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Summary: An analysis of the variable ungrammaticality of sentences such as "I saw a Japanese yesterday" and its correlation with perceived rudeness.

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  1. 1. *A Chinese walks into a bar...: English Ethnonym Ideologies Lauren Hall-Lew Elisabeth Norcliffe Stanford University
  2. 2. Intro: An ethnonym classification (Tuite 1995) Only collective usage; no formal singular Sibilant ending Sg and pl formally identical Regular sg/pl opposition English, French, Welsh… III Chinese, Portuguese, Swiss… II <ul><li>German, American </li></ul><ul><li>Turk, Finn </li></ul>I
  3. 3. Intro: Observed Judgments <ul><li>* There was a Chinese at the beach. </li></ul><ul><li>There was a Chinese person at the beach. </li></ul><ul><li>There was a German at the beach. </li></ul><ul><li>*There was a French at the beach. </li></ul><ul><li>?? There were two Chinese … </li></ul><ul><li>? There were several Chinese … </li></ul><ul><li>There were thousands of Chinese … </li></ul>
  4. 4. The Genoeses, Chinesaas and Japenesaas <ul><ul><li>16 th century English allowed regular plural inflection on these forms [OED] </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Loss of plural inflection in the 17th and 18th centuries </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Resulting form is still sibilant final </li></ul></ul>
  5. 5. Chinese, Portuguese, Swiss: An account <ul><ul><li>Sibilant final ending gives the appearance of plural inflection </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Final sibilant blocks formal singular/plural opposition </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Sibilant final ending + lack of number contrast aligns these forms with the class of plural mass nouns </li></ul></ul>
  6. 6. Plural mass nouns <ul><li>Plural mass nouns are peculiar (Frawley 1992): </li></ul><ul><ul><li>They occur only in the plural </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>They can’t be enumerated </li></ul></ul><ul><li>*There were two oats on the table </li></ul><ul><li>*You left several grits on your plate </li></ul><ul><li>??The cook chopped a hundred chives tonight </li></ul><ul><li>?There were thousands of coffee grounds in the pot </li></ul>
  7. 7. Properties of Ethnonyms III II I English, French, Welsh… Chinese, Portuguese, Swiss <ul><li>German, American </li></ul><ul><li>Turk, Finn </li></ul>Adjectival Only collective usage; no formal singular Sibilant ending, Properties of mass plurals and collectives; no formal singular Regular sg/pl opposition. Inflects for the collective
  8. 8. The Social Dimension: Pilot Observations <ul><li>Many people judge sentences with (certain classes of) ethnonyms to be impolite: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>I saw a German at the beach </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li> I saw a Turk at the beach </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li> I saw a Chinese at the beach </li></ul></ul>
  9. 9. Word Category & Politeness <ul><li>Nouns are perceived as more impolite than adjectives when referring to individuals (Wierzbicka 1986) </li></ul><ul><ul><li>She’s crippled vs. She’s a cripple </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>He’s gay vs. He’s a gay </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Nouns categorize, they denote a kind </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Adjectives merely describe a property out of many of potentially equal importance </li></ul></ul>
  10. 10. Word Category & Politeness <ul><li>Applied to ethnonyms… </li></ul><ul><li>Turk, Brit : nouns, and therefore susceptible to being perceived as impolite (Note: perjoration of many nominal ethnonyms over time: Vandal, Philistine, Bushman, Gypsy ) </li></ul><ul><li>German, American : deadjectival </li></ul><ul><li>Chinese, Portuguese, Swiss : ??? </li></ul>
  11. 11. Word Category & Politeness Mass plurals aren’t even grammatical when referring to an individual, so why are they perceived as impolite at all?
