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Besting the Sociolinguistic Interview: New Elicitation Methodology for Rare Elliptical Constructions in African American English

Tracy Conner, UCSB

April 28, 2021 · 4:30 pm6:00 pm · via Zoom

Program in Linguistics

This talk presents a new methodology for eliciting speech production data that allows for the study of rare syntactic constructions. While personal judgements and Likert scale ratings can sometimes misrepresent the range of true native speaker acceptability for certain constructions, the current method proves useful for confirming acceptability with production.

In this talk you will see the use of this elicitation methodology with speakers of African American English (AAE). Zero-marked realizations of the copula (Claire ø tall  for Claire is tall ), and possessive marking (Jamecia’ø book for Jamecia’s book) are attested in AAE, and much work suggests these morphemes are completely optional. However, the fruit of the current elicitation methodology reveals evidence for constraints on possessive and copula optionality in this variety in the environment of ellipsis or when the possessive/copula is phrase final (I like Claire’ø book, but you like Jamecia’s) Using data from 33 AAE speakers from the Mississippi Delta I experimentally confirm constraints on optionality and propose that the preference is related to requirements for licensing of ellipsis or complement deletion.

Tracy Conner is a Visiting Assistant Professor in the Department of Linguistics at the University of California Santa Barbara. She is an interdisciplinary linguist who combines theories and methodologies from formal and socio-linguistics as well as sociology and psychology to address issues of linguistic injustice and inequity. As an experimental syntactician, Conner studies the syntax and morphosyntax of African-American English and ellipsis phenomena. She’s interested in how theoretical descriptions of dialects of English can be extended to impact broader areas such as education, speech pathology and social justice for dialect speakers. A new stream of research focuses on describing the linguistic properties of gaslighting using tools from semantics and pragmatics as well as theories of language and power.

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