Abstracts are in alphabetical order by presenter last name.
Abstracts A-B
Abstracts C-E
Abstracts F-K
Abstracts L-N
Abstracts O-S
Abstracts T-Z

Click here to view alphabetical list of presenters.


Session 8bFRI : Friday, April 16, 4:40-5:00, Ferguson Forum

The triangulation of language contact in the Anglophone Atlantic region:
West Africa, the West Indies, and North America

Michael Aceto
East Carolina University

This paper will examine linguistic and cultural links among the historical southern North American colonies/states, the Anglophone Caribbean, and West(ern) Africa. I will present and evaluate several competing theories about the directionality of influence among the following triangular points: 1) the general area of Charleston, South Carolina, and the Sea Coast Islands; 2) the West Indies, especially Barbados; and 3) West Africa, particularly the Guinea Coast. Some scholars suggest that the English-derived Creole languages of the Caribbean influenced the emergence of Gullah on the Sea Coast Islands of South Carolina and Georgia; others suggest Caribbean creoles influenced the emergence of Krio, a language of Sierra Leone spoken on the historic Upper Guinea Coast of West Africa. Some suggest Gullah influenced Krio; and yet others propose that the English-derived creoles of the Americas were significantly influenced by an early form of restructured English spoken somewhere on the Upper Guinea Coast/modern Sierra Leone (Hancock 1986, 1987) or the Lower Guinea Coast/modern Ghana (McWhorter 1997, Aceto 1999). Cassidy (1980, 1994) focused on the connections between Barbadian English and Gullah for understanding the possible historical relationships between an early form of Bajan (assumed to have had more creole-like features than are typically heard on the island today) and Gullah-speaking areas. Hancock (1980, 1986) suggests that Gullah (among other English-derived creoles of the Americas) was influenced by the formation of an early variety of Krio. Recently, Huber (fc.) has suggested that Gullah influenced the formation of Krio in Sierra Leone.


Aceto, Michael. 1999. "The Gold Coast contribution to the Atlantic English creoles." In M. Huber & M. Parkvall, eds. Spreading the Word: The issue of diffusion among the Atlantic creoles. Westminster Creolistics Series 6. London: University of Westminster Press, 69-80.
Cassidy, Frederic G. 1980. "The place of Gullah." American Speech 55: 3-15.
Cassidy, Frederic G. 1986. "Barbadian Creole – Possibility and probability." American Speech 61: 195-205.
Cassidy, Frederic G. 1994. “Gullah and the Caribbean connection.” In Michael Montgomery, ed. The crucible of Carolina: Essays in the development of Gullah language and culture. Athens: University of Georgia Press, 16-22.
Hancock, Ian. 1980. "Gullah and Barbadian: Origins and relationships." American Speech 55: 17-35.
Hancock, Ian. 1986. "The domestic hypothesis, diffusion and componentiality: An account of Atlantic Anglophone creole origins." In Pieter Muysken and Norval Smith, eds. Substrata Versus Universals in Creole Genesis. Amsterdam, Philadelphia: John Benjamins, 71-102.
Hancock, Ian. 1987. “A Preliminary Classification of the Anglophone Atlantic Creoles, with Syntactic Data from Thirty-Three Representative Dialects.” In G. G. Gilbert, ed., Pidgin and Creole Languages (pp. 264-334). Honolulu: University of Hawaii.
Huber, Magnus. (In press, 2004) “The Nova Scotia-Sierra Leone connection. New evidence on an early variety of African American Vernacular English in the diaspora”. In Geneviève Escure and Armin Schwegler, eds. Contacts worldwide: Creoles and other linguistic outputs. Amsterdam: Benjamins.
McWhorter, John. 1997. "It happened at Cormantin: Locating the origin of the Atlantic English-based creoles." Journal of Pidgin and Creole Languages 12: 1-44.

Return to top of Abstracts


Session 3bTHR: Thursday, April 15, 2:25-2:45, Ferguson Forum

Present Tense Marking as a Microcosm of Black/White Speech Relationships:
Plural Verbal –S and Third Singular -0 in the South

Amanda Aguilar
University of North Texas

Linguists have explored variation in present tense marking (i.e., plural verbal –s and third singular -0) in Southern English vernaculars and related varieties such as African American Vernacular English (AAVE) for many years. Among the issues they have studied are the subregional distribution of plural verbal –s and 3rd singular 0 in the South, the ethnic distribution of these two features, and their historical development. None of these issues, however, has been completely resolved because of a lack of adequate data bases. This paper attempts to create a historical data base for studying present tense marking in both black and white vernaculars in the American South. It does so by combining evidence from the Linguistic Atlas of the Gulf States (LAGS), the Linguistic Atlas of the Middle and South Atlantic States (LAMSAS), and the mechanical recordings made with former slaves (Bailey, Maynor, and Cukor-Avila, 1991). It then uses the database to explore the unresolved issues regarding present tense marking in SAE and AAVE.

