"Regional speech may be fading, but..."

Alice Faber faber at HASKINS.YALE.EDU
Mon Jun 23 02:09:44 UTC 2008

Laurence Horn wrote:
> At 7:10 PM -0400 6/22/08, Wilson Gray wrote:
>> On Sun, Jun 22, 2008 at 1:57 PM, Benjamin Zimmer
>> <bgzimmer at babel.ling.upenn.edu> wrote:
>>>  ---------------------- Information from the mail header
>>> -----------------------
>>>  Sender:       American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
>>>  Poster:       Benjamin Zimmer <bgzimmer at BABEL.LING.UPENN.EDU>
>>>  Subject:      Re: "Regional speech may be fading, but..."
>>> -------------------------------------------------------------------------------
>>>  On Sun, Jun 22, 2008 at 1:23 AM, Wilson Gray <hwgray at gmail.com> wrote:
>>>>  On Fri, Jun 20, 2008 at 4:47 PM, Laurence Horn
>>>> <laurence.horn at yale.edu> wrote:
>>>>  >
>>>>  > Other than that dubious starting premise, this is a sorta fun piece
>>>>  > on the "Dutchified" English of Lancaster, PA and environs in today's
>>>>  > Times, with a lot of nice (if not particularly novel) data:
>>>>  >
>>>> http://travel.nytimes.com/2008/06/20/travel/escapes/20rituals.html?scp=1&sq=Lancaster&st=nyt
>>>>  WRT the
>>>>  "here nah"
>>>>  cited in the article, my wife, from Kingston in the Wyoming Valley of
>>>>  the Susquehanna River, tells me that she and her children friends used
>>>>  to sing, to the tune of Boola-Boola, the following jingle:
>>>>  Heyna! Heyna!
>>>>  Heyna! Heyna!
>>>>  We're from Plymout'
>>>>  Pennsylvania!
>>>>  According to a local publication entitled "The [Wyoming] Valley,"
>>>>  _heyna_ is used by speakers of the Valley dialect to form tag
>>>>  questions:
>>>>  "The state of Wyoming was founded by people from The Valley, heyna?"
>>>  Wilson also directed our attention to the "Heynabonics" video on
>>>  YouTube last year. More on "heyna" in NE PA here:
>>>  http://itre.cis.upenn.edu/~myl/languagelog/archives/005129.html
>>>  --Ben Zimmer
>> Very interesting stuff in the above URL, Ben. I wonder why it is,
>> though, that we (*not* including you, Ben, of course) amateurs always
>> tend to assume that certain "localisms," e.g. "hiya," "half-holiday,"
>> and "hollor"[sic], known from Maine to California, are peculiar only
>> to our own area of the country.
>> -Wilson
> I think it's the spatial analogue of what arnold calls the recency
> effect.  (For more confirmation, just pick up any of those books on
> "Maine Lingo" or "Minnesota Chatter" or whatever.  Some of them
> essentially pick out random U.S. colloquialisms as examples of the
> local dialect.)

I think there's another dynamic at play. Start with the myth that there
is such a thing as standard American English, with no regional
identification. Add to that a construction that is arguably not standard
(not formal, or whatever). Then, temper with the equation of
non-standard with regional. It follows from that that any non-standard
usage observed $HERE (wherever $HERE is for a particular observer) must
be a regional characteristic of $HERE.

Alice Faber                                       faber at haskins.yale.edu
Haskins Laboratories                            tel: (203) 865-6163 x258
New Haven, CT 06511 USA                               fax (203) 865-8963

The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

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