Date: Fri, 29 Mar 1996 22:49:31 -0500 From: dennisr Subject: Re: dialect areas and the latest American Speech May we know the article source you are referencing? Dennis >On Fri, 29 Mar 1996, Baden Hughes wrote: > >> Noted your AS message. Is there any way of getting hold of a copy of What >> determines a dialect area? by Lawrence M. Davis and Charles L. Houck as >> appearing in this issue ? >> >I just read this article and it's very provocative. Larry and Charles >raise some serious questions about whether or not we can truly draw >dialect boundaries in any way that is statistically valid. I'd like to >throw several corollary questions out to this list. > >First, granting for the sake of discussion that Larry and Charles are right, >which I can't judge, not being a math person, their article >talks about boundaries in the USA based upon LInguistic Atlas type data. >Are there dialect boundaries ANYWHERE that would be valid by these same >tests? In other words, if dialect boundaries are indeed more the >product of subjective perception than a relfelection of objective >realities, is this simply a something that is true for USA English, or is >it true everywhere? > >Second, much of the discussion in this article is based on lexicon. >Instances of "dialect mixture" involve people who manifest two >regionalisms for the same object, like "frying pan" and "skillet." >Are these problems confined entirely to lexical geographies, or can we >make the same generalizations about pronunciation and morphology or syntax? >Sociolinguists in the Labovian tradition identify northern and southern >vowels shifts, along with a Midland area which participates in neither. >What is the relationship between "dialect mixture" and these phonological >events? > >Third, I would think if Larry and Charles' conclusions were valid, they >would apply to other forms of human geography besides dialectology. Is >it just as tricky--or downright impossible--when we try to map other >kinds of behavior? I'd be interested to see some geography department >types get into this debate. > >Fourth, a comment rather than a question. Certainly Davis and Houck have >a point about regional differences -- at least, those of the sort we >measure in things like Kurath 1949 -- being harder to demonstrate west of >the Missississippi. Wolfram's 1991 map (based on Labov's work) show a >narrow Midland band in the east spreading everywhere as we approaches the >Rockies (from the east, that is). I suspect one reason for this as that >the the two non-Midland cultural hearths, the North and South, didn't >keep their identity farther west. Cotton farming--well, there was some >in Texas, but not in Oklahoma or New Mexico, so plantation culture and >"plantation southern" kinda peter out as you go west. (And you don't get >the concentrations of AFrican Americans whose dialect might contribute a >lot to the distincition between Plantation Southern and "South Midalnd"). >In the north, Yankee culture gets more and more diluted as you go west. >You still find those little villages that look like they were transplanted >from New England in southereastern Wisconsin, but I suspect not so much >in North Dakota (although they turn up again in n. California and >farther NW). And Larry and Charles are right when they point out that >Inland Northern is not exactly uniform, although I think it probably has >a common set of features. > >Fifth--if we give up on "dialect areas" or "dialect boundaries"--not that >I am going to, but if--does that still mean that there are not certain >features whose variation is at least in part regional? > >Well, enough rambling for now. > >Tim Frazer > >