Americanisms

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Americanisms

Post by Laurie Reinders » Wed Jan 25, 2006 11:09 pm

Where I come from the language of 'our' people is so muttled we have a name for it known as 'Milwaukee Talk'.

Yes, people DO have a problem saying Illinois (often heard as IllinOISE) here & why on earth do the Illini have problems saying their own towns names??? For instance in the case of Des Plaines EVERYONE in Illinois intentionally says it as Dez PlaneZ (emphacizing the 'Z' sound).

I have to agree with kagriffy & elbucho....People in America are extremely blended. I myself am a mutt (German, English,Russian, Italian, Austrian, Welsh, Dutch & God only knows what else) & am constantly on the web looking for meanings to words that are from different countries of origin (that I've growmn up with & use daily).

How can you blame adults for misprouncing things when teachers in schools misprounce words to them as children? ALL of my teachers pronounced it EYE-RAHCK.

If it's wrong, then you'll have to start from the top down & re-teach the teachers. Maybe teachers should have to go to the same school of voice training idiosy that journalists go to....You know the journalists I'm referring to--the ones that seemingly speak normal until they come to a word on the telepromter that they over pronounce 'correctly'.

ERGH! If everyone in America is supposedly speaking 'English' then why don't we use the same words that actual 'English' people speak?

THE ANSWER: WE speak AMERICAN. NO, not native American but the blended language that our ancestors have created by living, working & communicating over the period of over 200 years.
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Americanisms

Post by Laurie Reinders » Wed Jan 25, 2006 11:17 pm

BTW-Yes, ALL of my German family members add 'r' to any word beginning in WA...such as "I need to hang the warsh to dry"..."Those bastards in Warshington don't know what they're doing" etc...

And some add 's' as plurals where they have no business as in "Yous Guys ready to eat?"

It seems in this area where Germans created their own little German-American haven, this is completely acceptable and no corrections are made.

I wonder what the teachers were like here in Milwaukee decades ago. I believe many must have been German since I've been told by friends & family members that the German flag hung next to the American one in their class rooms (and this was only a couple of generations ago).

BTW-here in the upper midwest it's pronounced St Lou IS...with the emphasis on the 'ihs'.
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Post by Laurie Reinders » Thu Jan 26, 2006 1:00 am

Thanks for reminding me of that Anja!
hmm...

I know it was NOT the Third Reich flag (I asked when they shared the info).

BTW-I'm a gardener & I adore that quote.
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Post by kagriffy » Thu Jan 26, 2006 7:00 pm

Laurie, don't even get me started about how my fellow Illinoisans pronounce certain towns located in the Land of Lincoln! Just in the vicinity of Springfield, we have an Athens (pronounced with a long "A"), a New Berlin (pronounced "BURR-lin), and a San Jose (pronounced "san-JOE'S")! And, if you're not a native Southern Illinoisan, you'll never be able to pronounce Cairo correctly (think "Karo Syrup" or a "K" followed by "arrow" and you're close, but you'd still be recognized as a "furriner"!).
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Post by Shelley » Thu Jan 26, 2006 7:15 pm

When traveling across northwestern Pennsylvania, I frequently spend the night in "DOO-boys". However, to find it on a map, you would need to look for "Du Bois"!
There must be hundreds of these examples of regional "variations".
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Post by spiritus » Wed Feb 01, 2006 11:12 am

elbucho wrote:

Why is it accepted that there are over 30 different dialects of chinese, but throw in 3 or 4 different dialects of english and people get bent out of shape?
Elbucho, you posed an interesting and revealing question. After reading Phil White’s informed and thoughtful response to your inquiry, I’m still not sure the main thrust of your question was addressed:

”…Why is it accepted…there are over 30 different dialects of Chinese…throw in 3 or 4 different dialects of english and people get bent out of shape?”

Well now, let me ponder that a moment. -------- (Some may note the sudden fragrance of cocoa, vanilla, and ocean salt water wafting through the clubhouse).

Ok…I think the shape shifting is a localized phenomenon. I cannot think of a single linguist producing work within this decade that bends or even slightly leans at the accepted fact that there are tens of different English (and english) dialects. The same does not apply to a relatively small select group of native speakers of English posturing as self-proclaimed authorities/guardians of the world’s present power/privilege/prestige lingua franca.

