Nobody's Perfect Dept.

Laurence Horn laurence.horn at YALE.EDU
Sat Dec 16 18:36:01 UTC 2006

At 10:11 AM -0500 12/15/06, Beverly Flanigan wrote:
>Here's another gem, from a thesis I'm reading, quoting one Benedict
>Anderson, who writes on "imagined communities" and the rise of "print
>capitalism":  The Reformation and the use of vernaculars allowed
>"idiolects, i.e. groupings of vernacular dialects, to be assembled, within
>definite limits, into print-languages far fewer in number" (1991, p.
>43).  Footnote (Anderson's or my student's?):  "An idiolect is the entire
>repertoire of lects (i.e. language varieties) for any given language."

I just remembered I have this book out of the library, and checking
it I find this passage on p. 42:

"At bottom, it is likely that the esotericization of Latin, the
Reformation, and the haphazard development of administrative
vernaculars are significant, in the present context, primarily in a
negative sense--in their contributions to the dethronement of Latin."

Then on p. 43 there's a mention of "the fatality of linguistic
diversity".  Hmmm...

But the relevant passage on p. 43 is the following [emphasis added]:

"In pre-print Europe, and of course elsewhere in the world, the
diversity of spoken languages, those languages that for their
speakers were (and are) the warp and woof of their lives, was
immense; so immense, indeed, that had print-capitalism sought to
exploit each potential oral vernacular market, it would have remained
a capitalism of petty proportions.  But THESE VARIED IDIOLECTS were
capable of being assembled, within definite limits, into
print-languages fewer in number."

The footnote (20) states:
"That the sign _ough_ is pronounced differently in the words
although, bough, lough, rough, cough, and hiccough, shows both the
IDIOLECTIC variety out of which the now-standard spelling of English
emerged, and the ideographic quality of the final product."

So Beverly's student appears to have been paraphrasing Benedict
Arnold somewhat liberally, and the student's footnote is not in
Anderson, but I'm not sure which of them is more off-base.


The American Dialect Society -

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