The data suggests that none of the generally held assumptions about present tense marking is entirely accurate. Although plural verbal –s has been stereotypically associated with white Appalachian speech, in earlier times it was quite prevalent in the Lower South as well, and it also occurred among African Americans. Historical changes over the last century, however, have obscured this distribution as the feature has become increasingly restricted to whites in the Upper South. Likewise, while 3rd singular 0 is most often associated with AAVE, in earlier SAE it also occurred in white speech, especially in areas with large African American populations. Again, historical changes have obscured the earlier distribution as it has become increasingly restricted to and more prevalent in white vernaculars. In many ways, then, present tense marking is a microcosm of the evolving black/white speech relationships in the South.

Return to top of Abstracts


Session 11a: Saturday, April 17, 2:50-3:10, Ferguson Theater

Barry Jean Ancelet
University of Louisiana at Lafayette
on Cajun music and language revival

Return to top of Abstracts


Session 6bFRI : Friday, April 16, 11:45-12:05, Ferguson Forum

A quantitative acoustic approach to /ai/ glide-weakening among
Detroit African American and Appalachian White southern migrants

Bridget L. Anderson
University of Georgia

This paper investigates /ai/ glide-weakening, a highly salient feature of Southern speech (Plichta and Preston 2003), among African American and Appalachian White Southern migrants and their descendants in Detroit. The results show that the middle-aged and younger African American speakers (as well as the Appalachian White speakers) show glide-weakening of /ai/ in the progressive pre-voiceless context, a pattern which according to all but the most recent reports is characteristic only of White speakers.
I take a gradient approach to weakening. As Thomas (2001) points out, the length of the /ai/ glide varies between fully diphthongal variants, nuclei with short offglides, and completely monophthongal variants. Although recent socioacoustic work on /ai/ glide-weakening describes varying degrees of diphthongization (e.g. Fridland forthcoming; Thomas 2001), these reports are based on impressionistic interpretations of vowel plots and do not quantify the length and direction of glide movement for F1 and F2. This paper quantifies both the length and direction of the glide. A consistent procedure was used to measure duration and identify temporal locations at which to take measurements for each token in order to fully account for glide movement from midpoint to offset. I analyze speakers’ productions of /ai/ and /A/, both between groups and on a speaker-by-speaker basis. Diphthongization is quantified by comparing F1 and F2 movement in /ai/, which exhibits varying degrees of diphthongization, with F1 and F2 movement in /A/, which is used as a reference because it is expected to be relatively monophthongal. These methodological innovations allow for cross-speaker comparisons and facilitate replication by other researchers.


Fridland, Valerie. Forthcoming. “Tied, tie and tight: /ay/ monophthongization among African-Americans and European-Americans in Memphis, TN.” Journal of Sociolinguistics.
Plichta, Bartek and Dennis Preston. 2003. “The /ay/s have it: Stereotype, perception, and region. Paper presented at New Ways of Analyzing Variation 32. University of Pennsylvania.
Thomas, Erik. 2001. An Acoustic Analysis of Vowel Variation in New World English. A Publication of the American Dialect Society 85. Durham: Duke University Press.

Return to top of Abstracts


Session 4aTHR: Thursday, April 15, 4:40-5:00, Ferguson Theater

Perceptions of Lexical Variation in Southern American English:
Views from the Rocky Mountain Region

Lamont Antieau
University of Georgia

This paper studies the perceptions of rural, elderly Colorado natives by analyzing comments recorded in interviews for the Linguistic Atlas of the Western States pertaining to lexical variation in the United States. In particular, I will examine the records of several Colorado informants who attribute lexical variants not currently used in their own speech communities to varieties of American English spoken in the southern United States. The goal is to determine why speakers of American English in the Rocky Mountains should find southern variants salient, while generally ignoring lexical variation associated with other regions in the United States.
The study will first test the geographical distribution of lexical variants proposed by informants with the findings of Atlas surveys collected in the eastern United States. Preliminary results of this analysis find the claims of the Colorado informants to be generally accurate, providing evidence that the South is not only linguistically very salient to speakers in the northern United States, as observed by Niedzielski and Preston (2000: 119), but to speakers of American English in other parts of the United States as well. At the same time, these findings provide evidence to support the observations of Reed (1967: 54) and others that Colorado is largely a mixture of northern and midland influences. Additionally, there is evidence that perceptions of lexical differences are associated with perceived cultural differences between the southern United States and the Rocky Mountains. For example, one Colorado informant suggests that the reason for variation in words for cornbread could be the popularity of cornbread in the South, while other informants suggest that the reasons for other variants are purely arbitrary. Finally, I will argue that perceptual studies like these are crucial to understanding the nature of dialects and dialect formation.


Niedzielski, Nancy A. and Dennis R. Preston. 2000. Folk Linguistics. Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter.
Reed, Carroll E. 1967. Dialects of American English. Cleveland: World.

