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Contraction, Deletion, and Inherent Variability of the English Copula

William Labov
Language
Vol. 45, No. 4 (Dec., 1969), pp. 715-762
DOI: 10.2307/412333
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/412333
Page Count: 48
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Contraction, Deletion, and Inherent Variability of the English Copula
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Abstract

The following report presents some of the findings of several years' research on the relations between standard English and the non-standard English used by Negro speakers in various urban ghetto areas. The immediate subject is the status of the copula and auxiliary be in Negro non-standard English. The approach to the problem combines the methods of generative grammar and phonology with techniques for the quantitative analysis of systematic variation. The notion 'rule of grammar' is enlarged to include the formal treatment of inherent variation as a part of linguistic structure. Furthermore, a model is presented for the decisive solution of abstract questions of rule form and rule relations, based upon the direct study of linguistic behavior.

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