Date: Fri, 21 Nov 1997 22:43:54 -0600
From: "Donald M. Lance" engdl[AT SYMBOL GOES HERE]SHOWME.MISSOURI.EDU
Subject: Re: vernacular
The definitions in the two dictionaries are similar although not
necessarily in the same order:
Merriam dictionaries use historical order, and Random Housee dictonaries
use most common order.
As to the point about the level of variation, I remember that
William Labov claimed in the 70s that the "ordinary" language (or
dialect) was more regular, less variable, than the language of
the professional (or the middle class, or whatever). He stressed
this point in a lecture presented on our campus in 1976.
The term 'vernacular' is also used by scholars in the field of material
culture, as in 'vernacular architecture'. It has negative value only to
people who would consider shotgun houses or T- or L-houses built by lay
carpenters not to be worthy of scholarly attention. Similar to the
conditions under which negative values are assigned to 'vernacular
language'. "In the vernacular" is a way of putting down usages that are
associated with lack of education.
AS for regularity. An individual vernacular-only user might have less
variation in his/er language use than an educated "standard"-language-user.
I suspect this is what Labov was referring to. But if we look at variation
in vernacular(s) used in a community of any size, there might very well be
much more variation than we see in TIME Magazine, though TIME likes to use
cutesy vernacular vocabulary in sections dealing with pop culture.
Certainly more variation in vernacular tense-aspect forms than in standard,
I should think.