[Colloquium] Silent Syntax in African American English for Linguists, Speech Language Pathologists and Teachers

This talk presents experimental evidence for constraints on possessive and copula optionality in African American English (AAE). This language variety allows for zero-marked realizations of the copula (Claire ø tall  for Claire is tall ), and possessive marking (Jamecia’ø book for Jamecia’s book). However, Labov (1969, 1972) observes that overt realizations are preferred clause finally (I like Claire’ø book, but you like Jamecia’s). Using data from 33 AAE speakers from the Mississippi Delta I experimentally confirm this observation and propose that the preference is related to requirements for ellipsis or complement deletion. The talk goes on to discuss why these findings about the syntactic structure of AAE are relevant and useful for K-12 educators, and how linguists and speech language pathologists can utilize such findings in teacher training programs to help educators best support AAE speakers in the classroom context.