9. The individual & group in earlier AAE Primary issues 1. Role of intracommunity individual variation in earlier AAE 2. Role of individual variation in small, historically isolated communities Different approaches to variation: • Homogeneity asumption – speakers who are sociologically similar are assumed to be linguistically similar, data presented as if speakers are a homogeneous group • Dynamic paradigm – internally consistent isolects differ for one or more variables, each speaker may command several isolects, individual behavior is of linguistic importance Problems with homogeneity assumption • Linguistic variation may not correlate with sociological variation • Community homogeneity does not necessarily correlate with linguistic homogeneity • Dense social networks do not necessarily have normative effect on linguistic variation Some facts of variation: • Variant forms can be tolerated within a small community over a long period of time • A clique may be socially cohesive without being linguistically cohesive Discussion point: • “An examination of individual variation can have significant import for reconstructing the earlier state of AAVE and for understanding the role of speakers from enclave communities in our assessment of its historical development.” Sample of Elderly AAE speakers • 11 Hyde Co residents born between 1896 & 1920 • Sociologically very homogeneous group • Should indicate language of mid 1800s • Diagnostic variables: rhoticity, syllablecoda consonant cluster reduction, vowels, verbal –s concord, copula absence, past tense be leveling to was & weren’t Rhoticity • Pronunciation of post-vocalic r – EurAm speech in region uses post-vocalic r – AAVE is largely r-less, regardless of location – Elderly Hyde Co AfAms have less r-lessness than in AAVE, but show large range of variation (8-93%) • Nuclear (sir, hurt) • Stress coda (car, port) • Unstressed (mother, letter) Syllable-coda consonant cluster reduction • A hallmark feature of AAVE: wes en (west end), col out (cold out) • Elderly AfAm speakers have this feature, but show a range of variation • EurAm Hyde Countians don’t have this feature Vowel system • There is a fairly uniform overall pattern, but some variation • Elderly AfAm vowels seem more aligned with EurAm OuterBanks pronunciation than with prototypical AAVE vowels Verbal –s concord • 3pl –s attachement: The dogs barks – This is a local feature – Elderly AfAm usage ranges 0-50% • 3sg –s absence: The dog bark – This is an AAVE feature – Elderly AfAm usage ranges 30-100% Verbal –s concord, cont’d • Elderly AfAms in Hyde Co distinguish themselves from EurAm cohorts by using 3sg absence, but may share 3pl –s attachment • Speakers with highest 3sg –s absence are among those with lowest levels of 3pl –s attachment • Some speakers simply have lower overall use of –s verbal marking • Others may be attaching –s in all environments, regardless of subject Copula absence • Found only among AfAms in Hyde Co • Is deletion is less common – some speakers don’t have it • Are deletion is used by all speakers, but great variation in numbers Past tense leveling • Leveling to was in positive – AAVE norm – all elderly AfAm speakers have this feature • Leveling to weren’t in negative – a EurAm regionalism – some elderly AfAm speakers have this feature, some don’t • Considerable individual variation Patterns of correlation • The following features are positively correlated: – r-lessness – 3sg –s absence – Copula absence • All of these are features of AAVE • There is an inverse relationship between local dialect features and features of AAVE What have we learned about earlier AAVE? • Considerable intragroup variation even within long-standing stable insular enclave community • Uniformity with respect to core AAVE features: 3sg –s absence, copula absence, post-vocalic loss of r, consonant cluster reduction • We can posit that this core set of features was established by mid 1800s Discussion point • Insularity did not breed homogeneity within the AfAm community, nor did it result in complete convergence with the dialect of the EurAm community.