chapter  13
Race, Class, and Linguistic Camouflage
Remote Past BEEN and the Divergence Debate Revisited 1
WithTracey L. Weldon
Pages 18

In the ongoing debate over the relationship between African American and European American varieties, middle class speakers have been largely overlooked, because of the assumption that mainstream assimilation is their norm. However, understanding how linguistic divergence is realized among such groups could inform this debate in important ways. Camouflaged features offer a unique perspective, because their distinctiveness tends to go undetected, even among those who use them. And yet, as demonstrated in John R. Rickford’s seminal 1975 study of remote past BEEN, there is often a persistent racial divide in their use and interpretation. In this chapter, I replicate some aspects of Rickford’s study to determine the extent to which this divide has persisted and to explore middle class speakers’ familiarity with this feature. The results challenge the view that mainstream integration is necessarily a barrier to linguistic distinctiveness or a threat to the continuation of linguistic divergence along racial lines.