Return to top of Abstracts


Session 6bFRI : Friday, April 16, 11:20-11:40, Ferguson Forum

Language Variation in the New South: A Study of Atlanta Speech

Betsy Barry and Iyabo Osiapem
University of Georgia

This paper has two objectives: First to outline the research methodologies utilized in surveying speech patterns in the city of Atlanta. Specifically, we address the current problems with in urban linguistic research with respect to collecting data that is representative of the overall linguistic patterns of behavior in an urban area such as Atlanta. Secondly, we will examine phonological targets within a sociolinguistic framework focusing mainly on ethnicity. In particular, we focus on the patterns of variation extant in high front tense and lax vowels and mid back lax vowels. We believe that the research in this Atlanta study is important not only because it represents the systematic study of one of the largest Southern urban centers, but also because it reflects innovative developments in the field of empirical linguistics.

Return to top of Abstracts


Plenary: Thursday, April 15, 5:40-6:30, Ferguson Theater

Demography and the Study of Southern American English

Guy Bailey
University of Texas at San Antonio

As the disciplines most squarely focused on language variation and change, dialectology and sociolinguistics are ultimately about the behavior of populations. Language change requires that some linguistic feature be adopted by at least a segment of a population, and language variation becomes significant only when it distinguishes one group from another or serves to establish parameters for the construction of an identity tied to a group. In spite of their focus on the linguistic behavior of populations, dialectology and sociolinguistics have yet to fully exploit the full range of demographic data that might sharpen that focus. The presentation examines the kinds of demographic data available to linguists and illustrates how that data can be used both to plan research on language variation and change and also to help interpret linguistic evidence. More specifically, the presentation outlines the range of census tools available to linguists, discusses the strengths and weaknesses of each, and illustrates how they can aid in planning or interpreting research on Southern American English. In addition, it provides a demographic profile of the American South, examines how that profile has changed over the last half century, and suggests ways that the profile will change over the next 50 years. Finally, the presentation examines some past linguistic problems such as the origins of African American Vernacular English (AAVE) in light of available census records. It suggests that much of the work on the origins of AAVE is inadequate because it fails to account for the demographic evolution of the African American population.

Return to top of Abstracts


Pre-Conference Workshop: Wednesday, April 14 at 7:00 p.m.

Navigating LAGS: A Workshop for Users

Guy Bailey, Jan Tillery, Claire Andres
University of Texas at San Antonio

Amanda Aguilar, Brooke Ehrhardt
University of North Texas

and David Rojas
Indiana University

As the largest body of research material on any variety of American English, the Linguistic Atlas of the Gulf States (LAGS) represents one of the great achievements of modern linguistics. The LAGS materials comprise more than 5000 hours of tape-recorded interviews with 1121 Southerners, some 25,000 pages of microform text that includes transcribed evidence from the interviews and supporting materials, and a seven-volume atlas that summarizes the evidence and provides an interpretative overview of it. Although the basic data was published more than two decades ago and the final interpretive volume appeared ten years ago, LAGS remains an underutilized resource. The failure of linguists to utilize LAGS fully is puzzling, but at least part of the failure may lie in the complexity and vastness of the material. No guide to the entire LAGS collection exists, so users often do not know exactly what the collection includes, how to navigate through the variety of text-types, or the range of potential uses of the material. This workshop attempts to begin rectifying that problem by providing a hands-on journey through the LAGS project.

The 5000 hours of recorded interviews are the LAGS basic materials (or tape texts) from which all other linguistic data is drawn. A series of analogs based on the tape texts provide users with access to (1) unanalyzed impressionistic transcriptions of that data on microfiche (the Protocols), (2) one-page summaries of the Protocols on microfiche (the Idiolect Synopses), (3) computer files that summarize much of the material in the Protocols according to various social and geographic categories (the disk texts), and (4) seven interpretive volumes. The workshop explores the different possibilities for linguistic analysis of each of these, provides examples of their use in addressing various linguistic problems, and offers hands-on work with each of type of text. In addition, the workshop looks at the potential use of LAGS data for exploring the speech of sub-populations of the South (e.g., Cajuns and African Americans) and for linking LAGS data with other linguistic evidence. Finally, the workshop examines some potential pitfalls in the use of LAGS data, how those pitfalls can be identified, and how they can be remedied. The workshop concludes with a discussion of the surprising range of linguistic issues that have been addressed with LAGS data.

Return to top of Abstracts


Session 10a: Saturday, April 17, 12:10-12:30, Ferguson Theater

Linguistic Profiling in regional perspective: Perceptions of dialect differences and their social consequences

John Baugh

Preston’s pioneering research on dialect mapping provides the early theoretical foundation for this study, which seeks to explore regional perceptions of speech, including other demographic variables such as sex, age, and race. Cukor-Avila’s studies of dialect discrimination “on the job” illustrate some of the social consequences of linguistic prejudice. By combining econometric models with Labov’s formulation of variable rules, we hope to refine the applied linguistic relevance of results that identify various sociolinguistic groupings in American society. As a nation of immigrants, the United States has always had tremendous linguistic diversity, with differential linguistic advantages and disadvantages depending upon speaker fluency and corresponding literacy in English, or a language other than English.
This paper presents a series of anecdotes to introduce the linguistic heritage of diverse Americans, as well as the unique linguistic circumstances of their daily lives. As such this work is interdisciplinary, drawing substantially on early studies of dialectology and sociolinguistics in anticipation of new methods supporting robust studies of language in social context during the foreseeable digital era. Policy implications will be integrated into concluding remarks.

