Date: Sun, 24 Mar 1996 00:37:37 -0700


Subject: Re: Defining Asia

When we get into geography, lots of other things besides popular opinion

may take precedence. Whether Israelis (or Palestinians or Syrians or Iraqis,

for that matter) believe that they are part of Asia or not, map makers or

politicians may put them there or not, and ecologists considering biotic

provinces may well do so, folk concepts not withstanding. Cultural

anthropologists (and journalists) may see things in other lights. I was

embarrassed by an Arican American colleague one time when he asked if I had

ever been to Africa, and when I replied in the negative, he reminded me (with

great glee) that I had been to Egypt! My cognitive map obviously included

it in the Middle East.

However, re Lynne's point that "reality is subjective and the majority

usually rules", I will return to my soapbox re public use of the term "dialect"

by linguists. After 50 years of trying to convince the public that they should

forget their pejorative understanding of the term and adopt our value-neutral

concept (a significant failure of language planning that we should have been

astute enough to recognize in advance, since after all, who knows more about

language than we?), we have, like Sisyphus, failed to push the rock to the top,

and yet we keep trying fruitlessly with each succeeding generation of students

and consumers. It's like trying to convince people that tarantulas are

harmless or that having a gopher snake in the house will keep down mice.

As linguists, we of all people should recognize the folly of trying to

engineer a change of meaning in a word, or public attitudes toward it, and

simply stop using it. Using "variety", as Raven McDavid and Al Marckwardt

counseled, would obviate the problem altogether, and enable us to communicate

more effectively with the public (and our students, if we are teachers),

and perhaps eventually succeed in getting our point across.

I should note that I am pleased that the use of the term "substandard"

has shrunk in recent years, giving way to the linguists' more neutral

"nonstandard". So if we are beginning to make a little headway in this

respect, we might do moreso by universally resolving to use "variety" for

public consumption.


--Rudy Troike (rtroike[AT SYMBOL GOES HERE]