Rappin on the copula coffin: Theoretical and methodological issues in the analysis of copula variation in african-american vernacular english

John R. Rickford, Arnetha Ball, Renee Blake, Raina Jackson, Nomi Martin

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

    Abstract

    We explore two unresolved methodological issues in the study of copula variation in African-American Vernacular English, assessing their quantitative and theoretical consequences via multiple variable rule analyses of data from East Palo Alto, California. The first is whether is contraction and deletion should be considered separately from that of are. We conclude that it should not, because the quantitative conditioning is almost identical for the two forms, and a combined analysis offers analytical advantages. The second issue is whether the alternative methods that previous researchers have used to compute the incidence of “contraction” or “deletion” (“Labov Contraction and Deletion,” “Straight Contraction and Deletion,” “Romaine Contraction”) fundamentally affect the results. We conclude that they do, especially for contraction. We also discuss implications of our analysis for two related issues: the ordering of contraction and deletion in the grammar, and the presence of age-grading or change in progress in East Palo Alto.

    Original languageEnglish (US)
    Pages (from-to)103-132
    Number of pages30
    JournalLanguage Variation and Change
    Volume3
    Issue number1
    DOIs
    StatePublished - Mar 1991

    ASJC Scopus subject areas

    • Language and Linguistics
    • Education
    • Linguistics and Language

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