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Language Varieties. Dialects: distinct and consistent differences within a language system used by a specific group of speakers Mutually understandable with other dialect speakers Regional: differences influenced by geography Social: differences influenced by social aspects

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language varieties
Language Varieties
  • Dialects: distinct and consistent differences within a language system used by a specific group of speakers
    • Mutually understandable with other dialect speakers
    • Regional: differences influenced by geography
    • Social: differences influenced by social aspects
  • Dialects reflect these differences at all linguistic levels
    • Not just difference in accent or lexicon
  • Speakers normally do not shift between dialects in different social situations
dialect or language
Dialect or Language?
  • There is no scientific way of labelling a linguistic system a dialect or a language
    • Chinese “dialects” are for the most part not mutually understandable when spoken
    • There are several distinct languages that are for the most part mutually understandable
      • Hindi and Urdu, Swedish and Norwegian
  • The label usually has more to do with political and cultural considerations
    • Nationalism, ethnic identity, regionalism
idiolect
Idiolect
  • Nobody speaks exactly like anyone else; we all have certain “quirks” in our language use
  • Idiolect refers to linguistic differences that are localized in individuals
    • Pronouncing “gestures” with an initial [g]
    • Using “yesterday” to refer to all days before today, not just the one immediately proceeding it
pidgins creoles languages
Pidgins, Creoles, & Languages
  • Pidgin: Communication by combining vocabulary used by the different speakers
    • Mostly content words, minimal grammar, no native speakers
  • Creole: Language variety that has been greatly influenced by (an)other language(s)
    • Established function words, consistent grammar, minimal inflections, order-dependent syntax, native speakers
    • Distinguishing between creoles & languages more about politics than clear linguistic distinctions; some linguists prefer term “hybrid language” or “hybrid variety” to the label “creole”
black english
Black English
  • One of the mostly widely spoken social dialects of American English is Black English (BE)
    • Also known as African-American English and Ebonics
  • BE is not slang nor “bad” English; the differences between it and standard English are systematic and they also appear in other varieties of English
  • There are regional variations of BE
  • Not all African-Americans speak BE; not all BE speakers are African-American
dialect marker of be
Dialect Marker of BE
  • Deletion of postvocalic liquids
    • If [r] or [l] occurs after a vowel it will often be reduced
    • /sIstər//sIstə/; /storm//stom/
  • Interdental shift
    • Non-initial interdental fricatives become labiodental fricatives: [Θ][f]; [ð][v]
    • /mawΘ//mawf/; /brið//briv/
    • Initial voiced interdental fricatives become voiced alveolar stops: [ð][d]
    • /ðæt//dæt/
dialect markers of be
Dialect Markers of BE
  • Final velar nasal shift
    • Final velar nasals become aveolar nasals
    • /duəŋ//duən/; /pleəŋ//pleən/
  • Omission of 3rd Person, singular suffix
    • “He walk”; “She have a bike”
  • Zero-Copula
    • In sentences with a copula verb, it is usually absent
    • “She real nice”; “They out here”
    • The exception is when the copula is exposed in the sentence structure: “Know what it is?”; “Is she?”
dialect markers of be9
Dialect Markers of BE
  • “Be” as habitual auxiliary
    • The use of “be” to marks habitual actions
    • “He be busy” [he is usually busy]; “He be goin' to the movies”
  • Left Dislocation
    • “My brother, he bigger than you.”
    • “Your sister, I like her.”
  • Emphatic Negatives
    • “Ain’t nobody beat me at no basketball”
    • “I ain't done nothing to nobody”
history of be
History of BE
  • BE has its roots in the African slave trade
    • Slave traders/owners prohibited slave communication in African languages
  • American slaves develop creoles between English and generic West-African grammar base
    • Contemporary relative of these creoles is Gullah
  • Over time, these creoles and the Southern dialect of English influence each other leading to the slaves acquiring a similar dialect to Southern English
  • Post-slavery, in communities where African-Americans are isolated, the modern BE dialect develops