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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.

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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Ethnonyms Presentation Transcript

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