University of Pennsylvania Working Papers in Linguistics


Taylor Jones


While there has been a wealth of research on verbs of quotation in recent decades (Butters 1980, Blyth et al. 1990, Tagliamonte and Hudson 1999, Buchstaller 2001, Singler 2001, Waksler 2001, Rickford et al. 2007, Vandelanotte 2012), including studies focusing on African American English (AAE) (Cukor-Avila 2002, 2012), the discussion has focused on a handful of variables, most notably be like, go and say. In this study, we draw on the Philadelphia Neighborhood Corpus (PNC), on popular media (novels, television, music), and on social media to describe an AAE-specific verb of quotation, talkin’ ’bout/talmbout. Unlike other verbs of quotation, it is used to introduce both direct and reported speech, as well as unuttered thoughts and non-lexical sounds, and it co-occurs with a range of complementizers that are not available in other varieties of English. While it has not been discussed in the literature beyond mention as ‘other’ in typology of verbs of quotation, it has been present in AAE for at least a century. We argue that talmbout fulfills a fundamentally different role than be like: quotative talmbout is used for indignation or mocking and it often appears with secondary indignation markers like semi-auxiliary come (Spears 1982, Green 2002). Moreover, it is not always understood by non-AAE speakers, as it is an understudied camouflage construction (Spears 1982; Wolfram 1994; Collins et al. 2008; Lane 2014).