Return to top of Abstracts


Session 12a: Saturday, April 17, 5:05-5:25, Ferguson Theater

Language Variation in the South: The Case of ASL in Louisiana

Robert Bayley
University of Texas, San Antonio

Ceil Lucas
Gallaudet University

This paper examines phonological variation in the American Sign Language (ASL) used by African American and white signers in Louisiana. The paper is part of a larger project based on casual conversation filmed in seven sites around the United States, including Louisiana, with 207 working-class and middle-class participants from three age groups (15-25, 26-54, and 55+) (Lucas, Bayley & Valli, 2001). We examine three phonological variables: 1) the sign DEAF, produced in citation form (+cf, the form found in sign language dictionaries and taught in sign language classes) with a movement from the ear to the chin but also produced variably from the chin to the ear or simply as a contact on the cheek; 2) signs like KNOW, which are produced at the forehead in citation form but which can move down and be produced on the cheek or even in the space in front of the signer; and 3) signs produced with the 1 handshape (citation form: index extended, all other fingers and thumb closed), which can be produced with a variety of handshapes including L (thumb extended) and 5 (all fingers open).

When analyzed separately, the Louisiana data reveal several interesting results. For two variables, DEAF and the location of signs like KNOW, African Americans use more citation forms than whites. The results for DEAF are particularly striking in that they show a sharp difference between African American men and women. African American men choose the citation form of DEAF 52% of the time; the Louisiana African American women in our study never use the citation form of DEAF. In contrast to the results for DEAF, the Louisiana results for the two other phonological variables match those for the larger national study. For signs like KNOW African Americans in Louisiana and other areas use more citation forms than white signers, while ethnicity is not significant for 1 handshape signs.

Results such as these highlight the role of schools for the Deaf in the transmission of ASL. In Louisiana, as in other Southern states, schools for the Deaf were segregated until the Civil Rights era. As elsewhere in the United States, ASL was banished from white classrooms in the South, beginning in the later part of the nineteenth century and continuing until the 1970s. However, as Baynton states, “ oral education was clearly not extended to blacks on the same basis as whites” (1996: 45). The fact that African Americans continued to be educated primarily through ASL had the ironic result that many received a better education than most white deaf students (Baynton 1996: 180). Another result appears to be that many African Americans continue to use a more standard form of ASL.

The results also highlight the need for more in-depth studies of local communities than was possible in our own broad study of ASL as used across the U.S. Given the importance of state schools in the transmission of ASL and the distinct histories of African American and white schools in the South, further studies of African American and white signing in the South have a key role to play in advancing our understanding of the factors that influence variation in signed languages and language variation more generally.


Baynton, D. C. 1996. Forbidden signs: American Culture and the Campaign against Sign Language. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
Lucas, C., R. Bayley, and C. Valli. 2001. Sociolinguistic Variation in American Sign Language. Washington, D.C.: Gallaudet University Press.

Return to top of Abstracts


Session 3aTHR: Thursday, April 15, 2:50-3:10, Ferguson Theater

"Strong Language" in the Discourse of Two Texas Women

Judith Bean
Texas Woman's University

This paper is part of a discourse analysis project exploring how selected Texas women in professional roles exploit the resources of language for expressing individual identity (Johnstone and Bean 1997). The general project is connected in some respects to perceptual dialectology and language ideology, for each of our subjects demonstrated their own views of markers of Texas and Southern dialect, and each had fairly well formed ideologies about language. Discourse analysis methodology provides opportunities to examine the interplay between demographic variables and allows us to explore language innovations and potential sites of change at the individual speaker's level.
In our interviews, we asked women to talk about their "lingual biographies" (Becker, 1984; Johnstone 1999): the sources of their senses of self and interactional styles. At the same time, we tried to elicit the range of styles that each had available in interview talk, so that the transcripts would be rich both ethnographically and linguistically. Since our overarching research question was what it meant to "talk Texas," we asked questions aimed at exploring regional identity, followed by questions eliciting other sources of identity such as region, gender, ethnicity, age, class, and profession.
In the highly self-conscious, media-rich culture of the 20th and 21st centuries, language choices are increasingly symbolic. Our subjects displayed this heightened awareness of language choices, brought to the foreground by the subject of our interviews. These women's work - journalism, politics, labor union leadership, teaching, performing- involved skilled language use, and, as women, they encountered entrenched language ideologies that might have limited their choices. As we might expect, the older informants recalled stronger cultural resistance to their challenges to gender norms of discourse.
Our informants oriented themselves toward discourses/ cultural models which they found useful for expressing their individuality. Stereotypes of Southern and Western femininity served informants efficiently as common cultural symbols against which speakers could define themselves for their interlocutors (Bean 1993).
This paper examines variations in two women's discourse associated with symbolic regional and social class identity. These two women were quite different in their orientation to gender marked language. Eliza Bishop, who became a journalist in the 1940s, maintains a symbolic identification with an image of the upper class Southern lady, but adapted her discourse to include features she associates with the Southwest. Bishop's choices contrast with those of Linda Chavez-Thompson, now Executive Vice President of the AFL?CIO, who became labor-union worker in the 1960s and maintains a symbolic identification with the working class. One of the most salient features of stereotypical women's language for them was the proscription against use of "strong language" - profanity or similarly marked language choices (Bean and Johnstone forthcoming). This paper contrasts their views and strategic use of "strong language" and directness in relation to their perceptions of Southern discourse.

