Appalachian English—-a-prefixing

Linguistics 101—People & Their Language Fall 2018 Assignment #2 Bhatt, Holladay & Hucklebridge Assigned: September 14 Due: by noon, September 21 NOTE: Read the general directions and ALL parts of the assignment very carefully. The goal of this assignment is to provide an opportunity for you to explore unconscious knowledge and linguistic description from the perspective of data. General Directions Presentation: Your assignment must be typed or NEATLY written (in black or standard blue ink), and it must reflect YOUR OWN careful consideration of the issues. The “neatly written” option is included because I understand that you might run into technical/computer or printer problems owing to circumstances beyond your control. Because you may have to write your assignment unexpectedly, make sure you give yourself ample time to complete your work. Handwriting final versions of assignments takes time because of the care and effort you have to put forth to avoid mistakes that are not so easy to correct without the proper correction tape/fluid products. In addition, you have to be in the right environment to write neatly. For instance, it is difficult to write acceptable final versions while you are in a moving vehicle or while you are waiting for the bus. If you must write your assignment, please write on only the front sides of loose leaf paper (no torn edges). Assignments that do not meet these requirements will not be graded. Sharing answers: It is acceptable for you to talk with your classmates about this assignment, but you must write your responses separately. You may not share answers such that your assignment and your classmate’s assignment are identical or near identical. In cases in which we spot identical assignments, our first step is to talk to all of the students involved and proceed from there. Getting judgments: Non-native English speakers who are uncertain about the pronunciations of particular English words should feel free to ask other speakers about pronunciations. Due date: This assignment is due in class on Monday, February 5, 2018. See the syllabus for the policy on late assignments. Background and Examples You know a great deal about your native language. Now suppose I asked you to write down all you know about your native language in a manual that could be used to teach others to speak it. Soon after you begin the task, you would probably find that although you know perfectly well how to speak your native language, you are not consciously aware of just how much you know. As we might guess, this is the case with Appalachian English (AppE) speakers.1 They know a great deal about their native English variety, but they don’t think twice about it; they just talk! For instance, AppE speakers attach the prefix a- to the front of a word ending in –ing, and they know a great deal about where this a-prefixed word can occur, but many AppE speakers have never thought about that information. (Let’s put a hyphen (-) after a- to remind us that something follows the prefix.) Field workers who were studying language use in Appalachia and other Appalachian speakers working with them became interested in the a- prefix in sentences such as He went a-hunting. We can paraphrase the sentence as ‘He went hunting.’ in

1Appalachian English is spoken in areas in Southern Appalachia (e.g., areas in Tennessee and Kentucky).


general American English. The field workers and other AppE speakers spent a great deal of time listening to AppE speakers, reading old stories that included a-prefix, and asking many questions. What they found was interesting. AppE speakers accepted the use of a- prefix in some places in sentences but not in others. They all had very clear intuitions about good uses of a- prefix and horrible uses of a- prefix. AppE speakers agreed that the sentences flagged with a ☺ were good, and those flagged with a ” were bad, so they laughed when they heard sentences such as (1b), (7b), and (10b) below, for instance: Data Set 1: Function of words as different parts of speech

1. a) ☺She was a-building a house. b) “A-building houses is hard work.

2. a) ☺He went a-hunting. b) “He likes a-hunting. 3. a) ☺The child was a-charming the adults. b) “The child was very a-charming. 4. a) ☺He kept a-shocking the children. b) “The play was a-shocking. 5. a) ☺They were a-fishing this morning. b) “They thought a-fishing was boring. 6. a) ☺They go a-shopping on Saturdays. b) “The a-shopping is still fun here.

Hint: Pay attention to the part of speech or “role” the a-prefixed word is playing in the sentence. Data Set 2: Environment

7. a) ☺They make money a-building houses. b) “They make money by a-building houses.

8. a) ☺People can’t make enough money a-fishing. b) “People can’t make enough money from a-fishing.

9. a) ☺People destroy the beauty of the island a-littering b) “People destroy the beauty of the island through a-littering. Hint: Pay attention to the place in the sentence the a-prefixed word occurs or where it occurs in relation to other words. Data Set 3: Pronunciation (The accent mark indicates stress.)

10. a) ☺She was a-fóllowing the trail. b) “She was a-discóvering the trail. 11. a) ☺She was a-hóllering the chant. b) “She was a-repéating the chant. 12. a) ☺They were a-fíguring the change. b) “They were a-forgétting the change. Hint: Pay attention to the stress pattern of the a-prefixed word. AppE speakers have clear intuitions about a-prefixed sentences just as general American English speakers have clear intuitions about the sentences ☺He is jogging. and “He is knowing. Of course, we know that AppE is not taught in schools—not even in schools in Appalachia—so the speakers couldn’t have learned this information in schools!


Your Assignment Part 1 After studying the sentences in Data Sets 1, 2, and 3, give an account (in your own words) of the data in EACH Data Set, explaining where the AppE speakers 1) allow and 2) do not allow a-prefixing. Include two examples from each Data Set that support your points. Use from three (3) to four (4) complete sentences (ADHERE TO THE SENTENCE LIMIT) in your clear and concise account of the sentences in EACH data set, which must be in the following format: Generalization about Data Set 1 AppE speakers use a-prefixing when the a-prefixed word…. but not when it is….The examples in (1a) and (2a) both have…., and they are good. The examples in (1b) and (2b) are bad because… Generalization about Data Set 2 AppE speakers use a-prefixing when the a-prefixed word… but not when it is… The example in (8a) is good, but the one in … is not because… Generalization about Data Set 3 AppE speakers use a-prefixing when the a-prefixed word is… but not when it is… This is shown in the examples in (10) and (11)… (NOTE: You might be tempted to speculate about why AppE speakers use a-prefix while speakers of other varieties of English (e.g., general (or classroom) English, varieties of English spoken in Eastern Massachusetts, etc.) do not; however, we do not have sufficient information to address that issue, and it is not relevant to the assignment. You might also be tempted to say that AppE speakers use incorrect English, but you must resist the temptation to address the data on that level.) Part 2 In one paragraph, explain the approach you have taken in completing Part 1 of this assignment. That is, tell whether you have taken the “descriptive linguistics approach” or the “prescriptive grammar approach” to a-prefixing in AppE. Your paragraph, in which the first sentence is indented, MUST consist of six (6) to nine (9) sentences. ADHERE TO THE SENTENCE LIMIT: • Sentence 1 introduces the main point or goal of the paragraph (e.g. “The goal of this

paragraph is to explain the approach I took in accounting for a-prefix.”). • Sentences 2-3/4 give a general overview of the two approaches. • Sentences 5-6/9 address the data (including clear examples) in relation to the

approach you have taken.