Date: Thu, 30 Dec 1993 09:59:29 -0700 From: Rudy Troike Subject: Re: Regional variation in BE Dear Joan, Sali, Tim, et al. ADS-Lers, The reference to regional variation in BE/AAVE that I made was the hardly momentous and necessarily largely anecdotal paper I published ages ago (20 years!), in which the call for research on this topic has gone largely unheeded. Unfortunately, valuable possibilities have disappeared in the meantime. The reference is: Troike, Rudolph C. "On Social, Regional, and Age Variation in Black English," Florida FL Reporter (1973, Spring/Fall), 7-8. One pervasive feature which seems to have a much wider occurrence in the East is the devoicing of final -/d/, replaced with either /t/ or glottal stop. At the time, I had not encountered this in Texas. Another items was evidence that older speakers in Texas had the /IN/:/EN/ distinction, but that it had been lost among younger speakers. This evidence considerably confounds the view that the lack of the distinction is an original diagnostic of BE. With more research, much more could be (could have been) found. On Tim's interesting anecdote, I found differences between speakers in Houston and Dallas, but his story calls to mind a student I had once who came up after class and asked, in a strong "Brooklynese" pronunciation, if I thought she sounded like a Southerner. I was rather astonished by the question, and assured her that she did not, so far as I could tell on casual hearing. Then she explained, almost in tears, that she had lived for two years in Atlanta, GA where her husband had been stationed, and that after about a year, when she would call home to her parents in Brooklyn, they would accuse her of "sounding like a Southerner", evidently implying that this was somewhat treasonous to family solidarity. As a result, she was feeling somewhat estranged from her parents, which was very upsetting to her. The phonetic differences, whatever they were, were clearly very subtle, but were enough to be detectable to members of the linguistic community (her parents). This is a common experience, of course, for all of its being little documented. Brits are often able to detect minute differences in regional varieties which are unidentifiable to American ears, at least on first hearing. Someone once gave me a tape of a young speaker from NYC who was "obviously" Black, but when played for a colleague who was a native speaker, he expressed doubt, though he could not put his finger on anything specific. He was in fact right -- the speaker on tape was a Nuyorican -- New York Puerto Rican. But again, the differences were so subtle that they would probably not have been expressible even in narrow phonetic transcription. Now, the urgent need is still to document regional differences before they change or (pace Dennis) disappear. Feliz Navidad, y'all, --Rudy