FW: Nebraskans/Standard English

Frank Abate abatefr at EARTHLINK.NET
Fri Jan 18 22:26:56 UTC 2002

Re what Michael Newman has said, copied below --

The issue is not what is "best".  There is no "best".  And clearly, everyone
has the signs of their particular origin, upbringing, or education in their

The issue is what seems marked in a general sense, what can be assigned to a
particular region, urban area, or whatever.  Clearly, this is subject to
debate, and variations in the evidence, not to mention variations over time.

What my point is, as to markedness: is there a US dialect has a minimal
amount of clear regional "signs" that mark its origin, such that it can be
clearly assigned to one particular region or regions?  Speakers from many
parts of the South, or many natives of Brooklyn, Boston, or Philadelphia,
for example, can often be "spotted" because of certain characteristics of
their speech.

But is there a dialect of American English that can be characterized as
having the least amount of regional marking, such that a speaker of this
variety would be difficult to place as to origin?

Frank Abate

-----Original Message-----
From: American Dialect Society [mailto:ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU]On Behalf
Of Michael Newman
Sent: Friday, January 18, 2002 4:43 PM
Subject: Re: Nebraskans/Standard English

As a NYer who's spent time in many parts of the midwest, I have to
say, I've heard the notion that the "best" speech is found in any
number of cities of that region that, of course, speak quite
differently. A related idea is that people from this or that city
"have no accent." Besides Columbus, they include Cleveland, Detroit,
and Kansas, so it's hardly a surprise to add Nebraska, and why not
South Dakota too.  I've heard this urban legend backed up with ideas
that 'communication experts' use these areas for some purpose or
another involving language, or some variation on that theme. Now,
anyone who's been to Columbus can tell you that there are various
Columbus accents, and of course Clevland and Detroit are northern
cities with short vowels that would provoke any prescriptivist to
apoplexy if they actually noticed them, which of course they usually

All of which is to say that actual linguistic features do not have
much to do the origin of these ideas or supporting them. Even often
condemned pronunciations such as r-lessness  can be "better" in the
voice of someone like former NJ governer Tom Kean, whose r-less
speech has been labeled "aristocratic."

Michael Newman
Assistant Professor of Applied Linguistics
Dept. of Linguistics and Communication Disorders
Queens College/CUNY
Flushing, NY 11367

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