This Virtual Conference will also be shown in room 104
Reception to Follow, on 2nd floor
Title: Re-examining the Origins and Development of African American Language in Georgia
Abstract: Various linguistic theories regarding the origins of the English-lexifier creole Gullah Geechee have been proposed, ranging from (i) its descent from a Barbadian creole purportedly spoken in the 17th century (Cassidy 1980, 1986a, 1986b, 1994), to (ii) its divergence and subsequent creolization from a metropolitan English variety acquired by enslaved Africans brought to South Carolina from Barbados (Hancock 1980), to (iii) its divergence from an earlier form of African American English via basilectalization (Mufwene 1993), to (iv) its representing an earlier stage in the development of African American English (Stewart 1968). In accounting for Gullah Geechee’s spread to coastal regions of Georgia and parts of Florida, however, these theories tend to downplay evidence that local conditions in these areas were also conducive to the development of new contact varieties, thus highlighting the need for further research into the different time periods in the development of African American Language. With its rapid change in population demographics along the coast, together with more gradual developments in some of the inland areas, as well as the existence of large-scale and small-scale plantations and subsistence farming, Georgia represented a microcosm of the conditions that resulted in African American Language development in the American colonies as a whole. The significance of Georgia and the varieties spoken by its early Black inhabitants is underscored by Rickford’s assertion that “nearly half of …[Georgia’s] Blacks in th[e] critical founding period may have been creole speakers,” and his subsequent claim that “by the ante-bellum period, Georgia itself may have been a factor in the wider dissemination of creole-like varieties'' (1997: 328). This talk re-examines the diversity of plantation types and the varying social relations among Blacks, Whites, and Native Americans in colonial Georgia to shed light on the historical development of African American Language. Moody (2011, 2015) highlights the wide range of variation found in contemporary African American Language in Georgia, especially evident in the coastal region. Here, speakers use linguistic features associated with African American English (e.g., stressed BIN and disapproval markers come and gon), those identified as characterizing Gullah Geechee (e.g., first-singular zero copula, aspectual duh/da, and postnominal pluralizer dem), as well as features that have not been described for either variety. In this talk, I argue that past variation, both social and linguistic, can explain much of the linguistic diversity found in contemporary African American Language in Georgia. Further, I suggest that a closer examination of the settlement history and language contact outcomes in Georgia has the potential to offer a broader, more comprehensive explanation for the origins and development of African American Language more generally.
Bio: Simanique Moody earned her Ph.D. in Linguistics from New York University and currently teaches in the English Department and the Linguistics Program at The City University of New York, Brooklyn College. Prior to working at Brooklyn College, Dr. Moody spent seven years at Leiden University in the Netherlands, where she was a tenured lecturer of Linguistics and International Studies. Dr. Moody’s research examines language contact, linguistic variation, and language change in African American Language. One of her areas of expertise includes the grammatical and phonological description of African American English and its connection to Gullah Geechee. Dr. Moody is also engaged in research to develop and implement methods to help students acquire standardized linguistic varieties without devaluing their home language and culture. Dr. Moody has conducted fieldwork on language contact in the United States, Haiti, Guyana, Côte d'Ivoire, and the Netherlands. Her research has been published in Language, The Oxford Handbook of African American Language, and English Today. Outside of academia, she works to increase access to educational opportunities for children in northeastern Haiti.