Print

Print


Thanks, Steve, for pointing out that spoken English can frequently be a class
issue. Since this topic was introduced, I've been irritated by the superior tone
that I've detected in some of the posts. (Also, I've been amused by some of the
grammatical errors and misspellings in some of them.)  Your response helped me
gain some perspective.
Martha Perkins


Steve Runge wrote:

> For those following this thread, I have assembled most of the dialect
> pet-peeves
> into a short vignette:
> -------------------------------------------
> The building was broke into just as a guy outside was busted for jaywalking.
> Don't that just beat all? I was real pissed. I should of did it; I should of
> went over there and given that cop a what-for. I mean, to my brother and I
> standing there, it was like that cop was trained by my aunt Lucy who don't
> abide spittin' and jaywalkin' and the word ain't more'n damnation itself.
>
> Gawd, I was all fit to be tied about what I seen that morning. But alls we
> done is just kinda stand there, like we didn't know what to do or nothin'.
> It's like what they say about being in shock, we were in shock. But I seen
> the guy what broke into the building. I seen him but good.
> ---------------------------------------
> What social class and region is the speaker from? What does this say about
> our preconceptions and stereotypes? Why do certain surface details of
> dialect annoy us, and certain surface details fool us into believing every
> word? If you heard this man's testimony in a court of law, would you
> discredit his testimony because of his dialect? Would you be more willing to
> trust the testimony of a man (or woman) who began, "Precisely coincident
> with the moment at which the burglar effected entry, the oblivious constable
> was preparing the jaywalking violation of an otherwise law-abiding citizen.
> Preposterous!" Why?
>
> Recommended reading: Labov, William. Language in the Inner City: Studies in
> the Black English Vernacular. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania
> Press, 1972.
>
> Labov presents a number of answers to questions he asked in linguistic
> fieldwork, one of which was about God and religiosity. There is an
> interesting contrast between the answers of a suburban, upwardly mobile
> black professional (grammatically correct, poor reasoning), and that of an
> inner city black gang member (strong dialect, excellent reasoning).
>
> I'm sure
> there are plenty of counter-examples; I am not trying to make the point that
> grammar instruction doesn't belong in education. It does, but in its place:
> offering students a chance to learn the dialect of the elite, so they can
> get ahead in life.
> Labov's point is that people are more apt to be swayed by dialect than by
> reasoning. I don't think this is a reason to justify "correcting" people's
> speech; I think it's a reason to focus on our own our own prejudicial
> incapacities to listen.  To paraphrase clumsily the man whose birthday
> season we're celebrating, take the plank out of your own ear.
>
> Steve Runge
> Academic Skills Coordinator
> St. Lawrence U.
> Canton, NY 13617
> [log in to unmask]