This discussion extends scholarship on how women use language forms to strategically fashion new identities in talk, how women use stereotypical “women’s language” as a commodity, how women respond in diverse ways to ideologies of ‘powerful’ language and how women create individual identities through language choices (Johnstone 1996 ; Gal 1995; Hall and Bucholtz 1995; Meyerhoff 1996).


Bean, J. M. 1993. 'True grit and all the rest': Expression of regional and individual identities in Molly Ivins' discourse. Journal of Southwestern American Literature 19, 35-46.
Bean, J. M. and B. Johnstone. 1997. Self-Expression and Linguistic Variation. Language in Society 26(2), 221-246.
Bean, J. M. and B. Johnstone. Forthcoming. Gender, Identity, and “Strong Language” in a Professional Woman’s Talk. in Robin Tolmach Lakoff, Language and Woman's Place: Text and Commentaries. Revised and expanded edition, edited by Mary Bucholtz. New York: Oxford University Press.
Becker, A.L. 1984. Biography of a sentence: A Burmese proverb. In E.M. Bruner (Ed.), Text, play, and story: The construction and reconstruction of self and society (pp. 135-155) [1983 Proceedings of the American Ethnological Society, Stuart Plattner, Proceedings Ed.)]. Washington DC: The American Ethnological Society.
Gal, S. 1995. Language, gender, and power: An anthropological review. In Kira Hall and Mary Bucholtz, eds. Gender articulated: Language and the socially constructed self, pp. 329-350. New York: Routledge.
Hall, K. and M. Bucholtz, eds. 1995. Gender articulated: Language and the socially constructed self. New York: Routledge.
Johnstone, B. 1996. The Linguistic Individual: Self-Expression in Language and Linguistics. Oxford UP.
Johnstone, B. 1999. Lingual biography and linguistic variation. Language sciences, 21, 313-321.
Meyerhoff, M. 1996. Dealing with gender identity as a sociolinguistic variable. Rethinking Language and Gender Research. Ed. Victoria L. Bergvall, Janet M. Bing, and Alice F. Freed. London: Longman. 202-27.

Return to top of Abstracts


Session 12a: Saturday, April 17, 4:15-4:35, Ferguson Theater

The Representation of Jewish English in the Southern United States

Cynthia Bernstein
University of Memphis

Jewish English typically refers to the dialect of American English spoken especially by religious Jews of Eastern European descent who settled in the New York City area. Studies beginning in the early 1930's reported the association between ethnicity and region in reinforcing the dialect of New York City Jews (Thomas 1932). A half century later, studies proliferated, but the emphasis remained on the same New York City dialect features, particularly those traceable to the effects of Yiddish and Hebrew on American English (Fishman 1981, Gold 1981, Steinmetz 1981, Tannen 1981). Even today, little attention has been given to the speech of Jews in other parts of the country, including the southern United States. Although Jewish settlement in the South goes back to the seventeenth century, and much has been written about what is typically referred to as the Jewish “experience” in the South, almost nothing is available to describe what linguistic features distinguish the speech of southern Jews from that of their non-Jewish counterparts. If anything, there is something oxymoronic in the juxtaposition of the two cultures, as evidenced by expressions such as “Shalom Yall,” “Mazel Tov Yall,” “Magnolias and Menorahs,” and “Bagels and Grits,” garnered from assorted coffee mugs, cookbooks, and photographic essays. Diaries and autobiographies of Jews living in the South further illustrate and explain the particular sense of dual identities experienced by southern Jews (Apte 1998, Cohen 1999, Evans 1993, Hagy 1993, Hertzberg 1978). This study examines the linguistic consequences of the intersection of Jewish and southern speech varieties, focusing on how those varieties are represented in data from literary texts (e.g., Stern 1995, Uhry 1997), newsletters, diaries, letters, websites, museums, and research centers depicting southern Jewish life.