Personally, I maintain my manly contours regardless of authoritative declarations denying the existence of the English dialect or Chinese languages.

I guess my lack of indignation at the suggestion English is plural-centric stems from my socialistic/liberal/global-ownership linguistic idealism.

That still does not quite answer Elbucho’s question. Ok, let us try these subjective musings:

Answer 1.) Maybe the people who twist themselves into indignant exclamation marks at the idea of English being a dialect are just being themselves; “dialectical materialists”, so to speak. This is to say, the majority of modern linguists view the “traditional” definitions of language and dialect as immaterial. Some native-speakers cherish the assumed differences in the prestige of a language or dialect as absolutely material to their definitions of a superior national identity.

Answer 2.) Perhaps others bend themselves into convincing imitations of closed doors at the very idea of The English Dialect because de Nile ain't just a river in Egypt. Denial is also a prerequisite mind set for devotees of linguistic chauvinism and the "politics of language".

Really short answer 3.) Politics.

Tore Janson, earlier Professor of Latin, now Professor of African Languages, at the University of Gothenburg, Sweden might have had in mind, certain “ English language benders” bending “others” into desired shapes when he wrote:

“The written forms of today's languages in Europe displaced and replaced other ways of writing. In most cases, a written form came first and a name for the language only afterwards. One or some of the dialects were chosen as the basis for the written form, and the choice was obviously made by those or to benefit those who "needed" the written form in the first place: the élites, the state builders, the church representatives. These choices were also decisive for inclusion and exclusion: the rulers decided where the borders would be placed in the dialect continua between what was called one language and what another language.

Thus, the main criterion for whether something is a dialect of another language or a separate language (and what is being standardized, what not) is the relative political power of the speakers of that language/dialect. The decisions about what are "languages" and what are not, are thus political decisions. Those with enough power can claim that what they speak is a language and what less powerful groups speak are dialects…”

As an attribute of culture, the qualitative difference between a language and a dialect ain't definitions, but rather the subjective socio-politics of the "linguist", earnestly doing the defining.
Remember Peter Trudgill's divisions and criteria for a language or dialect?

“Only dialects, which have been reduced to writing (a prerequisite for standardization) and been standardized are languages.”

By his measure, it seems to follow that everything else is something else (dialect, vernacular, patois, Creole, pidgin).

Trudgill informed us; "Languages" were "independent, standardized varieties ...” with, as it was “…a life of their own".

I guess that would demote most of the long established sign languages, to “sign dialects”. That criterion also implies that several hundred indigenous languages would be neither languages nor dialects. By that definition more then two thirds of the worlds’ presently recognized languages would not be languages. Then so what? The most “important” languages would make the grade, and ain't that the whole point of standardization?

Ok, maybe not. In all fairness, the cited definition by Trudgill is an old one, circa 1983. Despite its present uselessness and implied cultural assumptions, the definition is still viewed as part of the western linguistics canon by some.

A Yiddish linguist, Max Weinreich, supplied this familiar language-dialect aphorism:

1. "A language is a dialect with an army and a navy (and an air force)... and I will add; its speakers have political and economic power and control of social and education policies.”

Variations:

2. A language is a dialect with state borders

3. A language is a dialect promoted by the elite.

4. A dialect is a language spoken by "others".

5. A dialect is a language without an army, navy, and airforce.

6. A dialect is a language denied the assumed and illusionary prestige of being a language by the illogical extra-linguistic criteria (standardization) subjectively applied by certain linguists "located" in a particular and readily identifiable political, cultural, and socially defined context. (That is my donation to the idea of mutual unintelligibility. Of course, my insignificant offering is nothing compared to the singularly unintelligibility of much linguistic jargon.

As a term, “Standard English”, strictly speaking and in all honesty, is meaningless. What and whose standards are we referring to? We can no more supply a comprehensive definition for “standard English”, then we can for “British English”, or the word “meaning”, for that matter. Standards indeed. That would be the standards of the winning team, of course. Now economic privilege and political power is overwhelmingly in the possession of native speakers of English. In accordance with the thinking of some, native speakers have the unwritten right to make authoritative statements about what you can and cannot say in English and, therefore, to apply their culturally preferred criterion in arbitrarily defining what is a language or dialect.

