FW: Nebraskans/Standard English

Beverly Flanigan flanigan at OAK.CATS.OHIOU.EDU
Fri Jan 18 23:14:55 UTC 2002

When merged cot/caught, or 'warsh,'  or "needs wa(r)shed," or positive
"anymore" becomes general and widespread enough, they'll no longer be
"marked" as to region or origin.  And since (North) Midland speech seems to
be moving toward "general and widespread enough," this is likely to become
what we used to call General American--it just won't be the same old
General American as 50 years ago.

At 05:26 PM 1/18/02 -0500, you 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?
>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

Beverly Olson Flanigan         Department of Linguistics
Ohio University                     Athens, OH  45701
Ph.: (740) 593-4568              Fax: (740) 593-2967

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