Apte, Helen Jacobus. Heart of a Wife: The Diary of a Southern Jewish Woman. 1998. Edited by Marcus D. Rosenbaum. Wilmington, DE: Scholarly Resources, Inc.
Cohen, Edward. 1999. The Peddler’s Grandson: Growing Up Jewish in Mississippi. Oxford: University Press of Mississippi.
Evans, Eli N. 1993. The Lonely Days Were Sundays: Reflections of a Jewish Southerner. Oxford: University Press of Mississippi.
Fishman, Joshua. 1981. “The Sociology of Jewish Languages from the Perspective of the General Sociology of Language: A Preliminary Formulation.” International Journal of the Sociology of Language 30 (1981): 5-16.
Gold, David L. 1981. “The Speech and Writing of Jews.” In Charles A. Ferguson and Shirley Brice Heath, eds. Language in the USA. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 273-292.
Hagy, James William. 1993. This Happy Land: The Jews of Colonial and Antebellum Charleston. Tuscaloosa: University of Alabama Press.
Hertzberg, Steven. 1978. Strangers Within the Gate City : The Jews of Atlanta, 1845-1915.
Jewish Publication Society of America.
Steinmetz, Sol. 1981. “Jewish English in the United States.” American Speech 56 (1981): 3-16.
Stern, Steve. 1995. Lazar Malkin Enters Heaven. Syracuse University Press.
Tannen, Deborah. New York Jewish Conversational Style.” International Journal of the Sociology of Language 30 (1981): 133-149.
Thomas, C.K. 1932. “Jewish Dialect and New York Dialect,” American Speech 7: 321-26.
Uhry, Alfred. 1997. The Last Night of Ballyhoo. New York: Theatre Communications Group.

Return to top of Abstracts


Session 11a: Saturday, April 17, 2:25-2:45, Ferguson Theater

Got My Mojo Workin: Blues Theory and Practice:
A Critical Analysis of Guitarist Willie King Live at Betty’s Place

Tony Bolden
University of Alabama

In this essay I propose a critical reading of the blues as poetic text and performance. I argue that blues musician Willie King functions as a resistive, secular priest in his rural Alabama community. Drawing from critical tools provided by such performance scholars as Geneva Smitherman and Richard Bauman, as well as my own forthcoming book entitled Afro Blue: Improvisations in African American Poetry and Culture (2003), I examine King’s performance at Betty’s Place, a juke joint located just across the Alabama state line in rural Mississippi. I conduct an analysis of the dynamics of call and response, that is, the symbiotic relationship between the sonic force provided by the instrumentalists and singer(s) and the sensual albeit percussive canvas of black dance, which affords the audience a space of cultural autonomy in the form of cathartic release from the misery and pain of mundanity. Though I avoid the pitfall of romanticizing the juke joint as an unadulterated space, I show how the blend of music and dance functions as a conduit for counter ideologies that fundamentally defy important aspects of Eurocentric interpellation. Whereas the term black, for instance, is still regarded by many Americans, including African Americans, as a sign of negativity in relation to skin complexion, in Betty’s Place blackness is sign of love, a term of endearment. As one beautiful woman confided to me, “My real name is Kim, but everybody call me Blackgal. So when you hear peoples sayin Blackgal, you know they talkin bout me.” Key to my discussion is the contention that King’s music, particularly his live performances, offers the critical observer important opportunities to read the blues as a discursive site wherein ideological conflict is waged. I show how King, in his own words, offers his audience strong doses of “medicine for the rest of the week.” And while King situates his material in the specificity of Afro-vernacular culture, his radical politics reflect and refract an internationalist vision wherein he illustrates the material conditions of working-class people from a perspective that exposes the contradictions embedded in the logic that reifies the very process of marginalization. For instance in his song “I’ve Been Terrorized,” King skillfully confronts bourgeois ideology, dismantling the mythic structures upon which black poverty has been traditionally naturalized: “Couldn’t go to school, didn’t have no shoes…” In a gesture that recalls Ralph Ellison’s famous concept of invisibility, King asserts black/class presence, historicizing African American marginality in a manner that allows for theoretical intervention, even at the level of the vernacular. A brief conversation serves as a case in point. After the performance, King spoke casually with members of the audience, including a middle-aged man with whom King engaged in a discussion regarding aesthetics vis-à-vis the medicinal nature of the blues. “I don’t know nothin bout that,” said the man. “All I know is, I like it, you know. It sets ma soul on fire.” And King, using the same metaphor, responded, “That’s all right. You still burnin, though, ain’t cha?” Upon which the gentleman laughed out loud, conceded King’s point, and the two men shook hands and smiled. Such is the stuff of the downhome blues.

Return to top of Abstracts


Session 2bTHR: Thursday, April 15, 11:20-11:40, Ferguson Forum

“That how I learnt to shove a pen”
The Autobiography of Charles B. H. Williams

Jeutonne P. Brewer
University of North Carolina at Greensboro, emeritus

Charles Williams’ autobiography is a unique document among the material collected during the 1930s and 1940s by the Federal Writers’ Project (FWP) of the Works Progress Administration. As Bernice Babcock, the state director of the Arkansas FWP explained, “one of our country workers reported to me that she had discovered an ex-slave who had written his autobiography” but “would not let anybody see his manuscript nor would he let our worker as much as look at it” (Babcock to Alsberg, December 14, 1937). After Babcock wrote to Charles Williams and traveled to Des Arc to meet him, Williams agreed to allow the FWP to make a typescript copy of his manuscript. Charles Williams’ I’se Much A Man consists of 11 chapters contained in 70 typed pages (George Rawick 1979). As Babcock stated, “I have been a book reviewer and have been more or less interested in finds, such as Trader Horn. I think the life story of this ex-slave, as told by himself, is one of the most unusual human nature documents I know anything about” (Babcock to Alsberg, December 14, 1937).

