Easy to sound like...

Dennis R. Preston preston at PILOT.MSU.EDU
Fri Oct 25 14:17:47 UTC 2002


>  I agree with Lesa Dill "it's easy, intentionally or not, to sound garbled,
>  illiterate and/or non-native." So what's the use of the native/non-native
>  distinction?

I completely agree and disagree.

I agree. Lots of nonlinguists have folk speech routines which allow
them to easily imitate "garbled, illiterate and/or non-native"
speech. But this is true only if we judge their success on the basis
of their own assessment of their performance and that of (some)
nonlinguist others. (Perhaps that is suggested by "sound" in this
earlier posting.)

I disagree. "Illiterate" speech (I assume nonstandard varieties) and
non-native speech (or "interlanguages," following the SLA tradition)
are coherent, fully-fledged, difficult-to-master human language
systems. One may say "espeak" for "speak" and have people "recognize"
the Spanish influence or say "I goes" and have people think one is
"speaking" African American English, but such folk imitations
(interesting objects of study themselves, by the way) are not full
representations of the systems (native and non-native) involved here
at all, and are often simply inaccurate.

I have nothing to say about folk speakers imitations of "garbled
speech," but I am delighted to find a message which I can be 100% for
and against.


Dennis R. Preston
Professor of Linguistics
Department of Linguistics & Germanic, Slavic,
      Asian & African Languages
Michigan State University
East Lansing, MI 48824-1027
e-mail: preston at msu.edu
phone: (517) 353-9290

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