The authors of prescriptive English dictionaries and grammar books were mostly written by native speakers. Their contemporary and descriptive counterparts are still put together using data exclusively from native speakers. Recently though, word is, several progressive university funded linguistic projects are compiling a database of International English.

As we know, several languages have a politically appointed governing body for the maintenance of the standards of that language. Those I can call to mind now are French, Dutch, Beijing Mandarin, Haitian Kreole and Ethiopian Amharic. Their statuses as standardized languages are more the results of historical and political developments, rather then the application of our linguistic criteria of structural similarity, mutual intelligibility, and standardization.

Governing bodies for language standards have never been very successful in their efforts. More often then not the language standards are imposed by a body comprised of the society’s political or religious elite, with little if any input from the general population. Though the ruling classes readily understand that “language is the perfect instrument of empire”, there is little understanding of the limitless ways in which languages and dialects are used as perfect instruments for the political self-empowerment of a citizenry.

It may be safely said that politics make languages and dialects, and in turn languages and dialects make politics. Political and historical examples may be found in the following instances:

--The Third Reich invented the myth of an Aryan language and race---a belief that was false to its core. Aryan was neither a race nor language.

--The royal “Immortals” of Académie française were given their walking papers during the French Revolution. That august language governing body was suppressed for more then ten years by the people of France and then resurrected by Napoleon Bonaparte as a prop for his political agenda. Of course, Bonaparte shrewdly structured a more politically correct post revolution version of the French Academy.

--In what was once the Union of South Africa, the Afrikaner ruling minority, made language the servant of their political philosophy---aparthied. Taking admixtures of Dutch, African, and Malayan they created the “dialect” known as “Afrikaans”, and by governmental decree, disignated it the official “language” of South Africa. Simultaneously this political act officially delegated all the country’s indigenous languages spoken for millineums to the status of “tribal dialects”. There were any number of factors that contributed to the end of aparthied and the establishment of majority rule in South Africa. But those who understand the politics of language agree it was the standardization of Afrikaans as the national language and its government enforcement as the only language to be taught in schools, that provided the speak that lit the fire.

--After the American Revolution it was proposed by patriots that the new nation switch from English to Latin or even to some newly invented language. However Noah Webster settled for distancing American English as far as possible from British English.

Standard English is ungovernable, so to speak. Not only does Madame English lack an external disciplinary, her claims to be of elite parentage and highborn ancestral lineage is suspect. However, she sho ain’t lacking in those social pretensions and the privileges and prestige derived in part from the present political and economic power of her native speakers.


Standard English is no more and no less a dialect then American, British, or Nigeria English are languages. What they all are, in respect to their present status as either languages or dialects, is defined by the political dynamics within the nations where spoken. You do not have to be a trained linguist to know that by our cultural standards; any speech designated language is socially superior to speech labeled dialect. The political is personal. Moreover, so are the social functions of designating one’s speech the status of a language or dialect. That might well be a shape distorting causation.
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Post by Phil White » Wed Feb 01, 2006 4:51 pm

Spot on, Che.

You do, however, do Trudgill an injustice. Throughout the book you cite (Sociolinguistics - An introduction to language and socuety), and in particular in chapter 7 of the most recent edition, he is at pains to point out that the "standard" variety of any language is the result of a mixture of political and cultural aspects and that the it has no innate strengths over any other variety. Ever since I first encountered his work in the late seventies (initially with "Accent, Dialect and the School"), he has always opposed the concept of the superiority of the "standard" variants. Indeed, the primary thrust of his extremely influential work in education in the UK was to promote acceptance of dialect variety in schools.

I can't trace the first passage you cite, but it seems to me that he is doing nothing more than indicating how arbitrary the line between "dialect" and "language" is. I would be very surprised if Trudgill did not wholly approve of your variation 6.
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Post by spiritus » Sat Feb 04, 2006 9:51 am

Phil, thank you.

If I was capable of doing Trudgill an injustice, which I am not, I assure you it would have no affect on him. I think you and I share the opinion that Trudgill is one of the world's preeminent sociolinguists. Trudgill's significance to the linguistic subfield of dialectology is arguably equal only to William Labov. The point I sought to make but apparently lacked the communicative skills to do so was this:

Non-linguists, native-speakers assuming ownership of English will often cite and apply linguistic schemas and data to qualify their personal and social groups' political positions regarding language status.

