Archive for the ‘Variation’ Category

Local pronunciations

February 28, 2015

Two notes on the pronunciation of proper names: on the city of Bangor ME and on the actor Ryan Phillippe.

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fraug

February 25, 2015

Yesterday’s Rhymes With Orange:

Presumably Hilary Price’s intention was that the spelling FRAUG, pronounced [frɔ:ɡ], should represent a combination of FROG — pronounced [frɑ:ɡ] or [frɔ:ɡ], depending on your variety of American English — and FRAUD, pronounced [frɔ:d] for many American speakers, but [frɑ:d] for American speakers who level [ɔ:] and [ɑ:] in favor of the latter (the “COT-CAUGHT merger”: both these words are pronounced [kɑ:t], DAWN and DON are both [dɑ:n], and SHAW and SHAH are both [ʃɑ:]).

[Addendum: an earlier posting on frog and fraud has a Discover Card commercial that plays on a confusion between the two.]

Quotative moments

February 7, 2015

Yesterday, Geoff Pullum posted an xkcd strip citing Patricia Cukor-Avila on “quotative like“, I linked to it, and lots of people on Facebook were impressed by the concept. So here a few words about quotative constructions, beginning with a wonderful exchange in a song from the 1996 album Love Is Dead by The Mr T Experience:

I’m like “Yeah”
but she’s all “No”
and I’m all “Come on baby, let’s go”
and she’s like “I don’t think so”

(with the quotative elements bolfaced). The guy and the girl go back and forth between quotative like and quotative all in their bargaining.

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Variation in AAVE

January 12, 2015

From the American Dialect Society meeting just concluded in Portland OR, this abstract from Taylor Jones (a grad student at Penn) reporting on some ingenious research he conducted with collaborator Christopher Hall:

‘Yeen kno nun bou dat':  Using Twitter to map AAVE dialect regions

Recent research has established AAVE isn’t monolithic. However, AAVE variation hasn’t been systematically described and mapped. Here, we use new computational methods, using social media, to describe AAVE variation and to show AAVE dialect regions distinct from — and perpendicular to — other dialects of North American English. This study maps the geographic patterns of 30+ common nonstandard spellings on Twitter (e.g. sholl for “sure”). We show nonstandard AAVE orthography delineates clear dialect regions, with shared phonological and lexical features. These regions are not coterminous with traditional North American dialect regions; rather, they align with patterns of movement during the Great Migration.

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so few of a words

January 4, 2015

Reported (from memory) by Jon Lighter on ADS-L on the 2nd, from historian Douglas Brinkley on CNN:

(1) It’s amazing how much Lincoln could say in so few of a words.

I haven’t found the quote on-line and don’t know if it’s been altered in the transcript. So few of a words could just be a speech error, but it could be the result of a series of extensions and innovations in the syntax of modification in English.

This discussion will unavoidably get pretty technical; read with care.

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Female archetypes in the movies

October 2, 2014

The first, summary, paragraph of the abstract for a Qualifying Paper in the Stanford Ph.D. program — by Sunwoo Jeong — on “Iconicity in Suprasegmental Variables:
The Case of Archetypal Hollywood Characters of the 1940s-50s”:

Films are potent vehicles that not only reflect common linguistic practices, but also create new social meanings for linguistic variables and actively shape dominant language ideologies of the era. This was especially the case for films made during the Golden Age of Hollywood in which several distinctive film genres, featuring highly stylized female characters, emerged as important cultural phenomena: femme fatales in film noir, independent brunettes in screwball comedies, and dumb blondes in musical comedies. This paper argues that systematic variation in suprasegmental linguistic cues like pitch, prosody, and voice quality was employed by the actresses to index the three prominent archetypes mentioned above, and more importantly, that the realizations of these variables were not arbitrary in that they created an iconic tie with the archetype that they indexed. Combined with other cinematic devices that fortified this iconic relation, the underlying ideologies behind these linguistic variables were more easily naturalized, resulting in wider dissemination.

(I’m way behind in posting on Neat Stuff by Stanford Students, but this one came in this morning and I thought I’d seize it before it fell into the To Do pit.)

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Ling wars in Dingburg

September 30, 2014

Today’s Zippy has Dingburgers, drawn into camps on issues of linguistic variation and usage, slinging lots of technical terminology:

Most of these features — the glottal stop, NG coalescence, like, awesome, uptalk, whatever, vocal fry (creak, creaky voice) — have been discussed on Language Log or here, because they are associated with a collection of geographic or social dialect characteristics (region, age, sex, class, etc.) or particular styles and registers; they are socioculturally significant, usually in quite complex ways. The remaining three — strident voice, slack voice, and falsetto — are phonation types that have, I think, escaped attention on these blogs

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Accents?

May 19, 2014

From several sources on Facebook (but ultimately from the Oatmeal webcomic), this item:

 

This is accent taking in all aspects of a variety of a language, not just the phonological aspects. In this case, phonology is barely involved (though you can imagine some of it, using stereotypes of upper-class British pronunciation)): it’s all about lexical choices, register/style, and conversational topic (leaning heavily towards the sexual) — obscure, perhaps archaic, and pompously rakish.

(This is another case in which I don’t really know whether the item is to be classified as a cartoon, or what.)

Outsiders

May 14, 2014

On May 2nd on the Everyday Feminism site, “Why Grammar Snobbery Has No Place in the Movement” by Melissa A. Fabello, presenting the customary linguists’ arguments that non-standard, regional, informal, etc. variants are not failed attempts to produce the formal written standard variety, but are instead features of alternative linguistic systems, each appropriate to certain social contexts — and moving on from that linguistic point to the wider sociopolitical point that these features should not be used as weapons against those who customarily employ the features; they are not failed citizens because they deviate from the use of formal standard written features in all contexts.

Fabello goes on to quote a moving poem by Aysha Syed on the matter.

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For National Cartoonists Day

May 6, 2014

This morning I discovered that yesterday was not only Cinco de Mayo, but also National Cartoonists Day. In honor of the occasion, three cartoons for today. Then some account of Cartoonists Day, which leads to the early newspaper cartoon featuring the Yellow Kid.

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