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Copula variability in Gullah

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  05 December 2003

Tracey L. Weldon
University of South Carolina


Many researchers have investigated the copula for possible links between African American Vernacular English (aave) and Atlantic Creoles, a connection that has served as the foundation of the Creolist Hypothesis in the on-going debate over the origins of aave. One variety that has been of particular interest in this debate is Gullah, which has been hypothetically linked to aave since some of the earliest statements of the Creolist Hypothesis. To date, however, very little research has been done on copula variability in Gullah itself. This study, therefore, provides an analysis of copula variability in present affirmative contexts in Gullah. Variation is found among full, contracted, and zero forms in 1st person singular, plural/2nd person singular, and 3rd person singular environments. The analysis also reveals some parallels between Gullah and aave that offer support for the theory of an aave/creole connection.I would like to acknowledge the Department of Linguistics and the Center for African Studies at Ohio State University for covering the cost of some of the fieldwork for this study. I would also like to acknowledge the McKissick Museum at the University of South Carolina for providing several hours of recordings used for the study. My sincerest thanks to research assistants Jason Sellers and Cherlon Ussery for help with transcriptions and data tabulation and to the following friends and colleagues for their help and support during various stages of this project: Emily Bender, Eugenia Deas, Vennie Deas-Moore, Brian Joseph, Michele Nichols, Terence Odlin, John Paolillo, Donald Winford, and Walt Wolfram. And, finally, my thanks to James Walker and an anonymous LVC reviewer for their helpful suggestions on an earlier draft of this article. I accept full responsibility for any remaining errors.

Research Article
© 2003 Cambridge University Press

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