Varieties of American English Part IV. Chapter 15 (pp. 261-275) Herndon, J.H. (1999) A Survey of modern grammars. (2nd ed.). Forth Worth, TX: Hartcourt College Publishers, Inc. Prepared by: Aníbal Muñoz Claudio Course: EDUC 8145 Professor: Dr. María A. Irizarry Date: November 1, 2005 Preview • Dialects of American English • Structuralists and dialect research • Transformationalist contributions to dialect research • Dialect Geography • Dialect Maps • Differences in pronunciation, vocabulary and verb tenses • Social Dialects • Black English Dialects • Spanish-Influenced English Noam Chomsky Born on Dec. 7, 1928 in Philadelphia PA Dialects of American English • On the assumption that no two speakers of English do so in precisely the same way, those who specialize in the study of dialect often point out that there are several hundred million versions of English grammar. • Such an individual version of English is called idiolect. • Group of speakers (separated from other groups by geographical , social, or economic barriers) develop language systems that are peculiar to that group and in contrast with other language habits of other groups. These differences are called dialects of a language. Regions in United States (dialects) English Around the World Spanish dialects Spanish in America Problems with Dialects • Structuralists vs. transformationalists • Conflictive methods of data gathering • Linguistic anarchy might be free of authoritarian value judgement, but it is also likely to be short on commonly held principles that allow for the effective communication of experience and ideas, which is after all, primary purpose of language. (Herndon, 1999) Structuralists and Dialect Research • Structuralists began by drawing lines of distinction between matters of dialect and usage. • Because there was so much confusion about this issue, some writers referred to the standard dialect, others to the standard usage, and still others avoid the problem by referring to something called “Standard English”. • Both dialect and usage referred to differences in language habits and practices among groups of people speaking the same languages. (Herndon, 1999) (Structuralist cont.) • For the linguist, dialect means all the language habits – pronunciation, vocabulary, and syntactic patterns –that distinguish one regional or social variety of language from another. • A dialect may be determined on the basis of geographical area, social distinction, or both. • Usage refers to the establishment of standards of correctness or appropriateness of language choices and the determination of preferred choices of specific items of pronunciation, vocabulary, or syntactic combination. • Correct usage is to language what rules of etiquette are to human behavior. (Herndon, 1999) Examples of English Dialects (pronunciation) Structuralists (cont.) • Linguistic researchers divided their data gathering into sections on pronunciation, morphology (including vocabulary), and syntax. • They began with investigation of language differences found in different geographical areas. • Data gathering was painstaking and slow. • Sorting it all out and mapping the results in precomputer days was equally painstaking and slow. • Social, educational, and economic barriers between groups of Americans were apparently far more influential in creating dialect groupings than were rivers, miles and mountain ranges. Transformationalist contributions to Dialect Research • By the time structuralists had established a position of respect for the field of dialect research, transformationalist theory had begun to catch the attention of many linguistic scholars. • The notion that a sentence either was or was not grammatical seemed closer to traditional thinking than to scientific objectivity, and many dialect specialists joined the structuralist ranks of resistance. • Then, when transformationalists began to speak in terms of levels of grammaticality and “similar but different grammars of a language,”dialect specialists began to adapt some transformational methods. (Herndon, 1999) Transformationalists (cont.) • The impact of transformationalist theory has been lessened by the fact that most differences among dialects in American English have to do with pronunciation and vocabulary differences. • Dialect study remains largely a matter of data gathering and classification –the strong suit of structuralist method. (Herndon, 1999) Transformationalist (cont.) • Researchers investigating the varieties of American English have set a number of different objectives for themselves: The major areas of emphasis have been: areas Dialect geography Study of Social dialects Studies aim at defining the most elusive of language varieties Deals with the different varieties of English to be found in various parts of the country Deal with differences found among groups of speakers set apart by differences in ethnic influences, educational background, economic situation, and social prestige Standard American English Dialect geography • In matters of dialect, as in many other areas of language study, the paths of the linguistic scholar and the teacher of English have often taken different directions. • While school textbooks, writers and teachers conformed to the prescriptions of authority, linguists were fascinated by the fact that dialect differences did exist and were interested in comparing and contrasting them. • Linguists had no desire to pin “good” and “bad” –or even “preferred” and “disapproved” –labels on any dialect. • Early projects (field work-data gathering) in European dialect geographers led to more advanced studies in the United States from East to West, which produced the The Linguistic Atlas of