Student question on language crossing social barriers

Gordon, Matthew J. GordonMJ at MISSOURI.EDU
Mon Feb 4 02:17:46 UTC 2008

I'd refer the student to the PBS site for "Do you speak American?" which has oodles of good, accessible essays written by smart people, some of whom frequent this list. Specifically, you might point him to the piece on crossing:

-Matt Gordon

-----Original Message-----
From: American Dialect Society on behalf of David Bowie
Sent: Sun 2/3/2008 8:09 PM
Subject:      Student question on language crossing social barriers
I got the following from a student today:

> In the last lecture, we touched on how languages change, and how
> sometimes different groups will adopt variations of other groups'
> languages/dialects.

> I've noticed that this can happen within languages, and cross social
> barriers. For example... Phrases like 'You go girl.' and 'You da
> man.' These seemed to have started in a certain demographic, and
> within two or three years, were abandoned by the people who coined
> them, but very popular with the demographic that didn't. (Notice all
> the white guys in suits using the 'you da man' phrase, but the
> brothers on the basketball courts don't anymore?)

> Could you direct me to an author, or maybe even a title that explains
> how and why this happens? I'd certainly appreciate it. (A
> non-linguistics major version if possible.)

All i'm thinking up are relatively technical things on in-group and
out-group language and such. Anyone here know of something accessible i
could refer him to? (The student's an upper-division undergrad in his
first and probably only lx course ever.)

David Bowie                               University of Central Florida
     Jeanne's Two Laws of Chocolate: If there is no chocolate in the
     house, there is too little; some must be purchased. If there is
     chocolate in the house, there is too much; it must be consumed.

The American Dialect Society -

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