During 1937 and 1938, Williams and the FWP director exchanged letters about publishing the bibliography. Williams’ letters provide additional background and insight as well as independent verification of the language used in the autobiography. Like the manuscript, the letters were written on small notebook pages and large discarded ledger sheets. In this discussion I will compare the discourse and language features in the manuscript and the letters.

Little is known about Williams beyond what he tells us in his manuscript, but he shares many details as each chapter describes episodes concerning his background, family, education, or work experiences. Whether he describes his mother’s advice, his wife and their son, or his work as an alligator hunter and a tax collector, Williams employs strategies of politeness and indirectness in his Southern interactional style (Johnstone 1999: 509) with his readers. Especially in his letters to Bernice Babcock, Williams uses honorific address. One issue, then, is how does Williams “connect the cultural discourses” with facts about his discourse in his autobiography and his letters?
I will include features of interest such as variation in the use of the does + Verb construction (“I does have no rembrance…”), the possessive, perfective I am (“I am carry you erway…), and the irregular variation in the use of determiners. These features will be compared to the ex-slave recordings (Bailey, Maynor, and Cukor-Avila 1991; Myhill 1995), the WPA ex-slave narratives (Schneider 1997), and Wolfram’s (1996) study of perfective I am.

One characteristic that makes this document so linguistically rich is the interplay between features of the spoken and the written word. Reflecting both the print literacy conventions of the McGuffey readers and the conventions for abbreviation in business writing, Williams’ manuscript provides valuable insights into the nature of his education, his perception of the written word, and how he “learnt to shove a pen.”


Bailey, Guy, Natalie Maynor and Patricia Cukor?Avila, eds. 1991. The Emergence of Black English. Amsterdam: John Benjamins.
Babcock, Bernice. Letter to Henry G. Alsberg, December 14, 1937.
Johnstone, Barbara. 1999. “Uses of Southern-Sounding Speech by Contemporary Texas Women.” Journal of Sociolinguistics, 4: 505-522.
Myhill, John. 1995. "The Use of Features of Present-Day AAVE in the Ex-Slave Recordings." American Speech 70: 115-147.
Rawick, George P. 1979. The American Slave. Vol. 1. Supplement, Series 2. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press.
Schneider, Edgar W. 1997. "Earlier Black English Revisited." In Language Variety in the South Revisited, edited by Cynthia Bernstein, Thomas Nunnally, and Robin Sabino, 35-50. Tuscaloosa, AL: University of Alabama Press.
Wolfram, Walt. 1996. "Delineation and Description in Dialectology: The Case of Perfective I'm in Lumbee English." American Speech 71: 5-26.

Return to top of Abstracts


Session 6aFRI : Friday, April 16, 12:10-12:30, Ferguson Theater

Some Aspects of Verbal Morphology inTimucua and the Gulf Languages

George Aaron Broadwell
State University of New York at Albany

Timucua is an extinct language isolate, formerly spoken in Florida. Its connections to other Native American languages are unclear. The only modern discussion of Timucua is that of Granberry (1993), who suggests that Timucua has an origin as a South American creole.
In this paper, I outline several aspects of the verbal morphology which are not described in Granberry (1993). I will argue that, properly appreciated, they cast doubt on the South American creole hypothesis and instead point to a relationship with Gulf, the family of indigenous Southeastern languages that includes Muskogean, Natchez, Tunica, Atakapa, and Chitimacha.
a.) There is a suffix -la which functions to mark assertions, particularly first person singular assertions, as shown in the following example.
O, haba-sota-la. ‘Yes, I accept him.’
yes accept-vsuff-la
I show from an examination of a corpus of Timucua text that -la is statistically the most frequent marker of first person singular. It is striking, however, that -la is the only suffix in the system of person-markers in the language; all the others are prefixes.
b.) Granberry’s (1993) grammar of Timucua describes a system of person markers prefixed to the verb stem:
nihi ‘he dies’ chi-nihi ‘you die’
die you-die
However, based on re-examination of the 17th century Timucua texts, I will describe a second person marking pattern in which the person marker occurs between the verb stem and a following suffix:
nihi-qe ‘if he dies’ nihi-chi-qe ‘if you die’
die-if die-you-if
The auxiliaries which seem to serve as hosts for person markers include auxiliary -ka, interrogative -o, and conditional -kwa/-kwe ‘if’.
c.) The Timucua corpus contains a very frequent suffix -ta which serves to link verbs sharing the same subject together, as in the following example:
Biro-leqe uqua-ta pueno ni-ca-la.
male-nsuff take-ss come 1-aux-la
‘I bring males.’ (Lit. ‘I take males and come’)
Examination of the corpus shows that a number of the most frequent verbs show shortened forms before this suffix. Thus mana ‘think, want’ and faye ‘go’ have the truncated forms man-ta ‘thinking, wanting’ and fa-ta ‘going’, in which a final vowel or syllable is deleted before this suffix.
All three of these aspects of the verbal morphology show similarities to verbal morphology in Gulf languages. In particular, I will argue the following:
a.) Muskogean, Tunica, and Atakapa all show person marking systems in which the first person singular is the only suffix in a system which is otherwise composed entirely of prefixes. This is an unusual pattern and not likely to have arisen independently in Timucua.
b.) Alternation between agreement on the main verb and agreement on an auxiliary is also found in Tunica, Natchez, and Proto-Muskogean (Haas 1946). Furthermore, at least one of the Timucua auxiliaries is identical to that reconstructed for Proto-Muskogean.
c.) Timucua -ta is strikingly similar to the Proto-Muskogean *-t ‘same-subject’ morpheme which links verbs together. Just as in Timucua, Proto-Muskogean must be reconstructed with a pattern in which a number of the most frequent verbs show truncated stems before *-t.
Taken together, these three aspects of the verbal morphology show similarities to the morphology of the Gulf languages that are strongly suggestive of a genetic relationship between Timucua and Gulf. This evidence thus support the proposals of Swanton (1929), Haas (1951), and Crawford (1988) for genetic links between Timucua and Gulf, while casting doubt on a South American connection.