The schemas and data applied rarely give regard to their larger contexts, multi-interpretations, later revisions, and present relevance. In contrast to these self-appointed "linguists" as arbiters of "correct English", all working linguists constantly revise research methodologies and seek to improve the body of general linguistic knowledge using ever more socially/culturally precise and cross discipline informed linguistic criterion. Trudgill is not the exception to this, but rather a proof of it. This also applies to William Labov’s work.

I thought I emphasized this distinction when I wrote:

“In all fairness, the cited definition by Trudgill is an old one, circa 1983. Despite its present uselessness and implied cultural assumptions, some view the definition as part of the western linguistics canon.”

The underlined, italicized “some” refers to those non-linguist native speakers who intentionally distort or ignore the original and later language contexts and conditions to which the linguists’ research data actually applies.

Trudgill's work is relatively immune to distracters. In addition, his solid work "speaks" for itself and thus, requires no defense. Of course, lesser minds are free to misuse Trudgills work to support their language and education politics or to criticize his work. Though my name might be listed under the heading, "Criticizing Lesser Minds", this particular posting was not a criticism of Trudgill, but rather a criticism of those who misappropriate his research.

It is my opinion that portions of Trudgill’s early work are as reflective of 1970-80's British cultural assumptions, and by extension his earlier philosophical location, as it is the foundation of sociolinguistics. It is no accident that Trudgill’s earlier prescriptive linguistics research is still influencing present language teaching methods in the UK. In the UK, government appointed bodies establish teaching standards, educational policies, and curriculum development. The traditional conservatism of those governing agencies and their sensitivity to the status quo is not a secret.

I do have some small familiarity with English for Academic Purposes, higher education standards, pedagogic methodologies, learning strategies, and curriculum development. In addition, I think I have a slight understanding of the political role government plays in structuring and funding these areas. However, lets ignore the minor insights I might provide on the United Kingdom’s past two decades of political upheavals in education reform; or the political infighting over the National Curriculum in 1995 and 1999 and the social and political acrimony brought about by the UK’s debate over the curriculum for English.
Moreover, elaboration upon these matters is more suited for the earlier thread “Abstract Nouns”.

The general relevance of my mentioning the above is to highlight the overriding factor determining dialect versus language, which is the society in which the variety is spoken. It is the politicians (or governments or both) that defined the UK’s English curriculum and determined the choice of terminology, not linguists.
It is also the UK’s politicians and their socialization agendas that dictated the selective picking of parts and pieces of Trudgill, Swales, Bernstein, and other British linguists’ research data as support for their specific education and curricula ideologies.

Trudgills work dating from 1990 on is less of a political fit for the UK's present adult literacy educational policies, particularly in respect to teaching English as a first or second language.

Whereas there is much, of the prescriptive in the quote I cited and the patronizing in the quote you supplied, Trudgill broke from the “prescriptive linguistics’” ranks in the early 90's.

Peter Trudgill’s article, Standard English: What It Isn’t, 1992 published in Tony Bex & Richard J. Watts book, Standard English: The Widening Debate, 1999, 117-128, could serve as an “appeal to authority” for every point made in my previous post. I cite the post-Trudgill’s descriptive linguist’s philosophical location in this article as a contrast to his earlier work. Compare his linguistic prescriptive 1983 definition of ‘standarised’ language with his descriptive definition of 1992.

I myself have defined standardisation (Trudgill, 1992) as consisting of the processes of language determination, codification and stabilisation. Language determination "refers to decisions which have to be taken concerning the selection of particular languages or varieties of language for particular purposes in the society or nation in question" (p.71). Codification is the process whereby a language variety "acquires a publicly recognised and fixed form". The results of codification "are usually enshrined in dictionaries and grammar books" (p.17). Stabilisation is a process whereby a formerly diffuse variety (in the sense of Le Page and Tabouret-Keller,1985) "undergoes focussing and takes on a more fixed and stable form" (p.70).


