Bilinguals vs. Monolinguals

Thomas E Payne tpayne at OREGON.UOREGON.EDU
Thu Mar 7 17:09:20 UTC 1996

Here is a message from John Myhill that apparently didn't go out to the
whole list. I'll quote it here then give my response.

> Obviously the speech of bilinguals' is different from that of monolinguals.
> To give just one of an endless list of examples, I have observed native
> speakers of English who did not set foot in Israel until their 20's saying
> things like 'The printer sits on the 18th floor', a loan translation from
> Hebrew. This is what linguistic convergence is all about. Gumperz'
study of
> Kupwar village is I guess the classic sociolinguistic study of this. This
> problem is exactly why I have avoided informant work in my own research and
> focused on using texts wherever possible.  John Myhill


  Thanks for your reply to my query. I wonder whether working with texts
"solves" the problem though. What if the text was composed by bilinguals?
Then, one might ask, so what if the speech of monolinguals is different
from that of bilinguals? So they use different speech varieties, but we
linguists usually pride ourselves on not passing judgement on one speech
variety over another. Is the speech of monolinguals necessarily "better"?
If so, how so? This is a serious question. I too have the sense that we
"ought" to study the speech of monolinguals. It seems intuitively to be
"purer", closer to what a grammar claims to describe if it is called "A
Grammar of X". But are we really justified in this intuition?

Tom Payne

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