a family of languages

Ronald Kephart rkephart at unf.edu
Wed Jun 29 18:58:45 UTC 2005

At 12:35 PM +0100 6/29/05, Anthea Fraser Gupta wrote:

>Now that's interesting and a new topic -- one that interests me a lot.
>Because I have come to reject the 'Englishes' model and am inclined 
>to a singular English.

This certainly is a new and interesting topic.

I think there are maybe two ways of looking at this that make sense 
to me. The first is to count two places where we can find 
singularities: one at the level of the individual, the idiolect; and 
the other at the level of the species, human language. Everything in 
between is open to negotiation. I believe this is Chomsky's position.

McWhorter adds a third: the dialect ("dialects are all there is"). 
I'm not 1005 comfortable with this, but surely it makes some sense to 
take the language of a speech community, which is what a dialect is, 
and render it as something "real" or at least quasi-real in the world.

My current modus operandi on this is to merge Chomsky and McWhorter: 
There is language, the species property; dialects, the language 
behavior shared by members of speech communities; and idiolects, all 
of which are unique to individuals. For me, what's important is that 
whether you let dialects in or not, there's no longer any room for 
"languages" like "English," which become socially and culturally 
negotiated collections of dialects.

One of the reasons I like to do this is because it drives the English 
teachers in my classes nuts.

(Preparing to go into the Witness Protection Program...)

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