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date: 18 November 2017

Abstract and Keywords

The suprasegmental or prosodic features of African American English (AAE) have received little attention. Adopting a theory of prosodic phonology developed to address questions about the syntax-prosody interface, I use the variationist method to examine the variable occurrence of two grammatical features (the copula and verbal –s), and their conditioning by grammatical, phonological and prosodic factors, in two diaspora varieties considered to be representative of Early AAE. Prosodic boundaries can be shown to be significant for contracted and zero variants of the copula, providing some evidence for the interpretation that they are strategies for reducing phonological complexity. In contrast, prosodic structure plays no role in conditioning the occurrence of verbal –s. I suggest that the differences in the significance of prosodic factors stems from differences in the morphological status of the two grammatical variables.

Keywords: African American English (AAE), copula, prosodic phonology, syntax- prosody interface, verbal -s

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