Archive for the ‘Variation’ Category

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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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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