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The Issue of Dialect. What is the difference between a dialect and a language?. Dialects are variations of the same spoken language. Speakers of two dialects can understand one another. Three Features of Dialect. 1. Pronunciation Same written word pronounced differently

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The Issue

of Dialect


What is the difference between a dialect and a language?

Dialects are variations of the same spoken language.



Three Features of Dialect

1. Pronunciation

  • Same written word pronounced differently

  • Biblical example: shibboleth (Judges 12:5-6)

    2. Syntax

  • Rules of grammar may differ slightly

    3. Vocabulary

  • Same concept represented by different words


Two Types of Dialects

Regional Dialects

  • Associated with a geographic area

  • Slowly fading due to media and mobility

    Social Dialects

  • Associated with a social/ethnic group

  • Not spoken by all members of the group

  • Many speakers can shift styles


Three Major U.S. Regional Dialects

Northern

Midland

Southern


North vs. South

Examples of Vocabulary


North vs. South

Examples of Pronunciation


Test Yourself!

Which of the regional dialects, by an executive agreement reached in New York City, became the gold standard of broadcast journalism during the advent of television in the late 1940s?

 Northern

 Midland

 Southern


Test Yourself!

Which of the regional dialects, by an executive agreement reached in New York City, became the gold standard of broadcast journalism during the advent of television in the late 1940s?

 Northern

 Midland

 Southern


Regional Dialects

Regional dialects encompass the entire English-speaking world. Dialects spoken in the UK, Australia, Canada, and New Zealand, for example, are in the same category as U.S. regional dialects.


Winston Churchill, 1874-1965

Britain and America are two nations separated by a common language.


Social Dialects

  • The most important social dialect in America is called African-American Vernacular English (AAVE).

  • AAVE is also called “Black English” and “Ebonics.”

  • Syntax is an important feature as it relates to the verb to be. In AAVE, the verb to be is not always conjugated (e.g., “He be sick.”)

  • AAVE differs from Midland English mostly in matters of pronunciation.


Social Dialects

Examples of AAVE Pronunciation



Does AAVE stand in the way of learning to read?

There is no SBRR on this point, but dialecticians argue that AAVE is not a problem.



But don’t kids need to know Standard English?

Dialecticians point out that no one actually speaks Standard English.


In fact, they dislike the term Standard English. What we all must learn to read is called “Edited American English.”


Which no one speaks – except Professor McKenna. must learn to read is called “Edited American English.”


But what if reading materials were available in AAVE? must learn to read is called “Edited American English.”


Experiments with “Black Readers” must learn to read is called “Edited American English.”

Attempts to use AAVE readers in the 1960s failed for three reasons:

Not all African-American children spoke AAVE.

Effectiveness studies proved that the readers did not work.

African-American parents objected to their use.


Lisa Delpit has called the prestige Midland dialect the “Power Code,” arguing that its use is a prerequisite to economic success in America.



But shouldn’t we insist on correct pronunciations when children read?

As a rule, no. There are at least four good reasons for not always correcting them.


1 children read?

Reason 1 for not automatically correcting dialect pronunciations

There is no linguistic standard for “correctness.” Some pronunciations are simply more prevalent than others.

Test yourself:

How do you pronounce these words?

Missouri

Arkansas


1 children read?

Reason 1 for not automatically correcting dialect pronunciations

There is no linguistic standard for “correctness.” Some pronunciations are simply more prevalent than others.

Test yourself:

How do you pronounce these words?

Missouri

Arkansas


1 children read?

Reason 1 for not automatically correcting dialect pronunciations

There is no linguistic standard for “correctness.” Some pronunciations are simply more prevalent than others.

Test yourself:

How do you pronounce these words?

Missouri

Arkansas


1 children read?

Reason 1 for not automatically correcting dialect pronunciations

There is no linguistic standard for “correctness.” Some pronunciations are simply more prevalent than others.

Try this one:

greasy


2 children read?

Reason 2 for not automatically correcting dialect pronunciations

The child’s pronunciation may not affect comprehension. This is the acid test!

Pronouncing help without sounding the l is just not on a par with pronouncing red with a long e.


3 children read?

Reason 3 for not automatically correcting dialect pronunciations

Calling attention to every dialect pronunciation may distract young children from comprehending and/or from learning the alphabetic principle.


3 children read?

Reason 3 for not automatically correcting dialect pronunciations

Imagine trying to “correct” all of the dialect pronunciations in this sentence:

Text: I can’t write with your pen.

Child: Ah cain’t rot witch yo pin.


4 children read?

Reason 4 for not automatically correcting dialect pronunciations

During the middle school years children become aware of the social significance of their dialect.

Without being instructed in how to do so, most learn to shift styles easily, to match the context.

– William Labov, 1962



To sum up, remember that dialects are variations of the same spoken language.

Languages

English Spanish


To sum up, remember that dialects are variations of the same spoken language.

Languages

English Spanish

Southern Midland Northern


There are two distinct levels. spoken language.

{

{

Languages

English Spanish

Southern Midland Northern

Language

Level

Dialect

Level


This is true whether we are describing regional or social dialects.

{

{

Languages

English Spanish

“Power Code” AAVE

Language

Level

Dialect

Level


Speakers of all dialects must learn to read the same written language.

{

{

Languages

English Spanish

“Power Code” AAVE

Language

Level

Dialect

Level


The Issue of Ebonics language.

  • Ebonics = Ebony + Phonics

  • The rationale is political:

    If AAVE could be classified not as a dialect but as a language other than English, ESL funding would become available for schools with high percentages of African-American students.


  • Teachers in the primary grades should language.

    • be aware of dialect differences, both social and regional;

    • avoid trying to change children’s dialects by “correcting” their pronunciation; and

    • model the “Power Code” in their own spoken English.


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