  12. 12. Word Category & Politeness <ul><li>Grammatical unacceptability may be perceived as impolite language use </li></ul><ul><li>(in the domain of word classes referring to categories of people/nationalities/ethnicities…) </li></ul>
  13. 13. Predictions <ul><li>For Chinese, Portuguese, Swiss: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Grammaticality judgments should improve as number increases </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Politeness judgments should accordingly improve as number increases </li></ul></ul><ul><li>For German, Turk: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Number should have no effect on grammaticality </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Number should have no effect on politeness </li></ul></ul>
  14. 14. The Social Dimension: Pilot Questions <ul><li>Do judgments reflect ideologies about politeness when referring to ethnic groups and cultural identities? </li></ul><ul><li>Do judgments reflect a change-in-progress for the grammaticality and social acceptability of ethnonym use? </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Older people seem less likely to give negative judgments </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Are judgments patterned according to demographic factors? </li></ul><ul><ul><li>e.g. , Age, Sex, or Dialect </li></ul></ul>
  15. 15. Methods: The Survey <ul><li>Web-based questionnaire 1 , 109 sentences, 5 questions/sentence </li></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Could you imagine ever saying this? </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Do you think this sounds old-fashioned? </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Do you think this sounds impolite? </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Do you think this is a grammatical sentence? </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Does this sound like your dialect? </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><li>8 ethnonyms </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Basque, Chinese, Chinaman, Finnish, French, German, Jewish/Jew, Portuguese, Swiss, Turkish/Turk </li></ul></ul>1
  16. 16. Methods: The Survey <ul><li>7 number groups </li></ul><ul><ul><li>singular, plural, collective, ‘ several ,’ ‘ a couple ,’ ‘ a thousand ’, ‘ thousands of ’ </li></ul></ul><ul><li>singular and ‘a couple’ presented both with and without ‘__ person/people’ </li></ul><ul><ul><li>e.g., “A Chinese was…” “A Chinese person was…” “A couple of Chinese people were…” </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Sentences randomized </li></ul>
  17. 17. Methods: The Survey <ul><li>Demographic data collected </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Native language (all English) </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Dialects of English spoken while growing up </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Dialect of English spoken now </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Main dialect of English in place of residence </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Primary nationality </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Year of birth </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Gender </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Occupation & number of years of education </li></ul></ul>
  18. 18. Methods: The Participants <ul><li>Total: 208 respondents, 5 major international English dialects, wide age range, significant ethnic diversity. </li></ul><ul><li>For Analysis: (N = 36) Respondents: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>(19) U.S. (12) N.Z. (5) U.K. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>(20) 1970s-1980s (16) 1940s-1950s or older </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>(21) F (15) M </li></ul></ul>
  19. 19. Methods: The Analysis <ul><li>Survey coded for every condition </li></ul><ul><li>GoldVarb 2001 2 used for statistical analysis </li></ul><ul><li>Tests run for grammaticality & politeness </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Comparing across ethnonyms </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Comparing across number groups </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Comparing across speakers </li></ul></ul>2 J.S. Robinson, H.R. Lawrence & S.A. Tagliamonte (2001)
  20. 20. Results: Grammaticality <ul><li>Nominal use of Chinese/Swiss/Portuguese (CSP) rated significantly less grammatical than the adjectival CSP-Person (p ≤ 0.000) </li></ul><ul><li>Nominal use of Basque/German (BG) rated just as grammatical as the adjectival BG-Person (difference at p ≤ 0.220) </li></ul>
  21. 21. Results: Grammaticality <ul><li>Non-adjectival CSP gains grammatical acceptability from the singular to the plural: </li></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>a Chinese vs. two Chinese </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><ul><ul><li>p ≤ 0.001 </li></ul></ul></ul></ul></ul><ul><li>Unlike, e.g. , German & Turk: </li></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>a German/Turk vs. two Germans/Turks </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><ul><ul><li>p ≤ 0.096 </li></ul></ul></ul></ul></ul>
  22. 22. Results: Grammaticality <ul><li>Non-adjectival CSP gains grammatical acceptability as the number approaches a ‘mass’-like, non-individuating quantity: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>a Chinese vs. the Chinese (collective) </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><ul><li>p ≤ 0.000 </li></ul></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>several Chinese vs. thousands of Chinese </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><ul><li>p ≤ 0.036 </li></ul></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>two/a couple vs. a thousand/thousands/ collective </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><ul><li>p ≤ 0.000 </li></ul></ul></ul></ul><ul><li>For, e.g. , German/Turk, the corresponding values are non-significant (p ≤ 0.746, p ≤ 0.340, p ≤ 0.986) </li></ul>
  23. 23. Results: Grammaticality <ul><li>Non-adjectival CSP is rated as less grammatical than the nominal Turk (in a direct comparison) . </li></ul><ul><li>Non-adjectival CSP is rated as more grammatical than a nominal use of the adjective French . </li></ul><ul><li>This is held true for both cases across all number-group conditions </li></ul>
  24. 24. Results: Politeness <ul><li>Nominal use of Chinese/Swiss/Portuguese (CSP) rated significantly more impolite than the adjectival CSP-person (p ≤ 0.000) </li></ul><ul><li>Nominal use of Turk is also rated significantly more impolite than the adjectival variant, Turkish person (p ≤ 0.000) </li></ul><ul><li>Nominal use of Basque/German (BG) rated just as polite as adjectival BG-person (difference at p ≤ 0.297) </li></ul>
  25. 25. Results: Politeness <ul><li>Unlike the results for grammaticality, CSP loses ratings of impoliteness only at very large differences in number group: </li></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>a Chinese vs. two Chinese (p ≤ 0.515) </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>two Chinese vs. a thousand (p ≤ 0.000) </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>a thousand vs. thousands (p ≤ 0.988) </li></ul></ul></ul>
  26. 26. Results: Politeness <ul><li>Comparison of politeness ratings across ethnonyms shows the following ranking: </li></ul>VARBRUL WEIGHT German 0.183 Swiss 0.208 Portuguese 0.458 Turk 0.503 Chinese 0.647 Jew 0.778 Chinaman 0.887 More polite in singular context Less polite in singular context
  27. 27. Results: Demographics: Age <ul><li>Grammaticality </li></ul><ul><li>Although there is a general decrease with age in terms of the acceptability of CSP ethnonyms, the correlation is weak </li></ul>
  28. 28. Results: Demographics: Age <ul><li>Politeness </li></ul><ul><li>Similarly, ratings for CSP forms as impolite do increase with time, but the correlation is still weak </li></ul>
  29. 29. Results: Demographics: Sex No apparent differences between male and female respondents:
  30. 30. Results: Demographics: Dialect But provocative differences between US and New Zealand respondents: No dialect difference for grammaticality, but Americans find CSP ethnonyms more impolite than Kiwis. An ideology of (avoiding) non-“P.C.” language?
