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Re: "ain't do nothing"

Date:Tuesday, May 18, 2004, 22:04
Joe scripsit:

> Does AAVE really exist as a unitary dialect? I mean, I would expect it > shows a large degree of geographical variation, perhaps larger than > 'higher' register dialects. I don't know anything about the subject, > but can such characteristics really be generalised like that?
Well, what does "exist" mean? We all speak different idiolects that are more or less similar to people who are more or less similar to us in a large variety of ways, of which geography is only one. You can find Yiddish-influenced English in and around New York City and in and around Los Angeles, but the 3000 miles / 4800 km between the two cities shows very little of it, for the good reason that there are not many Jews elsewhere in the U.S. AAVE certainly does show some regional differentiation, though not as much as non-AAVE American English dialects (which in turn are nowhere near as differentiated as those in Britain). Looking at syntax, though, we can set up a divide between creole-influenced English (including AAVE) and English that isn't influenced by creole, and that makes the differences between the U.S. and the U.K. look small. "Ain't" in non-creolish dialects is a replacement for "am not", "is not", "are not", "have not", or "has not". In basilectal AAVE, it's a negative-perfective marker. -- You are a child of the universe no less John Cowan than the trees and all other acyclic graphs; you have a right to be here. --DeXiderata by Sean McGrath