ERIC Number: ED206197
Record Type: RIE
Publication Date: 1980-Mar
Reference Count: 0
Copula Deletion and West African Languages: A Source for Covert Norms in American Black English.
Donahue, Thomas S.
The loss of the copula in Black English Vernacular (BEV) is demonstrably traceable to norms of pidginization that have their roots in West African languages and in contact among those languages. An extensive examination of the verb systems of a number of West African languages reveals that in every case a variety of verbal forms serves the many functions of the single verb "be" in English and that the particle verb grammar in these languages is morphologically complicated and wholly unlike verb grammar in English. The history of West Africa further reveals that prior to and during the period of slave trade there was extensive language contact among the various nations, resulting undoubtably in pidginization prior to arrival in the Americas. In light of these facts, it is possible to conclude that copula deletion has been in Black English dialect as part of its primary perceptual strategies and grammatical rules from the outset, and has occurred at so basic a level as to have become in all likelihood one of the covert norms of speakers of Black dialect to this day. However sociolinguistics may evaluate the casual style of BEV, from the perspective of language history copula loss may be viewed as inevitable. (JB)
Publication Type: Opinion Papers; Speeches/Meeting Papers
Education Level: N/A
Authoring Institution: N/A
Identifiers: Africa (West); Copula (Grammar); Language Contact
Note: Paper presented at the Annual University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee Linguistics Symposium on Language Contact (10th, Milwaukee, WI, March 1980).