Trudgill also makes my point regarding the misuse of linguistic terms by non-linguist guardians of English. More important, the “keepers of Standard English” and their claims to know exactly what it is and is not, would suggest they are privy to knowledge neither Trudgill, nor his fellow linguists lay claim to:
…there seems to be considerable confusion in the English-speaking world, even amongst linguists, about what Standard English is. One would think that it should be reasonably clear which of the varieties of English is the one which has been subject to the process of standardisation, and what its characteristics are. In fact, however, we do not even seem to be able to agree how to spell this term - with an upper case or lower case <s> - a point which I will return to later, and the use of the term by non-linguists appears to be even more haphazard.


Trudgill, far better articulates my clumsily expressed comments about the questionable status of “Standard English” as a language:
Standard English, whatever it is, is less than a language, since it is only one variety of English among many…it is the variety associated with the education system in all the English-speaking countries of the world, and is therefore the variety spoken by those who are often referred to as "educated people"; and it is the variety taught to non-native learners. But most native speakers of English in the world are native speakers of some nonstandard variety of the language… Standard English is thus not the English language but simply one variety of it.


Trudgill also asserts in the article that Standard English is not an accent (Received Pronunciation), a language, a style, or a register. He does state a more recent consensus of Standard English’s status, in Britain at least:
…most British sociolinguists are agreed, that Standard English is a dialect. ...Standard English is simply one variety of English among many. It is a sub-variety of English.
and adds:

"Standard English is a dialect which is socially superior to other dialects but structurally inferior".

I disagree with certain aspects of Trudgill's notions regarding education and English language teaching. Nevertheless, that is not a criticism or an injustice to him, but rather the high opinion I have of my own eccentric, non-linguistic artcultureeducationphilosophical language theories. (I really miss Sapir and Whorf.) Nevertheless, my point was not to attack Trudgill’s earlier ‘prescriptive linguistics’ (they have an important place in early childhood education and elementary schools). Rather, what I want to bring to attention is how governments use linguistic data to exemplify the codification of a standard language.

A minor point regarding your comment:

In the States, most people accept the divisions identified by William Labov, namely four geographically massive dialect groups (South, West, Midland and North Central) and six further groups on the East Coast (plus what is termed General Canadian).

William Labov has also revised, re-factored, and expanded the conclusions of the study you referenced. I would add, it is Peter Trudgill’s earlier 'cascade' model of the geographical dispersal of dialects that forms the basis of William Labov’s groundbreaking book; “Atlas of North American English: Phonetics, Phonology, and Sound Change".

(Trying hard not to brag.) I actually own this book.

I celebrated my birthday last week. One of the gifts I received was from a long time friend and colleague who tolerated my creative non-linguist discourses on languages, art, and culture, only because he teaches English Literature, knows better then I, and believes me to be a good person, even though linguistically challenged. He gave me a first edition of, William Labov, Sharon Ash and Charles Boberg’s and other sociolinguists’ massive masterwork “Atlas of North American English: Phonetics, Phonology, and Sound Change" (Mouton de Gruyter, Published Dec. 2005.)
Now, I suspect my friend's gift was his way of saying: In discourse, expressing reasonably intelligent intuitive ideas and hypothesis’s on linguistic theories can't hurt, but supporting them, at least in part, with hard facts and data can only help.

After receiving this gift, I came close to weeping. What brought me close to tears was my attempt to read the book's first chapter. The density and technicality of the linguistic jargon makes abundantly clear what the phrase "an obscure technical register" means. I will avoid reading this book if possible.

Like a country having the security of a nuclear arsenal and wisely avoiding its use, I will place this book upon the coffee table within prominent view of all.

Far more my speed and appropriate to my linguistic comprehension level is the multimedia CD-ROM version that came with my gift. It is by Jurgen Handke, a linguist at the University of Marburg in Germany. Not only is it user-friendly and brimming with historical and up-to-the-minute information on every aspect of language, its got lots of real pretty pictures ----it has excellent graphics.


The importance and influence of Peter Trudgill's work cannot be overstated. If there is any doubt as to the reverence and esteem Peter Trudgill commands, just ask William Labov or read the introduction to “Atlas of North American English: Phonetics, Phonology, and Sound Change". (Though the book has a retail value of $620; for non-linguists like me, a good friend might prove to be more valuable.)

Of late, I find it difficult determining who is influencing whom when reading Trudgill or Labov-----which reminds me of one linguist’s bad joke.

