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It's a morphosyntactic feature of African American English. Although to a speaker of Standard American English it appears to be a case of "asleep" vs "sleep", it’s actually the dropping (or the "zeroing") of the “ing” from the present progressive verb form “sleeping.” So, instead of saying “he is sleeping” the speaker says “he is sleep.”

Chris_M September 16, 2012, 7:56am

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