Date: Thu, 20 Nov 1997 14:04:56 -0600

From: "Salikoko S. Mufwene" s-mufwene[AT SYMBOL GOES HERE]UCHICAGO.EDU

Subject: Re: vernacular

Ellen Johnson writes:

And while I'm at it, is everyone here comfortable with the claim that

the vernacular shows less internal variation than more formal/middle

class varieties?

I had to read this question twice, not because it is poorly worded

but because I did not find it consistent with my gut feeling. I expected

varieties close to the standard to show less variation, perhaps because I

expect them to less tolerant of alternatives that are precluded by the

standard norm. I also think that part of my hesitation in reading the

question is the juxtaposition of "formal" and "middle". Are middle-class

varieties necessarily "formal"?

Then I would like to be less charitable now and ask whether there are

no middle and upper class vernaculars. Perhaps part of my training in a

non-anglophone tradition is bearing on my interpretation of "vernacular".

For me, it is independent of class and level-of-education considerations. A

person's vernacular is what they use for day-to-day communication, i.e.,

their primary means of communication. As I understand, the term,

etymologically it means 'domestic variety'.--Just checked the meanings

provided by Random House. The explanations for adjectival and nominal uses

do not seem so consistent with each other.



Salikoko S. Mufwene s-mufwene[AT SYMBOL GOES HERE]

University of Chicago 773-702-8531; FAX 773-834-0924

Department of Linguistics

1010 East 59th Street

Chicago, IL 60637