question about African-American mimicry

Dennis Preston preston at MSU.EDU
Thu May 3 11:18:49 UTC 2007


I covered AAE and White speakers imitating one another (and noted the
same levels you remark on as particularly distinguishing) in a 1992
article (Talking black and talking white: A study in variety
imitation. J. Hall, N. Doane, & D. Ringler (eds). Old English and
new: Studies in language and linguistics in honor of Frederic G.
Cassidy. New York: Garland, 326-55), and Betsy Evans worked
extensively on a Northern speaker imitating West Virginians in Evans,
Betsy E. 2002. An acoustic and perceptual analysis of imitation. In
Daniel Long and Dennis R. Preston (eds), Handbook of perceptual
dialectology, Volume 2. Amsterdam: John Benjamins, pp. 95-112. Evans'
chapter contains an excellent review of the literature on imitation.
Eric Thomas has a number of interesting recent studies in which he
looks acoustically at some of the characteristics you have in mind,
but it is in authentic not imitated speech. Nevertheless, it is
important baseline information for such considerations.


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>Sender:       American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
>Poster:       James C Stalker <stalker at MSU.EDU>
>Subject:      Re: question about African-American mimicry
>You might look at Wolfram and Schilling-Estes work on performance dialects.
>They use the label for exaggerated versions of native dialects rather than
>exaggerated versions of other dialects, but you might be able to do some
>redefining.  Michael Montgomery has done some work on this as well (too, but
>not either).
>Darla Wells writes:
>>  Is there a linguistic term for speech that is altered in pitch and tone to
>>  make fun of other people's speech and mannerisms? I am hunting for
>>a reference
>>  because I am writing about an instance of it in a rap song, "99
>>Problems." In
>>  "99 Problems" Jay-Z gets stopped by a white cop and the
>>performance is one in
>>  which he overpronounces his word endings and vowels and nasalizes the whole
>>  speech and drags it out. I have run across a description of this before in
>>  Keith Basso's work with Native Americans making fun of
>>whites'speech but can't
>>  remember if there is a term for it. If there is, I am also wondering who
>>  writes about such. I don't remember seeing a bunch of that kind of
>>thing until
>>  the show Fresh Prince of Bel-Air came on in the early 90's. They have the
>>  wimpy little  rich guy talking like that and are always making fun of him
>>  because he is so preppy and always "acting white."
>>   Darla
>>  With magic, you can turn a frog into a prince. With science, you can turn a
>>   frog into a Ph.D and you still have the frog you started with.
>>(Terry Pratchett)
>>  ------------------------------------------------------------
>>  The American Dialect Society -
>James C. Stalker
>Department of English
>Michigan State University
>The American Dialect Society -

The American Dialect Society -

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