Coffee as a last name

Paul Johnston paul.johnston at WMICH.EDU
Sun Dec 9 06:32:51 UTC 2007

There's two definitions of vernacular dialect floating around.  Bill
Labov used it to mean one's first dialect, including what I call the
"informal" Standard in my dialectology/sociolinguistics classes--the
speech of upper-middle-class speakers.  Since the focus of many
studies (including, in Language in the Inner City, Labov's own) were
non-Standard, localized dialects, many people followed Jim & Lesley
Milroy's use of the term to mean exactly that.  I don't find the term
all that clumsy, and it does have the virtue of NOT defining these
dialects in opposition to the Standard, but of systems in their own
right.  Localized might work too, but most people don't think of
dialects as SOCIALLY localized, but rather GEOGRAPHICALLY localized,
which might exclude dialects such as AAVE (though there is
geographical variation in AAVE, too).

In reply to Joel, as to what Standard English is, and who you'd go to
to determine Std./non-Std.:  In my classes, I make a distinction
between Formal Standard English, which is what the grammar books and
prescriptive grammarians insist on, is primarily a written/scripted
variety and has no native speakers; and Informal Standard English,
which is locally-defined as equal to the formal speech of the most
prestigious group in a community, is both a spoken and a written
variety and has native speakers.  Teachers may sometimes insist on
the use of Formal Standard forms in speech, but outside the
classroom, informal forms are generally accepted (except for
grammatical puritans) in the speech community, and increasingly, in
others as well.  Informal Std. is largely defined negatively--it
lacks marked non-Std. features.  For Formal Std., prescriptivist
grammarians would tell you what is and isn't Standard; for Informal
Std., ordinary, but prestigious, people would.  That's the closest I
can get to a meaningful way to think about Standard English-- you
have to sacrifice the idea of the Std. as invariant and uniform, but
even prescriptivists disagree about certain features anyway--still,
there is less variation in Formal Std. than the many Informal Stds.,
and less in those than in vernaculars, and change tends to proceed
slower the closer to Formal Std. you get.

And pace Tom Zurinskas, in my view anyhow, there is no Formal Std.
pronunciation system in the USA; the Informal Stds. have one, though
it differs from place to place, and again, is defined by the absence
of marked non-Standard features and is contains features used all the
way up the social scale--and it is going to be noticeably different
in Boston, Savannah, Chicago, and  Louisville--though any of these
local Std. pronunciation systems will be comprehensible to the others.

Paul Johnston
On Dec 8, 2007, at 8:46 AM, Jonathan Lighter wrote:

