American Earlier Black English: Morphological and Syntactic Variables

By Edgar W. Schneider | Go to book overview

5.
Conclusion:
On the diachronic development
of Black English
in the United States

The purpose of this concluding chapter is to summarize the results and to interpret them comprehensively in the light of the likelihood and extent of a possible prior creolization in the history of Black English. First, I will compare the grammatical forms found in EBE with those of present-day Black English, Gullah, and white dialects; second, a catalog of linguistic features ordered according to their respective (most likely) origin will be presented, and finally, all of this will lead to a general summary and assessment of the history of Black English.

First, it should be determined which differences occur in the comparison of EBE and present-day Black English, that is, to what extent and with respect to which linguistic variables linguistic change, has occurred between these two developmental stages of the dialect, Remarkably, only four of the twenty variables studied have been affected by substantial changes:

(1) The verbal suffix -s is used much less frequently by black speakers today than it was by the ex-slaves recorded in the 1930s. Nevertheless, the basic principle of variable usage of the suffix in all grammatical persons and the proportional relationship of -s- values between these are still valid, at least for a number of speakers and in some subvarieties of black dialect. This emerging tendency appears in outlines at the EBE stage, both in the social stigma which the suffix seems to carry and in its regional concentration ond rootedness primarily in the old settlement area of the Atlantic Southeast, accompanied by less frequent occurrence in the western and northwestern part of the area.

-273-

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