Date: Mon, 24 Nov 1997 08:44:52 CST

From: Ellen Johnson Ellen.Johnson[AT SYMBOL GOES HERE]WKU.EDU

Subject: Re[2]: vernacular

Yes, Ron has indeed gone on about our inconsistencies in discussing

"the vernacular" for some time and he is my main (positive)

inspiration. But I wonder: if no one will listen to this

distinguished old-timer, why will they care what I say?? Ah, well,

I'll continue on nevertheless.

The negative motivation was my shock at hearing Labov say on the radio

that only poor, inner-city blacks *really* speak AAVE, that anyone who

has learned to code-switch can never go back to speaking the

vernacular in a way that is grammatically consistent. I shouldn't

have been shocked; it is the logical extension of his idea that

people who have been exposed to more dialects will mix them. It makes

sense on one level (and he does have the quantitative evidence), but

it bothers me on another. Like Orton's Survey of English Dialects

where only the most provincial "folk" speakers were interviewed for

the same reason: to obtain the "purest", uncontaminated nonstandard


I guess my problem with this is twofold. 1) it shows that we are

still firmly entrenched in structuralism, looking for behavior that we

can write neat rules for and 2)it leads us to focus on speech that is

not really the common, everyday speech for most people in our society,

what I thought "vernacular" was supposed to mean. Or do I have too

much of a middle-class bias here?

Thank you all for your input. Terry is always refreshingly

oppositional to the party line. Dennis and Sali have been a big help

to me in the past and continue to give me new things to think about.


ellen.johnson[AT SYMBOL GOES HERE]