Corpus evidence of anti-deletion in Black South African English noun phrases: testing the extent to which Black South Africans restore elements of the underlying structure of English noun phrases
Botha, Yolande Vanessa
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Black South African English (BSAfE) is now generally regarded as an independent variety of English rather than an interlanguage on the way to Standard English (Van Rooy, 2008: 274, 300 and in this issue). Mesthrie (2006: 115) demonstrates that many of the characteristic features of BSAfE can be ascribed to the overarching tendency of anti-deletion. Anti-deletion is a term coined by Mesthrie (2006: 115) to encompass three kinds of linguistic phenomena that are the opposite of deletion in generative analyses of English, namely undeletion, non-deletion and insertion. Undeletion ‘restores an element that is often assumed to be deleted or to have an empty node in generative analyses of English’ (Mesthrie, 2006: 125), e.g. She made me to go (Mesthrie, 2006: 111) in which the infinitive marker to is undeleted. Insertion entails the addition of grammatical morphemes, e.g. can be able (Mesthrie, 2006: 139–40). After examination of a number of undeletion phenomena in interviews with 12 mesolectal speakers of BSAfE, Mesthrie (2006: 129) arrives at the following principle: ‘If a grammatical feature can be deleted in [Standard English], it can be undeleted in [Black South African English] mesolect.’ He points out that such undeletions are not mandatory and adds the following corollary to the principle of undeletion: ‘If a grammatical feature can be deleted in StE, it can also be (variably) deleted in [Black South African English] mesolect, at a lower rate of frequency’ (Mesthrie, 2006: 129).
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