Q: How do you tell if the writing is by Trudgill of Labov?

A: When you are reading Trudgill, you can ‘hear’ the Received Pronunciation. When you read Labov, you can hear a white guy not speaking African American Vernacular English.

Taaa-dum.

Phil, it suddenly occurs to me that I have probably stated nothing you did not all ready know. Oh well...


P.S. Phil, the passage you could not “trace”, may be traced here:

Speak : A Short History of Languages, Tore Janson, 1997: page 125

and here:

[Tore Janson, Speak: A Short History of Languages, published by Oxford University Press in March 2002; pp301; ISBN 0-19-829978-8; publisher’s prices: £12.99, US$19.95, AU$49.95.]
http://www.worldwidewords.org/reviews/re-spe1.htm
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Post by Phil White » Sat Feb 04, 2006 5:08 pm

Che,

Thank you for that. There are vast gaps in my reading of linguistics in general and sociolinguistics in particular (up to about 1982, I was pretty well up to date), and I have been trying to fill these over the past two or three years.

The importance of the work of Labov and Trudgill (and indeed of the many others working in field of sociolinguistics) lies to my mind not in the conclusions that they began to arrive at in the seventies and eighties (some of which I share, some of which I don't), but in the remarkable wealth of raw data they and their research teams provided and in the incontrovertible evidence they supplied that speakers of English (and other languages) make relatively predictable choices and speak relatively predictable varieties in the light of social context. The fact that they and others went a long way to dispelling the myth of any innate superiority of "Standard English" along the way is a bonus if you happen to have a world view that mistrusts power and privilege and the mechanisms that support them.

The difficulty is that any such comparative study of usage has to take certain points of reference in order to be able to derive all the magnificent data on deviation. Presumably for practical reasons, "Standard English" as laid down in the grammars, dictionaries and educational institutions was taken as this point of reference. It certainly seems to me that this decision was never questioned. This, of course, to a certain extent perpetuates the myth that "Standard English" is the, well, "standard" from which everything else deviates, despite the fact that relatively few people speak "Standard English" naturally. Only when we understand how utterly arbitrary labels such as "Standard English", "language" and "dialect" are (and most serious sociolinguists do, although for me it's precisely that which defines a "serious" sociolinguist) can we overcome the arbitrary value judgement with respect to SE and begin to see the data for what it is.

The fact that Trudgill never went as far in his conclusions with respect to educational policy as I would have done is neither here nor there. His concern in terms of educational policy seems to me to be (and always to have been) to give all students access to the language of power and prestige while promoting wide acceptance of their own language (variant). It is a pragmatic position which takes account of the fact that, although the judgement as to the perceived value of "Standard English" is linguistically arbitrary, the status of that variant is a social given within which policymakers have to operate.

My own position has always been more radical and subversive, at least in theory. I regard it as a misfortune that my own native dialect coincides very closely with "English Standard English". To adopt one of my acquired dialects for the purposes of argument would rightly be seen as pretentious and patronizing.
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Post by Erik_Kowal » Sun Feb 05, 2006 3:22 am

Thank you, Phil and Che both, for the opportunity to be privy to a fascinating discussion.
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Post by Erik_Kowal » Sun Feb 05, 2006 10:47 am

What seems implicit in much of the foregoing is that the status achieved by a language or dialect, and the extent to which it is regarded as being 'standard', represents the outcome of our success as human beings in asserting some of our characteristic behaviours. In other words, a language or dialect that succeeds in prevailing over others will reflect the fact that its speakers (or their antecedents) prevailed over the speakers of other languages/dialects in their ability to be competitive, aggressive, partisan, acquisitive and/or, in terms of economic geography, just plain lucky to be living in the right place at the right time (the enormous value of being in the right place at the right time is something that the anthropologist/ecologist/sociologist/economist Jared Diamond convincingly demonstrates in his books Guns, Germs and Steel and Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed).

Our use of language thus reflects, in the most fundamental terms, who and what we are. The attempts of educationalists to encourage a different perspective on the way we ought to regard and use different language variants, by (in Phil's words) trying to "give all students access to the language of power and prestige while promoting wide acceptance of their own language (variant)", is in some ways analagous to what the law, at its best, attempts to achieve -- namely to constrain or discourage our worst excesses, and to encourage us in constructive social behaviour.

