Linguistic Diversity in Appalachia: The Case of Negative Auxiliary Inversion

This study investigates how American English speakers from within and outside the Appalachian region interpret negative auxiliary inversion (NAI). Previously observed in Appalachian and other English varieties, NAI has surface syntax similar to yes-no questions, but receives a declarative interpretation (e.g., didn’t everybody watch Superbowl 53, meaning ‘not everybody watched’). Previous work shows that NAI is associated with a reading in which some but not all people participated in an event, as opposed to one in which no one participated. Results from an interpretation task revealed that Appalachian participants tended to obtain the not all and not the no one reading for NAI. In contrast, non-Appalachian participants’ interpretations exhibited greater inter- and intraspeaker variability. Appalachian participants with more not all interpretations reported positive attitudes toward NAI use, and they also distinguished between attested and unattested syntactic subject types (e.g. everybody, many people, *few people) in a naturalness rating task. Appalachian participants with more no one interpretations had more negative attitudes toward NAI use, and made no distinction between subject types. These results highlight how individuals from Appalachia interpret NAI differently than individuals not from this region, and suggest that within a non-mainstream speaker group, language attitudes may impact semantic interpretation.



Work Title Linguistic Diversity in Appalachia: The Case of Negative Auxiliary Inversion
Open Access
  1. Frances Blanchette
  2. Carrie Neal Jackson
  1. interpretation, language attitudes, scope, syntax-semantics interface
License In Copyright (Rights Reserved)
Work Type Article
Publication Date August 2020
Deposited March 01, 2021




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