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15. Bare nouns in African American English (AAE)

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Abstract

Bare count (and mass) nouns, defined as nouns with no determiner or number suffix, occur in African American English, a partially restructured, noncreole language. It is noteworthy that bare nouns in AAE may take definite and generic interpretations. Bare nouns with defi nite interpretations were previously believed to occur in creoles outside the Americas only. However, these bare nouns occur in Palenquero, a creole spoken in Columbia. Bare nouns with generic interpretations are common across creoles but, interestingly, do not occur in non-African American dialects of English in the U.S. Bare count nouns with a definite interpretation are limited to subject position in fi nite sentences. This suggests that the bare noun may in fact contain a null determiner bound by a possibly null sentence topic, as might be the case in some creole languages. However, this analysis does not hold for a bare singular in the scope of negation. In such cases, we could assume that the null determiner is bound by a NEG/existential operator.

References

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