The Regional Accommodation of African American English: Evidence from a Bi-Ethnic Mountain Enclave Community

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Title: The Regional Accommodation of African American English: Evidence from a Bi-Ethnic Mountain Enclave Community
Author: Mallinson, Christine
Advisors: Walt Wolfram, Chair
David J. Herman, Member
Erik R. Thomas, Member
Abstract: Recent studies of bi-ethnic enclave communities in coastal North Carolina (e.g., Wolfram, Thomas, and Green 2000) suggest that earlier African American speech both accommodated localized dialect norms and also exhibited a persistent substratal effect from the early African-European contact situation. To determine if such situations were the norm or an anomaly, this study examines Beech Bottom, North Carolina, a long-term, bi-ethnic enclave mountain community. In the early 1900s, Beech Bottom's population ranged from 80 to 110 residents, but community size dwindled with the decline of feldspar mining. Currently, about ten longtime residents live in Beech Bottom: three are European Americans and the rest are designated as "African Americans" in the historical bi-racial taxonomy of the American South, although they are actually of mixed descent.This study specifically examines dialect accommodation for the Beech Bottom African American speakers. To what extent do they share the local Appalachian dialect with cohort European Americans, and what does this reflect about the status of earlier African American English? Is there a contemporary ethnolinguistic divide, and if so, how is it manifested? To answer these questions, a representative set of diagnostic phonological (e.g., postvocalic r-lessness, /aI/ ungliding) and morphosyntactic (e.g., 3rd pl. –s attachment, 3rd sg. –s absence) variables for a sample of current residents is considered. The analysis supports the conclusion that earlier African American speech accommodated to local dialect norms, and it suggests that there has been subtle but persistent substrate influence in the historical development of AAVE.
Date: 2002-04-09
Degree: MA
Discipline: English
URI: http://www.lib.ncsu.edu/resolver/1840.16/994


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