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date: 19 November 2017

Abstract and Keywords

This chapter focuses on variable syntactic and morphosyntactic structures in the language of three- to seven-year-old children growing up in African American English (AAE)-speaking communities. In particular, it reports findings on the acquisition and development of variation associated with the genitive marker –‘s (e.g., the baby’s cup vs. the baby cup), variation associated with questions (e.g., What time is it? vs. What time it is?), and negative auxiliary inversion (e.g., Don’t nobody want to ride the bus. vs. Nobody don’t want to ride the bus.). This research highlights two important points: First, evidence from acquisition clearly shows that many variable patterns are inherent to the grammar of AAE. Second, variable patterns associated with different areas of the grammar are acquired at different paces, depending on syntactic, semantic, and pragmatic complexity. In this way, research on child language is crucial for understanding AAE.

Keywords: African American English (AAE), acquisition, variation, questions, negative auxiliary inversion, genitive marker, child language

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