Singing in a dialect and "Authentic pronunciation" (UNCLASSIFIED)

Wilson Gray hwgray at GMAIL.COM
Thu Oct 7 02:55:24 UTC 2010

On Wed, Oct 6, 2010 at 10:03 PM, Herb Stahlke <hfwstahlke at> wrote:

> these singers came from all over the country.

Are you including Motown's stable of white singers? For all practical
purposes, as Labov noted long ago, BE speakers come from the South,
even when they've never been within a thousand miles of the Cotton
Curtain. In another instance, Labov claimed that "I'm-a" was becoming
common in BE. The first person that I heard use this locution was my
youngest brother, born in Saint Louis, but living in Sacramento from
Montessori to the Federal bench. In at least one Motown case, the
singer Eddie Kendricks, as was Joe Louis before him, was a for-real
Southerner, a native of Alabama.

OTOH, in Los angeles, I did have one friend who, shockingly,
pronounced even _nigger_ as [nIgr], He was a graduate of the same high
school as Ray Bradbury. Perhaps that experience had left a permanent
blotch on his speech-patterns.

IAC, I refuse to believe that, a half-century ago, it could possibly
have been necessary to school black people in Detroit, or even in Los
Angeles, after Motown moved its headquarters there, or anywhere else,
in the *stereotypical* minutiae of black speech.

All say, "How hard it is that we have to die!"––a strange complaint to
come from the mouths of people who have had to live.
–Mark Twain

The American Dialect Society -

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