Present-day nonstandard features in Colonial New England

Adrian Pablé (University of Berne), Radoslaw Dylewski (Adam Mickiewicz University, Poznań)

Many of the vernacular grammatical features described for Southern American English (e.g. Wolfram & Schilling-Estes 1998; Wright 2004) were equally present in the traditional New England dialect, as transpires from the records of the Linguistic Atlas of New England (Kurath 1939-1943) on the one hand, and from fictional dialect portrayals on the other. In our paper we would like to trace the history of these features in colonial New England speech, that is at a time when most of them were not subject to social evaluation yet. Our data come from the corpus consisting of three seventeenth century sources containing a considerable number of court records with a speech-reflecting quality (i.e. trial protocols, witness accounts, etc.). These sources are the Suffolk Records , the Witchcraft Annals , and, finally, the Salem Witchcraft Trials (1692). Among the features of interest are 'indicative' finite be , non-standard was/were , non-standard don't , plural verbal -s , the demonstrative them used adjectively, unmarked plurals, subject relative marker deletion, etc. As our list of features makes clear, very few of the grammatical vernacular features imported from the British Isles are confined to a specific regional variety of American English, despite dialectologists' attempts at suggesting the contrary.


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