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> Sender:       American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
> Poster:       Jonathan Lighter <wuxxmupp2000 at YAHOO.COM>
> Subject:      Re: Coffee as a last name
> ----------------------------------------------------------------------
> ---------
> A "vernacular" dialect is a "nonstandard" dialect. Standard
> English, however defined, is itself a dialect.
>   The phrase "vernacular dialect" is, however, rather clumsy.
> Perhaps it was chosen as being less "judgmental" than
> "nonstandard."  If you buy that kind of reasoning.
>   JL
> Tom Zurinskas <truespel at HOTMAIL.COM> wrote:
>   ---------------------- Information from the mail header
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> Sender: American Dialect Society
> Poster: Tom Zurinskas
> Subject: Re: Coffee as a last name
> ----------------------------------------------------------------------
> ---------
> What's the difference between vernacular dialect and dialect?
> from
> Vernacular Dialects in U.S. Schools
> Donna Christian, Center for Applied Linguistics
> Download a PDF of this digest.
> The Dialect Issue
> Children from different backgrounds come to school speaking a wide
> variety of dialects. Should our schools try to teach all students
> to use a standard dialect? If so, how? If not, how should different
> dialects be handled in the school setting? What impact does
> speaking a non-school dialect have on students' academic success
> and on their interactions with others in and out of school? These
> complex and controversial questions have been debated through the
> years, but they have become increasingly prominent in the last
> three decades. In particular, the controversy aroused by the
> December 1996 announcement of the Oakland (CA) School board about
> its policy on the instruction of African American vernacular
> dialect speakers underscores the fact that these issues have not
> been resolved.
> One central issue in this controversy is whether mastery and use of
> a standard dialect should be required in schools. Some people
> consider such a requirement to be discriminatory, because it places
> an extra burden on certain students. Others argue that it is a
> responsibility of the education system to teach a standard dialect
> to broaden students' skills and opportunities. For instance,
> students who do not develop facility with standard English may find
> that their employment or educational potential is restricted. A
> student's chances for success in school and in later life may be
> related to mastery of standard English.
> Consequences of Dialect Differences
> Dialect differences can affect the quality of education received by
> some students both academically and socially (Labov, 1995). A
> child's dialect may interfere with the acquisition of information
> and with various educational skills such as reading. In a court
> case in Ann Arbor (MI) in 1979, a group of African-American parents
> sued the local school system on behalf of their children, claiming
> that students were being denied equal educational opportunity
> because of their language background (Chambers & Bond, 1983; Farr
> Whiteman, 1980). Specifically, the parents maintained that the
> schools were failing to teach their children to read because the
> language differences represented by their children's vernacular
> dialect were not taken into account. The parents won their lawsuit,
> and the schools were ordered to provide special staff training
> related to dialects and the teaching of reading.
> The social consequences of belonging to a different dialect group
> may be more subtle, but are just as important. The attitudes of
> teachers, school personnel, and other students can have a
> tremendous impact on the education process. Often, people who hear
> a vernacular dialect make erroneous assumptions about the speaker's
> intelligence, motivation, and even morality. Studies have shown
> that there can be a self-fulfilling prophecy in teachers' beliefs
> about their students' abilities (Cazden, 1988). If an educator
> underestimates a student's ability because of dialect differences,
> the student will do less well in school, perhaps as a direct result
> of the negative expectations. In some cases, students are "tracked"
> with lower achievers or even placed in special education classes
> because of their vernacular speech patterns.
> Difference vs. Deficit
> Negative attitudes about speech start with the belief that
> vernacular dialects are linguistically inferior to standard
> versions of the language. In fact, the language systems of various
> groups of speakers may differ, but no one system is inherently
> better than any other. Research clearly supports the position that
> variation in language is a natural reflection of cultural and
> community differences (Labov, 1972).
> Despite linguistic equality among dialects, students' language and
> cultural backgrounds may influence their chances for success. When
> children from nonmainstream backgrounds enter school, they are
> confronted with new ways of viewing the world and new ways of
> behaving. Uses of language, both oral and written, are centrally
> involved in this new culture (Farr & Daniels, 1986). Heath's (1983)
> detailed account of language and culture patterns in two rural
> working class communities demonstrates clearly the conflict between
> language and cultural practices in the community and in the school.
> To move toward school expectations, children may have to adapt to
> language structures and patterns of usage that are different from
> those they have been using: for example, saying "They don't have
> any" instead of "They don't have none" in school settings, or
> learning rules governing when and how to make requests.
> Guidelines for Teaching a Standard Dialect
> The fact that language differences do not represent linguistic and
> cognitive deficiencies is an important premise for any education
> program. Given the advantages that may be associated with the
> ability to use standard English in appropriate situations, most
> schools include it as a goal of instruction for all students. Some
> general guidelines should be followed in teaching standard English
> at any level (Wolfram & Christian, 1989).
> The teaching of standard English must take into account the
> importance of the group reference factor. Speakers who want to
> participate in a particular social group will typically learn the
> language of that group, whereas those with no group reference or
> with antagonistic feelings toward the group are less likely to do so.
> Instruction in standard English should be coupled with information
> about the nature of dialect diversity. By giving students
> information about various dialects, including their own, teachers
> can demonstrate the integrity of all dialects. This approach
> clarifies the relationship between standard and vernacular
> dialects, underscoring the social values associated with each and
> the practical reasons for learning the standard dialect.
> Teachers and materials developers need a clear understanding of the
> systematic differences between standard and vernacular dialects in
> order to help students learn standard English.
> The dialect of spoken standard English that is taught should
> reflect the language norms of the community. The goal of
> instruction should be to learn the standard variety of the local
> community, not some formal dialect of English that is not actually
> used in the area. Regional standards are particularly relevant in
> the case of pronunciation features.
> Language instruction should include norms of language use, along
> with standard English structures. Speaking a standard dialect
> includes the use of particular conversational styles as well as
> particular language forms. For example, using standard English in a
> business telephone conversation does not involve simply using
> standard grammar and pronunciation. It also involves other
> conventions, such as asking the caller to "hold" if an interruption
> is called for, or performing certain closing routines before
> hanging up.
> The teaching of standard English requires careful thought, ranging
> from underlying educational philosophy to particular teaching
> strategies, if it is to be carried out effectively and equitably.
> Dialect Diversity: Opportunity, Not Liability
> The active study of dialects can benefit students from all
> linguistic backgrounds by helping them gain a better understanding
> of how language works (Adger, 1997; Wolfram, Christian, & Adger, in
> press). At one level, dialect differences may be treated as an
> interesting topic within language arts study. For example, a unit
> on vocabulary differences from different parts of the country can
> be both fun and instructive. (Where do they say "soda" vs. "pop"?
> Or "bag" vs. "sack" vs. "poke"?) When treated more comprehensively,
> dialect study can provide the opportunity for students to do
> empirical research and to develop critical thinking skills:
> observation, comparison, argumentation. Every school has nearby
> communities that are linguistically interesting, both in themselves
> and in how they compare with other communities. Students can
> examine their own speech patterns and gather language samples from
> other residents in the area. Such investigations can have the added
> advantages of
>  enh!
> ancing self-awareness and the understanding of cultural diversity
> (Erickson, 1997). Further, sending students into the community can
> contribute to preservation of the cultural and oral traditions of
> the region. The exploration of varieties of English can also help
> students gain insight into differences between spoken and written
> language, as well as variations related to formality, genre, and
> special registers.
> The concept of using dialect diversity and the cultural diversity
> that accompanies it as a resource in the curriculum presents a
> viewpoint that is very different from many traditional approaches.
> Instead of seeing differences as barriers to be overcome, the
> differences provide fascinating topics for scientific study.
> Tom Zurinskas, USA - CT20, TN3, NJ33, FL5+
> See - and the 4 truespel books plus "Occasional Poems"
> at
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