Date: Thu, 20 Nov 1997 19:56:25 -0500


Subject: Re: vernacular

On Thu, 20 Nov 1997, Ellen Johnson wrote:

I am working on a paper on what sociolinguists mean by "vernacular"

and the value they attach to it. My hypothesis is that although we

often give a style-based definition of the term, we operationalize it

as a class-based construct. So I am asking, What does "vernacular"

mean to you?"

To me, the term "vernacular" means a local idiom. In this context, it

refers to variation associated with a specific region and has nothing to

do with issues of style or social class.

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 cannot answer this question because I am not comfortable in using

"vernacular" as a label for a variety that is associated with a certain

social class.

If vernacular is associated with the variety spoken by a lower working

class group of a specific area, I cannot accept the claim. Aside from

studies looking at small sets of linguistic variables, there is no

evidence to support such a claim across an entire linguistic system.

For example, a study could show that there is less variation in

the variable realization of the nasal phoneme of the progressive aspect

verbal inflection in English in working class speakers of English. But how

can we go from this item and others like it to a claim about the entire

variety unless we have available a complete description of the variety?

To be frank, I have never seen a complete description of a variety that

would allow such claims to be made.

Beyond these questions, the claim that there is less internal variation in

the vernacular than in middle class varieties parallels Bernstein's

distinction between a restricted and an elaborated code. What is

contemporary thinking on the legitimacy of this distinction?

Virtually, Terry


Terry Lynn Irons t.irons[AT SYMBOL GOES HERE]

Voice Mail: (606) 783-5164

Snail Mail: UPO 604 Morehead, KY 40351