FW: Nebraskans/Standard English

Alice Faber faber at HASKINS.YALE.EDU
Fri Jan 18 22:40:58 UTC 2002

Frank Abate wrote:
>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?

I think you're obscuring the question by your use of passive voice.
Even with my dialectological savvy, there are accents of American
English that *I* can't place (we won't say how many...). Elsewhere in
this discussion, for instance, Beverly referred to several different
Columbus (OH) accents, and I'm sure I'd be helpless at interpreting
any kind of nuanced difference among them. But Beverly obviously can
use these differences to place people. I'll generalize from that: for
*any* accent of American English, I'd venture to say that there are
some people out there, not necessarily dialectologists, who can
identify speakers' origins based on that accent. What's non-descript
to me isn't necessarily non-descript to others.

Note that this is just an extension of the idea, *very* roughly put
that many Americans have difficulty distinguishing South African,
Australian, and New Zealand accents, even if these are *very*
different to denizens of these areas.
Alice Faber                                             faber at haskins.yale.edu
Haskins Laboratories                                  tel: (203) 865-6163 x258
New Haven, CT 06511 USA                                     fax (203) 865-8963

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