Coulee: French (valley, creek)
Arapajo grass: Native American (type of grass)
Serape: Spanish (pocho, blanket)
Schnickelfritz: German (mischievious child)
Cuartel: Spanish (barracks)
Pumpernickel: German (bread)
Zwieback: German (sweet bread)
Levee: French (dam)
Many words that were borrowed into English long ago are more difficult to identify with regards to language of origin; this is because, as opposed to recently borrowed words, such as “taco” or “tsunami,” words like “levee” are used so commonly in English that they have become engrained as English words. Others were difficult to identify the meaning, despite the ease at identifying the language of origin. For example, schnicklefritz sounds German, due to common German consonant clusters (schn-) and affixed (-fritz); however, the ties of words like this to specific communities make it likely for words like schnicklefritz (and thus it’s meaning(s)) to be rare or absent in many communities.
Chapter 2 | Exercises
coulee, lariat, serape, schnickelfritz, cuartel, pumpernickel, zwieback, levee, rathskeller, pirogue
Do you know the meanings of all of the above words?
Which ones give you the most difficulty? Why?
Coulee: French (valley, creek)
Do you consider these various communities to be “speech communities”? Why or why not?
What is the most narrowly defined, and the most broadly defined, community in your experience?
Below is an example of some different levels of communities and social interactions. You may use this model to make your own!
Communities of Practice
- This class is even badder than the last one.
- Joe helped hisself to more mashed potatoes.
- He just don’t understand me.
- Kate brung me a present.
- The deers ate all of our vegetables in the garden.
- She weren’t there yesterday.
- That’s the beautifulest cat I’ve ever seen.
Read the sentences in List A and, for each one, write a sentence explaining how you would interpret the sentence. Be sure to mention when you think the event is happening. We will return to these sentences later.
My mom be working.
He be absent.
The students be talking in class.
Next, examine the data in List B. This list contains the results from a forced choice test similar to the a‐ prefixing test, where speakers were asked to use their linguistic intuitions to determine which sentence sounded better. The data are from 35 fifth graders in Baltimore, Maryland. All these students were speakers of AAE. Notice that in each case the students had a definite preference for one sentence over the other. This indicated that there is a linguistic pattern guiding their choices. Examine the data to figure out what determines when a speaker of AAE can use be and when they cannot.
LIST B: Number of Baltimore fifth graders who chose each answer
- a. (32) They usually be tired when they come home.
b. (3) They be tired right now.
- a. (31) When we play basketball, she be on my team.
b. (4) The girl in the picture be my sister.
- a. (4) James be coming to school right now.
b. (31) James always be coming to school.
- a. (3) My ankle be broken from the fall.
b. (32) Sometimes my ears be itching.
Write a rule that describes this pattern. Examine your translations of the sentences in List A. Do you have linguistic intuitions about this feature?
Now that you understand when AAE speakers use be, use your rule to predict whether or not a speaker of AAE would use the sentences in List C. Write Y for Yes if the sentence follows the dialect pattern, and N for No if it does not. For the ones where be does not fit, explain why.
LIST C: Applying the rule
- ___The students always be talking in class.
- ___The students don’t be talking right now.
- ___Sometimes the teacher be early for class.
- ___At the moment the teacher be in the lounge.
- ___My name be Bill.
- They done their homework last night.
- They done what they said they would do.
- She was done with her homework.
- Are you done with your homework yet?
- They done ate all of the food in the refrigerator.
- They done finished all of their homework.
- They done did their homework last night.
- They done done their homework last night.
Do you think that the use of done in sentences like They done ate all of the food in the refrigerator involves a unique, grammaticalized use of done as an auxiliary or helping verb? Why or why not? If so, what do you think its distinctive meaning is?
1. Past tense verb
2. Past tense verb
3. Past participle
4. Past tense verb
5. Helping verb
6. Helping verb
7. Helping verb
8. Helping verb and Past participle
In numbers 5-8, the use of “done” involves a unique, grammaticalized use of done as an auxiliary/helping verb, which serves to indicate completion of the verb following it (e.g. “ate” or “finished”). Number 8 has both the traditional and grammaticalized versions of the verb “done”.
Are there any terms that would be known by local residents but not necessarily by those outside the area? For example, are there particular lexical items that might denote cultural activities or other aspects of the lifestyles typical of the community?
How might these terms contribute to the notion that every community seems to have its own dialect.