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University of Pennsylvania Working Papers in Linguistics

Abstract

This paper explores the relationship between transmission and diffusion with data on the use of two innovative features, habitual invariant be and quotative be like, across four generations of African American Vernacular English (AAVE) speakers from the rural community of Springville, Texas. The data from this rural setting show fundamental differences on the acquisition and spread of each of these features. There is no steady transmission from generation to generation that results in the gradual increased use of habitual invariant be, but rather it is contact with adolescents from outside Springville that accounts for the diffusion of these forms in the community. Only for the youngest generation do we see evidence of transmission. Transmission is the likely source for the use of quotative be like by the youngest speakers; however, diffusion from outside the community is what appears to be accelerating this change forward. As we show, the interaction of transmission and diffusion is a consequence of the social situation present in Springville coupled with the changing demographics of the Springville School.

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