Non native speaker?

Laurence Horn laurence.horn at YALE.EDU
Wed Oct 23 18:03:31 UTC 2002

At 1:57 PM -0400 10/23/02, Duane Campbell wrote:
>According to published reports, the notes left by the sniper are in an
>imperfect English indicating perhaps a non-native speaker. Yet the one
>sentence they have released -- "Your children are not safe at any time or
>in any place." (from memory) -- strikes me as a very well crafted
>sentence. Not just lucid and free from error, but stylish.
>Any forensic linguists on the list? Is there such a thing as a forensic

Actually, there's a forensic linguistics list that some of us
cross-subscribe to, and these questions have been discussed, with the
overall sense that (based on past experience) it would be hasty to
conclude anything about the actual nationality or native-speaker
status of the sniper based on (what we've read about) his (the
consensus is "his") messages.  (The motivating factor for suspecting
non-native-status was the salutation "Dear Mr. Policeman" or whatever
it was.)

>While I'm asking questions, Chief Moose (who is, incidentally, Dr. Moose)
>replaces all of his "th" sounds with either a hard "D" (initial) or "F".
>I have heard this from time to time, though usually not so pronounced,
>including a classmate in 1950s rural Pennsylvania with a 100 percent
>white school population. I had always assumed it was a minor speech
>impediment (is there a new PC word for this?) or an ideomorph. Are there
>dialects that include this shift?
[d] and [t] for /dh/ and /th/ are standard non-standard dialectal
variants in certain northeast urban areas (NYC--where it's a
shibboleth for "Brooklynese":  dese, dem, dose, Boston, etc.), New
Orleans, U.P. of Michigan, and other areas with foreign substratum.
I haven't been paying attention to Chief Moose's fricatives, so I'm
not either agreeing or disagreeing with your assessment on that.  (I
know he was formerly police chief in Portland, OR, but I don't know
where he was from before that.)


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