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Topics in African American English: The verb system analysis

Lisa J Green, University of Massachusetts Amherst


This dissertation discusses some issues related to the verb system in African American English. The meaning associated with aspectual markers is investigated, and the representations of the meaning are given in a semantic framework. The properties of finite auxiliaries and aspectual markers are discussed in the context of the principles and parameters approach of verb raising in Pollock (1990). Chapter 2 distinguishes finite auxiliaries and aspectual markers by describing their functions in question formation, negation, and VP deletion. Chapters 3 through 5 focus on the semantics of aspectual markers, showing how interpretations of habitual, remote past, and completive constructions are represented. Aspectual be constructions are analyzed as referring to generalizations with respect to eventualities which occur or hold on particular occasions. BIN is analyzed as situating the initiation or completion of an eventuality in the remote past. The completive (done) is analyzed in the underlying events framework of Parsons (1990) and compared to the perfect in Standard American English. The semantic analysis shows how these aspectual markers differ in meaning from those in Standard American English, even though they are identical in form. Chapter 6 investigates the restrictions on aspectual marker raising. The behavior of these markers is compared to that of finite auxiliaries, which are analyzed as being base generated along with aspectual markers and retained and deleted under certain conditions. Auxiliary and aspectual marker sequences are investigated in wh- and indirect questions as a means of identifying the conditions under which the auxiliaries are retained and as a means of showing further that aspectual markers are confined to their base generated positions in surface structure. Chapter 7 discusses the BIN + modal construction and the quantificational negative NP + negative auxiliary construction and raises some questions which should be addressed in future studies in African American English.

Subject Area

Linguistics|Black studies|African American Studies

Recommended Citation

Green, Lisa J, "Topics in African American English: The verb system analysis" (1993). Doctoral Dissertations Available from Proquest. AAI9329614.