As with the law in general, the success or otherwise of such attempts is also a reflection of who and what we are.
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Post by spiritus » Mon Feb 06, 2006 1:04 am

Phil White wrote: Che,

Thank you for that. There are vast gaps in my reading of linguistics in general and sociolinguistics in particular (up to about 1982, I was pretty well up to date), and I have been trying to fill these over the past two or three years.
More significant to my thinking, then then your list of books to read, is the obvious evidence, in your writing, of an insightful, well informed, and thoughtful thinker.
Phil White wrote:...I regard it as a misfortune that my own native dialect coincides very closely with "English Standard English". To adopt one of my acquired dialects for the purposes of argument would rightly be seen as pretentious and patronizing.
Speak English man! What eaxactly are you trying to say? Does your last sentence apply to specific speech situations, or code switching and irony? Were you referring to me (hard to imagine), or antincipating Erik's subsequent post? For the purposes of argument, what's the reaction of four year olds to your English Standard English native dialect? Do they assume a patronizing and superior attitude just because you refuse to speak "baby talk"? Never mind, I'll figure it out. (:-D

But seriously...

Phil, all your interpretations of the matter have great merits.
Erik Kowal wrote:...a language or dialect that succeeds in prevailing over others will reflect the fact that its speakers (or their antecedents) prevailed over the speakers of other languages/dialects in their ability to be competitive, aggressive, partisan, acquisitive and/or, in terms of economic geography, just plain lucky to be living in the right place at the right time (the enormous value of being in the right place at the right time is something that the anthropologist/ecologist/sociologist/economist Jared Diamond convincingly demonstrates in his books Guns, Germs and Steel and Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed).
Erik,

There is a great matter as to the merits of your interpretations.

Jared Diamond Steel and Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed indeed!

I have a "convincingly demonstrative" adversion to Hegelian modeled philosophies of history.
Erik Kowal wrote:What seems implicit in much of the foregoing is that the status achieved by a language or dialect, and the extent to which it is regarded as being 'standard', represents the outcome of our success as human beings in asserting some of our characteristic behaviours.
Really? I must have missed something. Knowing myself it was probably "what seems implicit in much of the foregoing".

Try replacing the word 'success' with the word 'failure'. Note how the meaning of your statement's context does not change; whereas, the reader's perception of the writer's 'location' does.(;-)
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Americanisms

Post by Erik_Kowal » Mon Feb 06, 2006 2:12 am

Che, my irony is clearly wasted on you.

Secondly, did you actually read either of Diamond's books before loftily dismissing them out of hand as "Hegelian modeled philosophies of history"?
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Americanisms

Post by spiritus » Tue Feb 07, 2006 1:56 am

Erik,

I beg to differ, your irony is never wasted on me. I profoundly enjoy all forms of irony. I particular appreciate Romantic or "philosophical" irony as framed by the German philosopher Schlegel. When used effectively it can be a complex philosophical tool allowing you to simultaneously occupy two opposite positions (what you say versus what is real). Schlegel's thesis was that irony would give you a divided self, which in turn gives you a multiplicity of perspectives, which is the only way you will unlock the truth of the whole. This 'philosophical' irony was a major influence on many 19th century English writers and poets. One example that comes to mind is Coleridge's Rime Of The Ancient Mariner, with its commentary running alongside the narrative, it divides the perspective. I would need a more Hegelian grasp of philosophy to really explain it. It's best understood when experienced.

Schlegel's definition is among my favorite quotes:

"In it [irony] everything should be all jest and all serious-ness, everything guilelessly open and deeply hidden... It contains and arouses a sense of the indissoluble antagonism between the absolute and the relative, between the impossibility and the necessity of complete communication. It is the freest of all licences, because through it one transcends oneself, but at the same time it is the most prescribed, because [it is] absolutely necessary."

I did not loftily dismiss Jared Diamond's books. Rather, I made the well grounded statement that I had an adversion to Hegelian modeled philosophies of history.

My lofty dismissal of Diamond's two books will occur immediately after I read them. I trust you to keep this confidential.

How's this for wasted 'philosophical' irony?:

Long before I ever read Jared Diamond's books, I had loftily dismissed Hegel's Philosophy of History.
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