  31. 31. Discussion: Grammaticality <ul><li>Sibilant-final ethnonyms become more acceptable with: </li></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Small number  Large number </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Singular  Plural use </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><li>This is predicted on the basis of the peculiar morphophonological properties of this word class: </li></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>No number contrast (=mass plural) </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Apparent plural ending (= non singular) </li></ul></ul></ul>
  32. 32. Discussion: Politeness Politeness Judgments Grammaticality Judgments Word Class (N, Deadj N/Adj)
  33. 33. Discussion: Politeness <ul><li>Sibilant-final ethnonyms become more acceptable with: </li></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Small number  Large number </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Singular  Plural use </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><li>This is predicted on the basis of our proposal that grammaticality and politeness judgments may be correlated for English ethnonyms. </li></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>More grammatical  more polite </li></ul></ul></ul>
  34. 34. Discussion: Politeness <ul><li>Perceived politeness is correlated with word category </li></ul>Turkish, French, Chinese person, German Turk Jew Chinaman <ul><li>Adjectives & </li></ul><ul><li>Deadjectival Nouns </li></ul> Nouns
  35. 35. Discussion: Grammaticality and Politeness Thus, precisely in the class where there are number dependent grammaticality ratings, we find associated number dependent politeness ratings. (Chinese/Portuguese/Swiss) Where grammaticality does not vary according to number, we accordingly find no variation in politeness perception. Rather, politeness is conditioned by word category. (German/Turk/Chinese person etc)
  36. 36. Discussion: Demographics <ul><li>Age results suggest a potential change over time for both grammaticality and politeness, but the evidence is not robust. (Because 1940s speakers are ahead of their time!) </li></ul><ul><li>Men and women showed no significant difference in grammaticality ratings </li></ul><ul><li>For grammaticality, US vs. NZ respondents showed no significant difference. </li></ul><ul><li>For politeness, Americans had significantly higher ratings for impoliteness than New Zealanders. </li></ul>
  37. 37. Conclusion <ul><li>Within socially sensitive word classes such as ethnonyms, unacceptability resulting from ungrammaticality can be construed as impoliteness. </li></ul><ul><li>Comparable systems of ethnonym grammaticality may correlate with different rates of politeness, depending on cultures’ ideologies about ethnicity and language. </li></ul>
  38. 38. Future Directions <ul><li>Words that are interesting: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Jew (compare Jew/non-Jewish speakers) </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Pekinese (dogs are OK in singular!) </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Togolese (suffix choice in novel forms?) </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Data (changing mass/noun differences) </li></ul></ul>
  39. 39. Future Directions <ul><li>How are ethnonym classes best distinguished? </li></ul><ul><ul><li>How can we account for different levels of acceptability (singular vs. ‘several’)? </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Does the perception of adjectives being more polite than nouns hold cross-linguistically? </li></ul><ul><ul><li>In languages with minimal distinctions between categories? </li></ul></ul><ul><li>What will a corpus study tell us about changes over time? </li></ul><ul><li>Can we use experimental techniques to get more directly at people’s judgments? </li></ul>
  40. 40. Acknowledgements <ul><li>Paul Kiparsky, Beth Levin, Arnold Zwicky, Arto Anttila, Penny Eckert, Norma Mendoza-Denton and the Stanford Language Ideology class (Spring 2006) </li></ul><ul><li>The 208 people who responded to our very lengthy survey… </li></ul><ul><li>And you, for attending to our talk today! </li></ul>
  41. 41. References <ul><li>Frawley, W. 1992. Linguistic Semantics, Lawrence Erlbaum, Hillsdale, NJ. </li></ul><ul><li>Pullum, G. 1975. “PEOPLE DELETION in English.” OSU WPL 18.172-183. </li></ul><ul><li>Robinson, J.S., H.R. Lawrence & S.A. Tagliamonte. (2001). Goldvarb 2001 . </li></ul><ul><li>Tuite, K. 1995. The declension of ethnonyms in English. Proceedings of the 21st annual meeting of the Berkeley Linguistics Society ( BLS 21); 491-502 </li></ul><ul><li>Wierzbicka, A. 1986. “What’s in a noun? (Or: How do nouns differ in meaning from adjectives?)” Studies in Language . 10-2, 353-389. </li></ul>
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