Work on regional variation in mass/count nouns?

Joseph Salmons jsalmons at WISC.EDU
Mon May 14 16:55:44 UTC 2007

Thanks. Yes, there are definitely studies of English spoken by Texas
Germans like this one:

Wilson, Joseph B. 1980. The English Spoken by German Americans in
Central Texas. Languages in Conflict, ed. by Paul Schach. Lincoln:
University of Nebraska Press. 157-173.

And there's a good general overview of German-influence English
across different areas:

Howell, Robert B. 1993. German Immigration and the Development of
Regional Variants of American English: Using contact theory to
discover our roots. The German Language in America, ed. Joseph
Salmons, pp. 190-212. Madison: Max Kade Institute.

But I don't think that any of these treat this particular question.


On May 14, 2007, at 11:47 AM, Charles Doyle wrote:

> ---------------------- Information from the mail header
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> Sender:       American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
> Poster:       Charles Doyle <cdoyle at UGA.EDU>
> Subject:      Re: Work on regional variation in mass/count nouns?
> ----------------------------------------------------------------------
> ---------
> The part of Texas in which I grew up had a numerous populaton of
> 2nd- and 3rd-generation Germans. Occasionally a child would enter
> first grade knowing no English, and several of my schoolmates had
> parents who spoke only German.
> Among the English speaking Texans of German descent, all the
> "Germanisms" mentioned here were characteristic features of the
> dialect: "a scissor" (also "a pant"--though that's used more widely
> now), "wash my hairs," "get some (or drink a bunch of) beers," etc.
> I believe there have been studies of Texas German English, but I
> have no citations at hand.
> --Charlie
> _____________________________________________________________
> ---- Original message ----
>> Date: Mon, 14 May 2007 10:57:09 -0500
>> From: Joseph Salmons <jsalmons at WISC.EDU>
>> Subject: Work on regional variation in mass/count nouns?
>> A striking and even stereotyped feature of Upper Midwestern English
>> is the use of what most of us have as count nouns as mass nouns and
>> vice versa. Here in Madison 'a scissor' or 'a scissors' is utterly
>> common, while 'going to wash my hairs' is a stereotype of Milwaukee,
>> but actually used. (These two are often regarded as Germanisms, a
>> possibility noted in DARE, for example.) There appear to be some
>> other regional differences -- like 'let's go have a beer' vs. 'let's
>> go have some beers' -- where the latter is the norm here (and in the
>> East?), but only the former was familiar to me growing up in the
>> South.
>> In looking around for literature on this, I haven't found anything
>> that treats such differences generally as a regional pattern. DARE
>> has a few mentions for particular entries, but only a really brief
>> note in the intro about it. In the ads-l archives, folks touch on
>> this occasionally for particular words, but I don't see much broader
>> discussion there either. Arnold Zwicky's handout on "Counting Chad"
>> gives examples along the way to providing what looks like the best
>> account of what's going on linguistically with this, but naturally
>> doesn't focus systematically on regional differences.
>> Surely there's more out there in the published lit, right? And surely
>> folks have lots of examples of this, right?
>> Thanks for any suggestions,
>> Joe
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