nondenigrating dialect writing

Beverly Flanigan flanigan at OAK.CATS.OHIOU.EDU
Thu Mar 22 17:42:02 UTC 2001

At 11:22 AM 3/22/01 -0500, you wrote:
>In a message dated 2/23/01 12:06:01 PM, highbob at MINDSPRING.COM writes:
><< Can you folks think of any
>instance in which such eye-dialect flavor is not denigrating? >>
>Oh yes! There is a long history of dialect writing (stemming from
>romanticism) in which the dialect is seen as ennobling and uplifting--and
>intrinsically poetic. See ,e.g., the African American dialect in Eudora
>Welty's "A Worn Path"; cf. also Robert Burns' poetry. These writers mix eye
>dialect with real dialect (as do most dialect writers).

This term is constantly misunderstood.  I have a former student who rejects
Appalachian dialect forms in literature as demeaning and calls them all
"eye dialect."  Her example was "Hit warn't nothin'."  But representing
this as "It wasn't nothing" (in a manner similar to what Frazier does in
_Cold Mountain_, using some regional grammar but without phonologically
based spelling modifications) is not just avoidance of eye dialect.  The
lack of authentic dialect representations bothered me at first when I read
the novel--but then, Faulkner used them only rarely too.

Beverly Olson Flanigan         Department of Linguistics
Ohio University                     Athens, OH  45701
Ph.: (740) 593-4568              Fax: (740) 593-2967

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