Date: Thu, 26 Jan 1995 18:12:30 -0600 From: "Jeffrey H. Allen AXIS CONTRACT" Subject: TV and dialect Sorry to take some time getting back to some replies on my comments on TV and dialects that came over the net a couple of days ago. Four people made comments on my statements regarding loanwords in the Caribbean creoles, Cajun French, and Gullah. These people were Tim Frazer, MaikGibson, Peter Patrick, and Mike Picone. My message was inspired by Tim F's message on TV and it's influence on dialects. In response to Tim's reply, I wouldn't say that there is an NBC Handbook of Pronunciation, but the national (ABC, CBS, NBC) and international (CNN) channels do have a certain kind influence over all regional dialects in the US with regard to uncommon words (especially place names) that are used almost exclusively on such channels. After having spent 5 years in Europe, I came back to the States surprised to find that the local news channels really do cover local news and hardly go beyond that. My wife was astonished that she could never find much about anything in the world until we got cable TV. As certain place names (Rwanda for example) are pretty much pronounced more or less on the national and international channels by the same people, there may be a tendency for those people living in the States and who watch the news on these channels to adopt the pronunciation of this world with a labialized central approximant [Rw] rather than producing a form that conforms more appropriately to the phonotactics of their regional dialect [Ruw] or [REw] (the E being a schwa) for example. This is highly debatable, but I think that the national and international news channels do provide some lexical items that can have a minor phonetic effect on the regional dialect. I emphasize phonetic here and not phonological as the influence may not spread to other established words in the English variety spoken in the area; the phonetic influence remains with the loanwords. I believe this is also a response to Maik's reply. Peter brought up the idea that face-to-face contact would have a higher percentage of influence than TV in such contexts. With respect to the very specific lexical items (ie place names) that would come over the channels, the probability of someone using these words in everyday conversations would be low, but the knowledge of the pronunciation would have been gathered from the news media that treats international news. In the case where people do use such words in discussions, I would speculate that these could either be (1) an initiation to the pronunciation of the word; or (2) a reinforcement of the pronunciation of the word as it has already been introduced on TV. To what point this "web of inroads" (Mike Picone's statement) could be distinguished between face-to-face contact and TV, and then be measured, I cannot answer that question. All I can say is that there may be some influence, specifically lexical with some phonetic input, that comes from national and international mass media which may not be transmitted on a more local level either by the media or by personal contact. Peter also mentioned that in the contexts mentioned (St. Lucia in the Caribbean, Sea Island Gullah off the coast of Georgia, and Louisiana Cajun) that the speakers of the varieties are in daily contact with English speakers. I can speak for both St. Lucia and Dominica in the Caribbean as my research over the last few years have centered around them. In the capital cities of St. Luciad Dominica, Castries and Roseau respectively, it is true that the use of English is higher than that of the outlying regions in the countryside. Parents are using more English in the home, but the the children are not a homogeneous group at school. I discussed in my Mai^trise/MA thesis a few years ago due to a statement that in Castries the children that arrive at school are either (1) competent in the local variety of St. Lucian English; (2) incapable of speaking in English at all; or (3) speak a mixed up variety of French Creole and English varieties (David Frank, personal communication May 22, 1992). This is in the capital of the country and David Frank has worked there for nearly 10 years on linguistic issues. French Creole is actively used in the majority of rural contexts in St. Lucia and even more so in Dominica with its enclaves of communities that speak French Creole more than English at times. I was surprised to discover this in interviews with Dominicans and St. Lucians in England a couple of years of ago for doctoral research. As for the influence of American English on these two islands, there are some tourists, but not as many Americans as Europeans. However, American soap operas and TV shows bombard the homes of St. Lucians and Dominicans as my informants told me, and by this the islanders take the American terms more than British variants. The example I had was of TV that is used on both of these islands and in Trinidad. TV is pronounced [tivi] which may be either a direct or indirect Americanism as my experience with British speakers, those being relatives, colleagues and friends, is that [tElE] is more widespread among the older generations and [tivi] among the younger ones. Can this be a case of an American term infiltrating British culture as Maik Gibson replied? I'm not sure, but it would be good to investigate. If this is so, then TV can have an effect, though small, on speakers of St. Lucian and Dominican French Creoles as the British variant more popular for TV would have been [tEle] up through St. Lucian and Dominican independence in 1979 and 1978 respectively. I would think that American TV program(me)s had a substantial increase in broadcasting to the islands in the 70s,80s and 90s. This does not explain significant changes in language, but it may address small issues of influence on dialects. Lastly, I would like to address Mike Picone's well discussed point of Cajun F French decline in Louisiana. I believe that his thoughts are deal with a lot of the complex issues involved here. Although it may be difficult to say that English on TV has had much of an influence on the French Cajun/Creole speakers of the region, I believe that mass media for the promotion of French has been influential. The organization CODOFIL (sorry I can't remember what this acronym stands for as I don't have any of my research documentation here at work) has done a lot for the promotion of French in Louisiana over the past 10 to 20 years. However, it is important to note that the French that has been promoted is mainly the variety that is spoken in Europe (France, Belgian) and in Canada. I realize that there are subvariety issues at play here, but I don't want to go into that here. CODOFIL brought over language teachers and assistants from these foreign countries to Louisiana to re-integrate the French influence into the region. The problem was that there is a signifcant difference, between these Standard French varieties and that of Cajun French and French Creole, and this is at phonological and morphosyntactic levels. The classic example is the child who comes home from school where she is learning French to tell her grandmother that the window is a "fene^tre" while her Cajun or Creole French speaking grandmother (who thinks that she herself speaks standard French) says that this is not true because the window is a "chassis" (I may be a little off on the form of this word as again I don't have any of my reference books & articles here at work). It is true that this is at a face-to-face level, but CODOFIL did do some mass media work, especially on the radio, and maybe on TV. In such a case, the influence, whether positive or negative, of Standard French efforts made by CODOFIL on the Cajun and Creole French speaking region did happen at some level through the mass media. Again, to what extent this can be measured with respect to personal contact, I don't know. I don't have answers to all of your thoughtful responses, but it has given me some ideas to think about myself with regard to the influence of TV on dialects. Any other comments? Jeff Allen CTE Trainer - Caterpillar Inc. allenjh[AT SYMBOL GOES HERE] OR jhallen[AT SYMBOL GOES HERE]