Return to top of Abstracts


Session 6bFRI : Friday, April 16, 12:10-12:30, Ferguson Forum

Constructing Identity:
The Use of Southern Grammatical Features to Create Community Persona

Allison Burkette
University of Mississippi

Interviews conducted with twelve members of a close-knit Appalachian community reveal dramatic differences in terms of each individual’s use of Southern grammatical features. This paper explores possible explanations for those differences, focusing on speakers’ attitudes toward the community’s impending ‘progress’ and individual community roles. In terms of sociolinguistic variables, the ‘usual suspects’ (i.e. age, sex, education level) will be evaluated in terms of their explanatory value, yet preliminary data analysis suggests that these explanations do not account for the wide range of intra-group variation. In fact, the speaker characteristic that is most helpful in casting light on motivations for using (or not using) Southern grammatical features is the speaker’s attitude toward the social and economic changes taking place in this small Blue Ridge town.
Though a number of other southern grammatical features will be mentioned briefly (such as intensifying right, irregular prepositions, and inceptive got to), this paper concentrates on two specific grammatical features: a-prefixing and non-standard past tense. The use of each of these features will be outlined in detail. As such, the context in which these two features occurs will be closely examined – especially the relationship between the occurrence of these features and their location within narrative passages.
Three speakers in particular, all of them older women, set the pattern of traditional community grammatical feature use. The other speakers, all of whom share close social and familial ties with these three women, use Southern features to a lesser (and varying) degree. An analysis of the use of Southern grammatical features indicates that speakers who more closely adhere to the ‘traditional’ community attitudes and viewpoints are the ones whose speech most closely ‘matches’ that of the older, core community members, especially in passages that relate some sort of ‘family story.’
Thus, this work demonstrates the manner in which specific Southern grammatical features project information about how the individual speakers perceive themselves in relation to the community, what role(s) speakers undertake within their community and how each speaker feels about the changes taking place in this small, rural, mountain town.

Return to top of Abstracts


Session 10a: Saturday, April 17, 11:20-11:40, Ferguson Theater

Variation in Southern trade names: Regionalisms that one may can own

Ronald R. Butters
Duke University

According to federal law, some words may actually be owned for purposes of trade if they meet certain legal standards. One important condition is that words that are GENERIC may NOT be owned as trademarks, and words that are merely DESCRIPTIVE may be claimed proprietarily only if they have developed SECONDARY MEANING. The legal definition of a GENERIC word is similar to that found in linguistics, but not identical: a GENERIC word is one that merely names the kind of thing, rather than the thing itself, e.g., laundry detergent is GENERIC, whereas Tide is not GENERIC. A descriptive term simply describes a significant aspect of the product or service; SECONDARY MEANING is semantic association that does not, on the basis of noncommercial meaning alone, relate a product or service to a particular company, but is an association that has developed within commerce between the term and the commercial source. For example, one might argue that Monopoly is descriptive of a game the object of which is to simulate a monopoly, but that the term has come to be recognized as a trademark nonetheless through advertising and use by the public.
Regional terms in general—and Southernisms in particular—sometimes function as trademarks, and the status as regionalisms or putative regionalism complicates the determination of GENERIC and DESCRIPTIVE status. This paper examines two such Southernisms, the word opry (as in Grand Old Opry and Carolina Opry) and the faux Southernism Kiss my grits! (the subject of a lawsuit between the Hershey Candy Company (manufacturer of Hershey’s Kisses) and the Kiss My Grits Candy Company of Charleston, SC).

Return to top of Abstracts