Persons Who Need Persons

Dennis R. Preston preston at PILOT.MSU.EDU
Fri Jul 23 12:34:50 UTC 1999

Personally, I do not write accents (when they are really accents), and I
guess I agree that it is "non-English." I'm not sure about "pretentious."
When diacritics indicate different "letters" (phonemes), I usually do
(tildes, cedillas, etc...). "Façade" looks too much like "f at KEYD" and "año"
with no tilde (in Spanish, not Portuguese, of course) looks really bad. As
the old joke goes, "Hey, gringo, how many years do you have?" "I have
thirty-nine assholes."

More seriously, I think these spelling decisions are a little like the use
of pronunciation in making the really tough decision about whther language
material has been "borrowed" or whether "code-switching" is involved.

We've discussed "exotic" diacritics before I believe (like adding "-e" to
up the price). Is there a list of these somewhere in an old list round? I


PS: I personally have fifty-nine; "thirty-nine" was just an example.

>Peter McGraw wrote:
>> On Thu, 22 Jul 1999 11:52:19 -0700 "A. Maberry"
>> <maberry at U.WASHINGTON.EDU> wrote:
>> > > On Thu, 22 Jul 1999, Peter McGraw wrote:
>> > >
>> > > > Anyway, said "authority" (who shall remain anonymous because I've
>> > > > forgotten who it was) argued that it was "incorrect" to use
>> > "people" as > > a plural for "person" because the former could not be
>> > derived from the > > latter by adding a suffix.
>> > >
>> >
>> > Hmmm. I've never heard that line of "reasoning" before, but maybe I
>> > don't get out enough. According to the "authority" the plural of
>> > "goose" would be ... ?
>> I don't know.  He probably just contented himself with gnashing his
>> teeth whenever he came to that one.
>(ooh, she's in a mood.  Been dealing with p.a.'s who are over-precriptivist.
>Here's a question:
>When writing English words borrowed from other languages that are written using
>the Latin alphabet plus diacritics, do you write the accent?  For example, if
>you write the word "café" do you write the acute accent mark?  This includes
>handwriting as well as typing.  Other words used to "illustrate" this p.a.'s
>point were "façade" and "résumé".
>I and other self-confident non-apologetic-for-our-culture-vs-European-Americans
>maintained that Americans in general do not write accents, don't learn how to
>write the accents, don't learn to spell the words with accents, and in some
>cases think writing the accents is a bit pretentious.
>What do y'all think? )

Dennis R. Preston
Professor of Linguistics
Department of Linguistics and Languages
Michigan State University
East Lansing MI 48824-1027 USA
preston at
Office: (517)353-0740
Fax: (517)432-2736

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