A usage-based account for the historical reflexes of
ain’t in AAE
This paper is a comparative and historical study of the grammatical status of
auxiliary ain‘t in African-American English (AAE). Drawing
on the representation of AAE speakers in works of fiction from the 19th
century and present-day, the paper confirms that the broad range of uses of
auxiliary ain‘t are nearly all available in historical AAE.
The study also presents data that certain of the uses (specifically those
not documented or only infrequently documented for non-AAE varieties) have
increased in fictive representations of AAE. The analysis shows that the
increase is led by a specific verb type (and even a specific verb) and thus
suggests an exemplar-based increase and extension of ain‘t.
Moreover, the paper also shows a formal morphosyntactic convergence of
several uses of auxiliary ain‘t and motivates that
convergence through exemplar merging, suggesting an association of that
merged morphosyntactic form with sociolinguistic identity.
- 2.Linguistic status of ain’t in English overall
- 2.1Distribution of ain’t in AAE
- 3.Method and sources
- 6.1Present-tense ain’t
- 6.2Underdetermined ain’t
- 6.3Undetermination and linguistic complexity
- 7.The divergence hypothesis and usage-based grammar: A conclusion