Oral narrative and tense in urban Bahamian Creole English

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This paper presents a quantitative analysis of past inflection in urban Bahamian Creole English. The variable has held a prominent position in the study of African American Vernacular English and Caribbean creoles, but whereas phonological, grammatical, and social factors have received much attention in this context, the influence of style or discourse type has rarely been noted. I analyze the formal and functional properties of three types of oral narrative obtained in sociolinguistic interviews. All of them, personal narrative as well as folktale and ‘generic’ narrative, show considerably lower inflection rates compared to the ‘chat’ mode but do so for different reasons; this, in turn, has repercussions for cross-variety comparisons, as samples usually differ in terms of their composition with regard to discourse type.


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