An AAE camouflage construction

Chris Collins, Simanique Moody, Paul M. Postal

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


    Spears 1998 discusses a use of the word ass in African American English (AAE) in sentences like They done arrested her stupid ass and I'm gonna sue her ass. We refer to DPs like her stupid ass generically as the ACC (ass CAMOUFLAGE CONSTRUCTION), and we view the ACC as an instance of a universal grammatical phenomenon we call CAMOUFLAGE. The ACC is also attested in non-AAE dialects of American English (Beavers & Koontz-Garboden 2006a). For certain syntactic properties, the possessor of the ACC behaves as if it were external to the larger DP (e.g. binding, control, selection); for others, it behaves as if it were internal to the larger DP (e.g. finite verb agreement, traditional constituent-structure tests). To account for this dual behavior, we propose that the ACC possessor DP originates in a position external to the ACC, and moves into its possessor position. We discuss the implications of our analysis for other areas of AAE syntax, including the resumptive-with construction, a previously undocumented grammatical phenomenon, and the use of self in various constructions, which we suggest are illuminated by the notion camouflage. We briefly consider arguable instances of camouflage crosslinguistically in languages such as Georgian, French, the Mayan languages K'ekchi and Tzotzil, and Yoruba. Genuine similarities between the ACC and these other constructions support our perspective on the ACC.

    Original languageEnglish (US)
    Pages (from-to)29-68
    Number of pages40
    Issue number1
    StatePublished - Mar 2008

    ASJC Scopus subject areas

    • Language and Linguistics
    • Linguistics and Language


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