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Article

Abstract

For quantitative sociolinguists, one of the goals of investigating variability in African American Vernacular English (AAVE) is to understand better the nature of the grammar. Specifically, researchers have been interested in whether the variation observed in AAVE is inherent to a single system or the result of interaction between two separate systems of AAVE and Standard English (SE). Variability in negation is an area of the AAVE grammar that has received minimal attention, but one that may offer some interesting insights into the nature of the system or systems at work. This article provides a framework to describe the variability between negative auxiliaries in predicative constructions based on a quantitative analysis of data collected in Columbus, Ohio. Five variables are investigated in this study. One involves interaction between third-person singular inflection and non-inflection in present do-support constructions (NEG Pres). A second involves variation between ain't and don't with the predicates got or gotta (NEG Got(ta)). And the other three involve interaction between ain't and negative auxiliaries in present copular (NEG Cop), present perfect (NEG Perf), and past do-support (NEG Past) constructions. The results of this study show that, with the possible exception of the (NEG Pres) variation, these alternations all appear to belong to one underlying system.

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