Charles Doyle cdoyle at UGA.EDU
Mon Aug 18 11:52:20 UTC 2008

Until reading Will's response, I would have supposed that Wilson's construction IS class-specific among Southern whites.  Is it possible that social "classes" in the South are themselves poorly defined (where the upper crust are genteel paupers and the Snopses run the banks)?

--Charlie, blue-collar Southern white (formerly?)

---- Original message ----
>Date: Sun, 17 Aug 2008 16:10:30 -0400
>From: William Salmon <william.salmon at YALE.EDU>
>Subject: Re: AUX+NEG-Fronting
>> For a very long time, I was under tthe impression that sentences like:
>> "She's so mean and evil that _can't anybody stay with her_,"
>My grandmother would say this. She is 90ish, Caucasian, from rural South Texas, and middle class.
>Among younger generations I would expect to hear this in emphatic or humorous contexts. I'm sure I've probably used it myself.
>> once spoken by my mother, was standard English. When  I was in my mid-thirties, Haj Ross happened to mention, in the course of a "Baby Syntax" (= "Synntax 101" in M.I.T. Linguistics-Dept. jargon) lecture, that this kind of thing was peculiar to Black English. This made me wonder whether it was also a feature of General Southern English.
>> However, I was never able to find any white Southerners, though I quizzed speakers from Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, and North Carolina. But, no one seemed to be able to say, with any certainty. Thanks to the "Blue-Collar Comedians" series on Comedy Central, I know for certain that blue-collar Southern whites, at least, *do* use this bit of syntactic structure.
>> So, I'm idly wondering, is this a class thing among Southern whites? (It isn't, among blacks. I use it and I don't come from the country or from the streets. The only class distinction is "can't *anybody*" as opposed to "can't *nobody*": "Can't any cat get into a coop.") Or was my sample population simply too small - perhaps ten people - and too narrow - all grad students in linguistics?
>> -Wilson
>> --
>> All say, "How hard it is that we have to die"---a strange complaint to come from the mouths of people who have had to live.
>> -----
>> -Mark Twain

The American Dialect Society -

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