Investigation of the Effect of Contextual Factors on BIN Production in AAE

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University of Pennsylvania Working Papers in Linguistics
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Neal, Anissa
Whitmal, Ayana
Green, Lisa
Yu, Kristine M
Özyıldız, Deniz

Treatments of African American English (AAE) in the literature have focused primarily on morphosyntactic differences from mainstream American English. One these differences is found in the tense and aspect system. While both dialects have the present perfect use for “been”, AAE also has a stressed variant of “been”, termed BIN. This aspectual marker is featured in the literature, but the main focus has been on its prosodic qualities. It differs from present perfect been in that it has the semantics of a remote past marker (Rickford 1973, Rickford 1975, Green 1998). For a comprehensive understanding of AAE’s tense aspect system, both syntactic-semantic and discourse-pragmatic aspects of these markers need to be studied as well. We complete a production experiment with members of an AAE-speaking community in Southwest Louisiana followed by an acceptability judgement task. The purpose of the experiment is twofold. First, it allows us to examine BIN production in canonical BIN environments and non-BIN environments. Second, by paying close attention to the context these environments occur in, we can also examine the influence of discourse-pragmatic factors (LONG-TIME, TEMPORAL JUST, POLAR QUESTIONS) on BIN production in unambiguous environments, as well as in ambiguous environments. The factors LONG-TIME and TEMPORAL JUST are found to be significant predictors of BIN production Furthermore, there is a significant difference in ambiguity, such that the unambiguous contexts predicted BIN slightly less. Overall, the results of the experiment suggest that speakers are consistent in their BIN production for expected BIN environments, but more variable in the non-BIN environments for both unambiguous and ambiguous contexts. This raises the interesting question of why speakers are more variable in the non-BIN environments as well as questioning what the discourse-pragmatic factors are actually capturing. Together, however, it suggests that there are a variety of components that can influence BIN production. Future areas of work could further investigate in regards these components.

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