"eye dialect"

Beverly Flanigan flanigan at OAK.CATS.OHIOU.EDU
Wed Apr 28 02:35:11 UTC 1999

At 09:20 PM 4/26/99 -0400, you wrote:
>> "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>

An example of true eye dialect that does occur in Hurston is "uh" for
"a"--possibly to indicate that it has a schwa pronunciation rather than the
/e/ sound so often used in reading aloud.  (At least that's the only
explanation I can come up with; I must admit it bothers me as I presently
read the novel.)

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