Defining the envelope of linguistic variation

The case of “don't count” forms in the copula analysis of African American Vernacular English

Renee Blake

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

    Abstract

    Ever since Labov, Cohen, Robbins, and Lewis's (1968) pioneering study, it has been commonplace to set aside certain tokens in analyzing variability in the English copula as “don't count” (DC) forms. These cases are most often occurrences of the copula that exhibit categorical behavior (as with the full copula in clause-final position), as well as those that are ambiguous or indeterminate. In this article, I propose a set of copula forms that should be set aside from variable analysis as instances of DC forms to allow for systematic comparisons among studies. I review the major alternative descriptions of DC copula cases in the literature and analyze the behavior of the traditional DC categories. New data are presented to support the exclusion of particular DC cases from analyses of copula variability. Among the conclusions are that [was], [thas], and [is] should be excluded from quantitative analyses of variation in the copula because of their invariant status, and that a number of tokens commonly included (e.g., questions) should be excluded on various grounds.

    Original languageEnglish (US)
    Pages (from-to)57-79
    Number of pages23
    JournalLanguage Variation and Change
    Volume9
    Issue number1
    DOIs
    StatePublished - 1997

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    linguistics
    exclusion
    American
    African American Vernacular English
    Linguistic Variation
    Copula
    literature

    ASJC Scopus subject areas

    • Language and Linguistics
    • Education
    • Linguistics and Language

    Cite this

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