables (e.g., postvocalic r-lessness and –s absence) across each community. Our analysis illustrates how particular sociohistorical and demographic community structures foster localized AAE, as well as how changes to these structures influence trajectories of change for local varieties of AAE. A consideration of regionality in AAE is crucial to theorizing past and future developments of the ethnolect; as such, place as a variable in AAE deserves increased attention.
Patricia Cukor-Avila and Guy Bailey
This chapter explores rural African American Vernacular English (AAVE) both as the variety from which urban AAVE developed and as a variety that more recently has been influenced by urban AAVE grammatical innovations, by examining the speech of the residents of Springville, Texas, a former tenant farming community with a population of 150. It looks at rural AAVE as a source variety by examining the speech of residents born between 1890 and 1940 and how urban AAVE influenced rural AAVE by examining the speech of residents born after World War II through 2002. The analysis shows a dynamic, rapidly changing variety characterized by continuities that have persisted throughout the history of AAVE, rural features that largely disappeared during the Great Migration, and urban innovations that seem to have developed in the urban North and spread to the rural South, especially during the last quarter of the 20th century.
The present chapter is an overview of sociolinguistic studies in the Persian-speaking territory with an emphasis on Iran and is divided into two general parts. In the first part, different aspects of Persian sociolinguistics are discussed at the macro level and issues such as dialect studies, and language contact in the Persian-speaking area are briefly reviewed. In the second part, some issues such as social variations in Persian, change in progress and standard varieties of Persian are briefly analysed at the micro level. The main focus of this chapter therefore, is on language diversity in a multilingual area in general, and social and regional variations in the Persian-speaking area in particular.
This article provides a critical overview of the application of sociolinguistic principles, methods, and analysis to Arabic data with reference to research conducted over the past three decades or so in various Arabic-speaking societies. It focuses on linguistic variation and change, the major concerns of (variationist) sociolinguistics. The article begins with an outline of the relationship between traditional dialectology and sociolinguistics, the ways dialectological data are incorporated into sociolinguistic analysis, and the benefits of maintaining the link between the two disciplines. Then an outline is presented of the basic principles of the variationist paradigm, which are intricately bound up with sociolinguistic methodology and theory; where relevant, research practices in studies on Arabic are cited. The article then critically reviews the “diglossia” model as an approach to analyzing variation in Arabic. Finally, an alternative and up-to-date model of analysis is given, with case studies from recent research used as illustration.