Volume 27, Issue 2
  • ISSN 0920-9034
  • E-ISSN: 1569-9870
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Modern Sea Island Gullah is unusual among Atlantic English-based creoles in reportedly not having no as a preverbal negator, ẽ or ɛ̃ ‘ain’t’ being used instead, and doubts have been expressed about any earlier extensive use of no. However, important authentic evidence of its earlier use is provided by the 1838–39 journal of Fanny Kemble (1863) and by letters written during Northern occupation in the Civil War. Among literary writers, Simms (1839/1845) used no 22% of the time vs. 8% for ain’t, while no is near-categorical in Harris (1881), though rare in Jones (1888), and absent in Christensen (1892) and Gonzales (1922). Turner (1949) recorded preverbal no co-occurring with another signature creole marker, Subject me, suggesting code-switching to a basilectal grammar. Hancock (1987) also found no in Gullah. The dominant use of preverbal no in Texas Afro-Seminole (Hancock 2006) could reflect its earlier greater prevalence in the Sea Islands. The evidence raises the possibility that Gullah speakers’ practice of avoiding basilectal use with outside interlocutors (the ‘observer’s paradox’) may have obscured recognition of its modern survival.


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  • Article Type: Research Article
Keyword(s): basilect; code-switching; Gullah; Joel Chandler Harris; negation; Texas Afro-Seminole
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