Date: Mon, 21 Nov 1994 13:03:44 -0500 From: PPATRICK[AT SYMBOL GOES HERE]GUVAX.BITNET Subject: Re: Recent Black English Sure, it's entirely possible that "HazVbitual BE" in AAVE doesn't mean Habitual anymore. But nobody's addressed the question that raises in my mind: what DOES it mean for Frazer's and other students? I think speculating on diachronic change or Labov's having gotten it influentially all wrong is silly until someone gives an example and says what it's supposed to mean (though both could possibly be true). Also, what exactly does Habitual mean here? I buy Sali's distinction in meaning between "He (ain't) lyin" and "He (don't) be lyin", (though using negative examples needlessly is always asking for trouble), but on my understanding they're both Habitual. (Also I hear both things on the street in DC with what seem to me the usual readings-- so far as an eavesdropper can tell!) I usually explain Habitual to students as involving two things: 1) repeated action (as in Sali's interpretation of the BE construction, which I gather he doesn't think IS habitual), and 2) lack of specificity. IE the speaker must be referring to something that happens more than once, and not referring to any particular case of it, if she is using a Habitual. Is that what others think it means? There's also the question of what is the norm from the speaker's point of view: the habitual is characteristic. This can be true even if it refers to something that isn't statistically the majority, as Sali's case ("I 0 stay with my sister, but I BE at my mother's most of the time") brings up. Be interested to hear more on this... --peter