Date: Sat, 5 Feb 1994 07:32:37 -0600
From: mftcf[AT SYMBOL GOES HERE]UXA.ECN.BGU.EDU
Subject: Re: Regional variation in BE
On Thu, 30 Dec 1993, Rudy Troike wrote:
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 glotta
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 though
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, G
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,
I just had another experince last week like Rudy descirbed back in December.
A student in my grad class went to Colo. and met a Texas lady who had a
pronounced coastal southern pronunciation (Shirley does a good
imitation). But shirley's lady was told she talked like a Yankee when
she went home. This reminded me of Raven McDAvid's stories about goin
ghome to So. Car. and being told he talked like a Yankee. This always
surpirsed me becasue Raven's dialect was so different from my own that
wen he referred to the LANCS community of "Murphysboro" (IL) I would have
to get him to repeat it several times before I knew what he was talking
about. This is interesting because, as Rudy says, there are linguistic
cues that folks recognize, but they are very subtle. I hear stories like
this a lot and can never imagine what the cues might be, even though I
think I have a pretty good ear. This all sugests that even if some sort
of national levelling of extreme regional diferences ever takes place
(which I doubt anyway) there will remain significant distinctions which
many commentators will miss.
January's gone--goodbye and good riddance!