Archive for the ‘Variation’ Category

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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Krazy Kat

April 23, 2014

Fred Shapiro on ADS-L yesterday:

Since I am now working on the second edition of the Yale Book of Quotations, let me ask, were there any particularly memorable catchphrases or one-off quotations from the Krazy Kat strip?

John Baker replies:

Well, Krazy Kat referred to Ignatz Mouse as “Li’l Dollink,” and the strip’s captions referred to Joe Stork as “purveyor of progeny to prince & proletarian.”  I don’t know if either of those really qualify as particularly memorable.

KK’s Dollink (for Darling): it’ sounds like Yiddish-English, but it begins to look like KK’s dialect is sui generis.

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Mountain Man Linguistics

March 22, 2014

A recent appeal from grad student Paul Reed:

I am a PhD candidate at the University of South Carolina. I am a sociophonetician, and my research focuses on varieties of American English in the Southern United States. My dissertation investigates the vowel and intonation systems of Appalachian English.

… I am working on a project with Dr. Stan Dubinsky and I am writing to see if you would be willing to take a few minutes to take some surveys to help facilitate our research (the links for which are included at the bottom of this post in no particular order). [details on Reed's Blogspot site, link above] The experiments that we’re asking you to participate in are part of a project aimed at finding out more about how the English language works, (in particular) examining how Modern American English is perceived. Each survey involves rating sound clips based on the acceptability of various sentences and should only take about 15 minutes to do.

I’m happy to pass this request on, but my main interest here is in the label Appalachian English.

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The comics in the rural South

March 1, 2014

One topic touched on in the Stanford Freshman Seminar 63N (Linguistics in the Comics) was the representation of dialect, especially regional, rural, and non-standard varieties. We chose to look at Southern, especially Appalachian, varieties.

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Less captions

February 28, 2014

Recently from mild-mannered editor John McIntyre (as he describes himself on the net), this captioned page (which he got from Chris Green on Facebook), entitled “Pedants’ Revolt” — a play on “Peasants’ Revolt” —  from an illuminated manuscript, captioned with usage advice:

There is a considerable literature, in the handbooks, on Language Log, and this blog, on the choice between less and fewer. The usual story is that less is to be used for mass nouns (less shrubbery) and fewer for count nouns (fewer shrubs) — for the opposite concept, more is used in both situations — but there is variation, even for educated and careful writers, and some circumstances where less is clearly impinging on fewer; I myself see no point in objecting to the grocery store usage ten items or less. The case above is not so clear.

(I don’t know the source of the manuscript page, or the identity of the captioner.)

More Recency Illusion

February 24, 2014

From Tom Grano, a CBS News report from yesterday, from Bill Flanagan, representing the “grammar police”:

Time now for a public service announcement from our contributor and first-person-singular-pronoun policeman Bill Flanagan of VH1:

I know it sounds snobby to point this out, but in the last 10 or 15 years, millions of intelligent English-speaking people have become flummoxed by when to use “I,” and when to use “me.” You hear it all the time:

Are you coming to the movie with Madonna and I?
Won’t you join Oprah and I for dinner?
The Trumps are throwing a party for Barack and I.

It’s embarrassing!

At least people who mess up the other way — “Goober and me are going to town” — sound folksy, colloquial, down-to-Earth. But people who say “I” when they should say “me” sound like they are trying to be sophisticated and they’re getting it wrong.

There’s a lot to criticize here. But I’ll start with the phenomenon, known in the syntax business as the Nominative Conjoined Object (NomConjObj for short) and the claim that it’s arisen only recently.

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Rising pitch

January 26, 2014

In the Stanford freshman seminar on language in the comics, the topic of rising intonation at the end of intonational units came, with the predictable impression from some (by no means all) of the students that it was associated with asking questions. And then I was pointed to a piece by artist Taylor Mali, “Speak with conviction”, complaining about “invisible quesion marks”. There’s a deep but understandable confusion here.

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Linguistic drones

January 14, 2014

From Ellen Seebacher on Facebook, on All Things Linguistic a little while back, “5 Linguistically Valuable Uses For Drones”. Ellen notes that

Someone has finally combined LingBuzz (the archive of linguistics articles) and BuzzFeed … into LingBuzzFeed, your source of linguistics listicles. There’s only one up at the moment, but it’s pretty great: 5 Linguistically Valuable Uses For Drones.

I think my favourite might be the Isogloss Enforcement Drone, especially because of the illustration.

Accompanying text:

Isoglosses are the neat lines on a map that divide dialects from one another according to their linguistic features. Unfortunately it’s long been known that isoglosses are an inadequate representation of dialect reality, since outliers can usually be found on both sides of the line.

With the Isogloss Enforcement Drone, we can finally do something about this lamentable situation! Equipped with an SMG and mini grenade launcher, this drone will patrol up and down the isogloss, punishing dialect offenders and occasionally launching seek-and-destroy missions for outlying deviant speakers. All while you bake a cake or watch a DVD of Downton Abbey.


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