New England. (published in 1939) (Herndon, 1999) Dialect Maps • Exhaustive analysis of the data gathered for these studies exploded much of the myth and misconception about the speech habits of Americans. • Instead of the North-SouthWestern areas that had been generally accepted as accounting for any differences in the ways that Americans used their language, The Linguistic Atlas maps showed two heavy east-west dividing lines separating the eastern part of the United States into the Northern, Midland, and Southern dialect areas. • Maps were prepared showing the distribution of certain dialect features that set each area apart from the others. • Dialect geographers found that the most clearly defined differences in regional dialects were concentrated in matters of: 1. pronunciation (vowels) 2. vocabulary 3. verb forms (past and pp of irregular verbs) (Herndon, 1999) Dialect Map of United States Pronunciation and Vocabulary Differences • There are pronunciation differences according to regions.(samples drawn from dialect studies) • There are vocabulary differences: (N) Northern (M) Midland (S) Southern a. stone fence (N, M) rock fence (S) b. living room (N, M) front room (S) c. carry (N, M) tote (S) d. get sick (N) take sick (M, S) e. white bread (N) light bread (M, S) f. paper bag (N) g. porch (N,M,S) sack (M, S) stoop (N,M) verandah(S) Social dialects • The recognition of the 1. differences in the language habits of socially different groups of people was not a revolutionary idea. • Learning the speech habits of those who have greater social, 2. economic, and educational prestige has long been recognized as one of the prerequisites for upward social mobility. • The masses of evidence 3. gathered by social dialect researchers gave statistical strength to several rather broad generalizations about social dialects. Differences in the language habits of socially different speakers were not “random” mistakes; their dialects were as systematic as prestige dialects. Speakers of different social dialects showed a remarkable ability to evaluate the social position of speakers of dialects other than their own. Speakers of non-standard dialects often showed a markedly defensive attitude with regard to their own dialect. (Herndon, 1999) Social Dialects • The first of these points may be illustrated by listing some examples of the ways that social dialects differ from Standard American English. Reference is made to dialects generally called Black English (BE) and Spanish Influenced English (SIE), but one important reservation must be noted: These names label abstractions, just as Standard American English is an abstraction. Dialects spoken by black American in NY or San Francisco may differ, just as the dialects spoken by other residents of those cities may differ. Many middle-class black Americans speak dialects that are as close to Standard American English as are other dialects of other middle-class Americans. These things are also true of some Spanish/English bilinguals. Black English (BE) • Differences in pronunciation 1.deletion of liquids /r/ and /l/ after vowels SAE – car BE - cah 2. deletion of final consonants in consonant clusters SAE –list BE -lis • Some representative differences in black English Syntax 1. Deletion of copula be SAE BE She is a teacher. Mary is his wife. This is your coat. She a teacher. Mary his wife. This your coat. BE (cont.) • Leveling the 3rd per. Singular present tense SAE I talk, you talk, he talks • Use of multiple negatives SAE I did nothing. I didn’t do anything • Use of expletive it SAE Is there a man at the door? BE I talk, you talk, he talk BE I didn’t do nothing I ain’t done nothing. BE Is it a man at the door? Spanish-Influenced English • Many Americans of Spanish-speaking background have campaigned for bilingual teachers for their children. • Native speakers of English who begin study French or German or Spanish find that learning vocabulary items is far easier than learning proper pronunciation of sounds they have never used before and unfamiliar sentence and intonation patterns. • The habits of English carry over into the new language. • The speaker of a Spanish-influenced English dialect has exactly the same problems. Some representative SIE pronunciations 1. Spanish/English vowel discrepancies 2. Spanish/English consonant discrepancies 3. Treatment of Initial consonant clusters SIE –differences in syntax (cont.) 1. Grammatical gender in pronouns SAE SIE I like the house. It is pretty. I like the house. She is pretty. I took the train. It was fast! I took the train. He was fast! 2. Leveling of verb forms SAE I talk. He talks. SIE I talk. He talk. 3. Use of negatives SAE He saw nobody SIE He no saw nobody Summary • Varieties of English include the idiolect (personal language habits) of each individual speaker of the language and the dialects of regional or social groups. • Dialect research into regional differences in American English have resulted in publications of Linguistic Atlases about regions of the United States. • The Atlantic Coast states were divided into areas called the Northern, Midland, and Southern Dialect areas. • Differences in language habits are commonly divided into pronunciation, vocabulary, and syntactic categories. • Social dialect research, particularly in BE and SIE have provided valuable insights into the effects of other cultures and languages on the speech habits of Americans. • This material is the basis for new teaching methods and materials aimed at establishing respect for all dialects and their speakers. Teachers who understand the dialects of their students are better equipped to assist them in learning to control the Standard in addition to their own.