"baby mama" vis-a-vis "baby's mama"

Benjamin Zimmer bgzimmer at BABEL.LING.UPENN.EDU
Fri May 2 19:49:59 UTC 2008

On Fri, May 2, 2008 at 3:16 PM,  <RonButters at aol.com> wrote:
>  It may be a small point, but it should be kept in mind that the absence of a
>  overt possessive marker in AAVE is variable, not categorical (depending on
>  the age, geographical location, and social positioning of the speaker). The
>  assertion that "the right way to compare the grammars is just to see them as
>  having different ways for expressing a syntactic relationship" is true only for
>  those speakers of varieties of AAVE who have no possessive overt possessive
>  marker [z] whatever.

And it might also vary in the speech of a given speaker, based on
contextual factors. In the 1950 R&B song "Bald Head", Roy Byrd (later
better known as Professor Longhair) sings the chorus "Where's that
girl hair?" several times. But elsewhere in the song he refers to "a
good friend of mine's wife." (I'm sure Wilson will correct me if I've
misheard the lyrics!) Not sure what the constraints here might be --
perhaps Byrd's use of the overt marker was triggered by that
particular type of possessive construction. Arnold Zwicky talked about
the construction in this Language Log post ("A friend of mine's pet


--Ben Zimmer

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

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