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Back to the past: The BEV/creole connection revisited

  • Donald Winford (a1)

Abstract

This article compares the marking of past temporal reference in Black English Vernacular (BEV) and Trinidadian English (TE), with particular attention to the alternation of Ø and {ed}. The comparison reveals similarities in the patterns of variation according to verb type and phonological conditioning which suggest that past marking in contemporary BEV preserves traces of an earlier process of shift from a creole pattern to one approximating the Standard English pattern. Further examination of the TE data reveals that the use of {ed} is highly constrained in cases where habitual or characteristic past meaning is conveyed; in such cases, the use of Ø is near categorical. These findings may have implications for BEV which future research can clarify. The article also considers the case of stressed remote BIN in BEV and argues that it may have arisen as the result of reanalysis of an earlier creole anterior bin under the influence of unstressed (continuative perfect) bin, derived from English have + been. This provides further support for the view that, though early BEV may not have been a fully fledged creole, it arose through a process of restructuring in which a creole substrate played a significant role. Finally, the article notes that past marking is only one aspect of the overall organization of the BEV tense/mood/aspect system, which shares other features in common with creole varieties, including resultative done and combinatory possibilities among auxiliaries. Future research on these aspects of the BEV verb complex can shed more light on the BEV/creole connection.

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Back to the past: The BEV/creole connection revisited

  • Donald Winford (a1)

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