Politics Of American Dialects


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This is a brief description of the politics of American dialects.

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Politics Of American Dialects

  1. 1. Politics of American Dialects
  2. 2. Dialects as a source of humor: You talk funny! <ul><li>Dialects are often a source of humor </li></ul><ul><li>In Chaucer’s 14 th century work, “The Reeve’s Tale,” he made fun of northern English dialects </li></ul><ul><li>The Simpsons have Cletus </li></ul><ul><li>the slackjawed yokel with 27 kids </li></ul><ul><li>who uses Appalachian English </li></ul><ul><li>“ I might could do that.” </li></ul>
  3. 3. <ul><li>Many people made fun of Ebonics during the 1997 controversy (i.e. comedians said that Jews spoke “Hebronics” or that gay men spoke “Shebonics) </li></ul><ul><li>Dialectical humor may become “socially antagonistic” </li></ul><ul><li>Making fun of certain dialects further legitimizes “mainstream speech” </li></ul>
  4. 4. What is mainstream speech? <ul><li>In the United States, “Standard American English” is considered one of many dialects used </li></ul><ul><li>We all speak a dialect </li></ul><ul><li>Few people speak pure Standard American speech all the time, although some (especially those in the Midwest or Pacific Northwest) think that they speak “plain English” (but they don’t really) </li></ul><ul><li>Many of us speak in more than one dialect, depending upon the situation </li></ul>
  5. 5. <ul><li>Standard American English dominates in the professional world and the media </li></ul><ul><li>Speakers of dialects which stray from the mainstream are expected to also know how to speak mainstream English in order to succeed </li></ul><ul><li>Speakers of dialects which are close to mainstream, rarely take on speech patterns from dialects that are seen as “lesser.” If they do, they are often mocked. </li></ul>
  6. 6. <ul><li>One example of mainstream </li></ul><ul><li>speakers taking on </li></ul><ul><li>non-mainstream speech is the </li></ul><ul><li>“ wiggas” </li></ul><ul><li>These are suburban, white youths who admire hip-hop culture and who adopt certain phrases or speech patterns common to African American English </li></ul><ul><li>Many speakers of African American English find the “wiggas” to be offensive, while many speakers of Standard English don’t view them very well either </li></ul>
  7. 7. Stuck-up American English <ul><li>People that speak near-perfect Standard English (such as an English professor) are viewed as being pretentious </li></ul><ul><li>“Were I in your position, that’s not to whom I would turn.” </li></ul>
  8. 8. Regional Varieties of English <ul><li>Patterns in American English speech change gradually, not rapidly like linguistic maps may show </li></ul><ul><li>Isoglosses (linguistic boundaries) oversimplify regional patterns </li></ul>
  9. 9. American Regional Variations
  10. 10. E Pluribus Unum <ul><li>Although we are one nation, there is a lot of linguistic diversity </li></ul><ul><li>All dialectical varieties are equally rule-governed, although the more-standard varieties are closer to the prescriptive rules </li></ul><ul><li>However, Americans are more tolerant of variety in clothing, dress, and food than in dialect. </li></ul><ul><li>Many perceive having one standard dialect as desirable, although dialectical diversity gives American English more character. </li></ul>
  11. 11. What American accent do you have? <ul><li>http://www.gotoquiz.com/what_american_accent_do_you_have (to find out what accent you have) </li></ul><ul><li>My result: Inland North (distinction made between cot/caught, caller/collar, pen/pin, stock/stalk, don/dawn, but do not make any distinction between Mary/merry/marry) </li></ul><ul><li>“ You think you speak ‘Standard English straight out of the dictionary’ but when you step away from the Great Lakes you get asked annoying questions like ‘Are you from Wisconsin?’ or ‘Are you from Chicago?’ Chances are you call carbonated drinks ‘pop.’” </li></ul>