"baby mama" does not mean what they thought it means

Mark Mandel thnidu at GMAIL.COM
Thu May 1 00:48:51 UTC 2008

On Wed, Apr 30, 2008 at 4:35 PM, Arnold M. Zwicky
<zwicky at csli.stanford.edu> wrote:
> On Apr 30, 2008, at 7:56 AM, Marc Velasco wrote:
>  > So it seems semantically settled.
>  >
>  > But what about construction?
>  >
>  > Baby mama is derived from the possessive "baby's mama" no?
>  well, it corresponds to standard "baby's mama".  there's probably
>  nothing to be gained by seeing  a possessor NP like "baby" in "baby
>  mama" as synchronically derived from possessor NP+'s.  you could just
>  as easily argue that the derivation goes in the opposite direction,
>  with possessor NP+'s derived from bare possessor NP by the addition of
>  a suffix.  what i think is the right way to compare the grammars is
>  just to see them as having different ways for expressing a syntactic
>  relationship -- in this case, the relationship between an NP
>  determiner and the head N of the whole NP (= NP + N).

[and much more]

To make explicit a point that arnold seems to assume is already clear,
"baby mama" comes from African-American Vernacular English / AAVE /
Black English / BE. It is not standard American English. It is now
fairly common in slang or colloquial general (i.e., white) American
English, but usually with a clear allusion to its origins. This is the
context of his references to sociolinguistics and language varieties.

Mark Mandel

The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

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