"eye dialect"

Jesse T Sheidlower jester at PANIX.COM
Tue Apr 27 01:20:00 UTC 1999

> "Eye dialect" is used in wrting, usually fiction, by an author who wants to
> show by his/her spelling how the speaker supposedly sounds.  For example,
> in the first chapter of Zora Neale Hurston's novel "Their Eyes Were
> Watching God," the following exchange occurs:
>                 "Humph! Y'all let her worry yuh.  You ain't like me.  Ah ain't got her to
> study 'bout.
>                 If she ain't got manners enough to stop and let folks know how she been
> making'
>                 out, let her g'wan!"
> Hurston's characters are uneducated, rural African Americans, and she uses
> "eye dialect" to suggest how they would actually sound.

I believe that what Virginia is describing here is actually
"pronunciation spelling," or the use of variant spellings to
represent nonstandard pronunciations.

"Eye dialect" refers to nonstandard spellings used to indicate
_standard_ pronunciations, where only the spelling (but not the
pronunciations thus represented) indicates that the speakers
are uneducated or speak nonstandard dialects. Examples are _uv_
for "of"; _enuff_ for "enough"; or _wimmin_ for "women." In
each case these spellings reflect the usual pronunciation.

Jesse Sheidlower
Random House
<jester at panix.com>

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