Date: Sun, 24 Mar 1996 00:37:37 -0700
From: Rudy Troike RTROIKE[AT SYMBOL GOES HERE]CCIT.ARIZONA.EDU
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
--Rudy Troike (rtroike[AT SYMBOL GOES HERE]ccit.arizona.edu)