Theiling Online    Sitemap    Conlang Mailing List HQ   

USAGE: American dialectology [was Re: Norwegian languages]

From:Thomas R. Wier <trwier@...>
Date:Saturday, August 31, 2002, 3:47
Quoting Arthaey Angosii <arthaey@...>:

> Emaelivpahr Thomas R. Wier: > >You have obviously not listened to any of these "accents". :) > > I've listened to people with accents from Georgia, Wisconsin, Texas, and > New York. (Also people from Nevada, Colorado, and southern California, but > I didn't hear any noticeable accent as compared to northern California.) > I've never heard anyone in the States speaking English that I couldn't > understand.
As I alluded to before, you also have to consider that many are bi- and tridialectal and so you won't hear the oddities of their native dialect unless they're around people who remind them of home. People tell me all the time that I don't "sound like a Texan", and yet that's partly because with a few exceptions that I maintain for their usefulness (a distinct second person plural pronoun, some lexical distinctions the standard doesn't make, etc.), I switch to my more standard dialect in the presence of people who aren't from home.
> (However, when I was in Spain I overheard a couple speaking and > I didn't realize until halfway through the conversation that it was English > because they had such a strong accent -- Scottish, perhaps. I'm not sure.)
Politics aside, the level of intelligibility between Scots and any kind of standard English is quite low. The same applies to several dialects south of the border in England, too (e.g., those that still use "thou")
> >or China. I live in an area in which many African-Americans > >live, and a large number of them speak the so-called African- > >American Vernacular English. > > (Is "ebonics" no longer PC? I don't pay much attention to PCness, so I may > have easily missed the memo. :P )
AFAICT, "Ebonics" was a politicized term right from its inception. It was always attached to a particular political agenda or set of agendas, and for that reason sociolinguists who study the speech of Africa Americans tend to use AAVE, however unwieldy it might be.
> I've listened to them too, but I always > felt that it was more a subset of slang that I didn't know, similar to a > non-geek listening to a bunch of computer users talking about techincal > stuff. I've seen people's eyes glaze over at some heavy duty techno-mumbo > jumbo. :)
Of course, like most Americans, African Americans are frequently bidialectal. So unless you become an "insider" to AA communities, it's likely that you won't hear the dialect in its full form, but rather an Umgangssprache thereof. (You'll note that in my anecdote, the couple spoke as they did when they thought they were speaking among themselves, and shifted their speech style when that circumstance was felt to have changed.)
> >Your opinion of America "having no dialects" is true only for the > >Western half or so > > Perhaps that is the trouble, then, since I'm from California and most of my > traveling has been in the western US. > > >travel along the East Coast, there are *lots* of regionalisms > >present. One vivid one that comes to mind, present in parts of > >the Carolinas, is the idiom "it come up a cloud", meaning "there's > >going to be a thunderstorm". > > I didn't realize the east coast spoke significantly differently than the > west. I retract my generalizations and confine them to the west coast. :)
Oh yes. This same friend who told me this, whose North Carolinian accent is still discernible in his standardizing speech, also grew up using "be" as a fully inflected form, somewhat like AAVE, and <ain't> as a negative copula. I've only heard him speaking the Umgangssprache, and even that's quite distinct from dialects elsewhere. ========================================================================= Thomas Wier Dept. of Linguistics "Nihil magis praestandum est quam ne pecorum ritu University of Chicago sequamur antecedentium gregem, pergentes non qua 1010 E. 59th Street eundum est, sed qua itur." -- Seneca Chicago, IL 60637