The most frustrating thing about this is the realization that journalists will absolutely make their article about what they want to make it about. So Michael gives the writer evidence that there is a Queens accent, which goes on, but my comments on the lack of a borough difference stays out. Then he ends with a quote from me that implies I think Cuomo is putting on his accent? What I said was that he was local, and that you might be surprised to hear a professional (politician) with a strong accent, but in a way it makes sense to hear a NY governer using his NY accent. Ach…
Disregard this joke but for the reference to the letter c
Today is my 30th Birthday! Also - how often do I get all agro about the letter c in the English language? Well, this joke is silly, but please note that it is one of the first “improvments” suggested.
Subject: FW: The Building of a European Union Language!
Read all the way through….it is indeed very clever.
The building of a European Union language!
The European Commission has just announced an agreement whereby English will be the official language of the European Union rather than German, which was the other possibility.
As part of the negotiations, the British Government conceded that English spelling had some room for improvement and has accepted a 5-year phase-in plan that would become known as “Euro-English”.
In the first year, “s” will replace the soft “c”. Sertainly, this will make the sivil servants jump with joy. The hard ”c” will be dropped in favour of “k”. This should klear up konfusion, and keyboards kan have one less letter.
There will be growing publik enthusiasm in the sekond year when the troublesome “ph” will be replaced with ”f”. This will make words like fotograf 20% shorter.
In the 3rd year, publik akseptanse of the new spelling kan be expekted to reach the stage where more komplikated changes are possible.
Governments will enkourage the removal of double letters which have always ben a deterent to akurate speling.
Also, al wil agre that the horibl mes of the silent “e” in the languag is disgrasful and it should go away.
By the 4th yer people wil be reseptiv to steps such as replasing “th” with “z” and “w” with “v”.
During ze fifz yer, ze unesesary “o” kan be dropd from vordskontaining “ou” and after ziz fifz yer, ve vil hav a reil sensi bl riten styl.
Zer vil be no mor trubl or difikultis and evrivun vil find it ezi TU understand ech oza. Ze drem of a united urop vil finali kum tru.
Und efter ze fifz yer, ve vil al be speking German like zey vunted in ze forst plas.
My friend Dan said something funny on Facebook yesterday, prompted by Facebook’s additions to its spoken language selection, which does not include African American English (or any derivative) or Latino/Chicano English, or New York (City) English, but does include Pirate. He noted that “a language is a dialect with an army and either a navy or a pirate ship.” I mean, that’s really funny.
Byron congratulated me today on teaching my penultimate class of my first semester at Reed. It reminded me of stress assignment in English - one of my colleagues in French was asking me about stress assignment and I was trying to explain some of the basic rules without making it too complicated, the most basic of which is that disyllabic nouns take stress on the penultimate syllable, as well trisyllabic nouns - unless the syllable is weak - like in penultimate. Ha ha. Yeah? Well, I find it funny.
I also think English is helpful in distinguishing lexical class through stress, i.e. contrast as a noun or a verb. I also like the way stress assignment can cause vowel reduction so that paradigms/declensions can have vowel alternation.
Moral of the day - don’t put the emphasis on the wrong syllable unless you are doing it agentically.
On the anniversary of Kennedy’s assassination, I’m always reminded of the fascinating research that basically debunks the validity of eyewitness testimony, and the longevity of memory more generally. Research on the actual eyewitnesses in Dallas proved incredibly unreliable as witnesses changed their stories over time, particularly with reference to additional shooters and other conspiracy-theory details. But more interesting is the research done on any old person’s memory of a traumatic event. Psychologists used to think we formed a “flashbulb” memory that would remain quite accurate, as the trauma of the moment caused our memory to encode fine detail. In fact, participants in longitudinal studies change key details of their stories when answering the question “where you when __,” with blank being the Challenger explosion, Reagan assassination attempt, etc. What they think now is that flashbulbs memories may differ depending on what the observer marked as important in the moment - who they were with for one, where they were for another, what they were wearing for yet another.
In a sense, linguists who unpack narrative strategies, for instance, already have a good understanding of personal accounts as constructed and re-constructed, and that text as quite decontextualized from actual memory. But with flashbulb accounts there is still an assumption that no one could possibly forget all the details of the moment they heard President Kennedy was shot.
Caught between a rock and a hard place (grammar and ethnography?)
I had a student (a college sophomore) make another joke in my class that our course material (on dialects of English) was not “linguistics.” I took him to mean that he does not consider the subfield of sociolinguistics to be “linguistics.”
So what is linguistics then? Purely a cognitive science? An abstraction where the ideal speaker/hearer provides data from white middle-class Western male academics? A study of systems which never vary, where context never matters, where agency does not exist?
And worse, we are villainized in anthropology, too, for being too quantitative, for being too formal, for being linguists. So often I feel homeless.