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14. NPs in aspectual <i>Be</i> constructions in African American English

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Abstract

This paper examines indefinite and bare plural NPs in aspectual <i>be</i> constructions in African American English (AAE). Aspectual <i>be</i> constructions are like simple tense generics in that they receive a habitual interpretation. The interpretation of singular indefinite subject NPs in aspectual <i>be</i> constructions depends on the type of predicate that occurs with the subject. On the other hand, bare plural subjects in aspectual <i>be</i> constructions exhibit a similar type of ambiguity associated with bare plurals in generics in English. Bare plurals with individual-level predicates in aspectual <i>be</i> constructions are unambiguous, but bare plurals with stage-level predicates are ambiguous between a habitual and existential habitual reading. It has been noted that NPs in AAE share some patterns with NPs in Creoles, but bare NPs in the two languages are interpreted differently. Analyzing NPs in aspectual <i>be</i> constructions provides an opportunity to learn more about the differences and similarities between the interpretation of NPs in AAE and Creoles.

References

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