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From Levi Self in Nashville, this sighting of a car in a (public) parking lot he uses:

Self wrote: "The first I ever even heard this spoken was in an Akon rap song a couple years ago." Ah, but this is an old friend.

Some Language Log postings on Ima, in various spellings:

ML, 7/3/05: I’ma (link), citing Labov et al. 1968 –- A Study of the Nonstandard English of Negro and Puerto Rican Speakers in New York City — on I’ma as an immediate future, and with speculations about the source of the form; there are other mentions in the AAVE literature, for example in Dillard’s Black English (1972), and the treatment of the form as an immediate future is in the Wikipedia entry on AAVE, where it's represented in spelling as I'm a-. (Note: some white Southern speakers use the form, and it's spread from AAVE to somewhat wider use, probably via rap music.)

(Steven Poole on his Unspeak blog, 9/18/09, has a posting on how to spell the form.)

ML, 9/19/09: I’m a? (link)

ML, 5/14/10: I’ma stay with the youngsters (link)

[Added January 15th, another LLog posting:

ML, 6/25/11: Ask Language Log: Writing “gonna” or “going to” (link)

(with a number of reduced variants of I'm going to). Paul Kay in correspondence fleshes out a route to I'ma:

I agree that white southerners say I'm-a, including me I think. For me it's one of those David Stampe "divinity fudge" kind of things. [@ for shwa, G for engma. Stress can move around with meaning for the longer ones.]



[aim'g@n@] (standard gonna)

['aim@n@] (probably resyllabification, where m becomes the initial of the second syllable)

['aimn@] (probably m rejoins first syllable)


I suspect all of the above pronunciations are possible for me as a speaker and I'm pretty sure I've heard all of them. ]

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