Date: Fri, 26 Nov 1993 18:45:00 EST From: "Dennis.Preston" <22709MGR[AT SYMBOL GOES HERE]MSU.BITNET> Subject: Re: diversity of accents Now that I have seen Rudy Troike's and Ellen Johnson's responses to some of my complaints about the news article on the decline of diversity in US dialects, I am inclined even more to stick to my original claims. First, Troike's example of the z --> d/__n (e.g. business becomes bidness) reversal is pretty obviously correction from above (not change from above). I believe that the motivations and social history for slapping something down is significantly different from real change from above. Second, I welcome Ellen Johnson's comments on her dissertation, for, of course, the rest of it know it only from her numerous presentations of parts of it. I am happy to concede that in reinvestigations of dialect differentiation region as a variable may play a smaller role; my comment, however, pointed towards total variation, which, I believe, is more or less the same. Granted, that newer variation may be attributed to ethnicity, gender, age, rurality, and the like, but I suspect that we must take dialect in that more general sense if we are to speak productively about variation in North America. (Those who dislike my ignoring of the dia- of dialect may try to correct it from above.) Of course advertising and media have influenced deteriorating variation in the dragonfly and cottage cheese sets, and such influences are important and worth studying. They are not, howeever, exactly the backbone of variationist work in the US over the last three decades or so. Finally, and most importantly, I originally responded to the news story becuase I was angry as hell at the way it went off (not, as some interpreted it, at the accuracy or inaccuracy of the report). Let's try another scenario. Suppose a paper in Detroit called me and asked for some neurolinguistic comment. Since I am generally ignorant, suppose I went to LINGUIST/L and asked in general for some comments, copied them with no request for expert screeing and handed them over to a journalist to pick and choose from. Unless I misunderstand, that's what happened here. I believe the so-called more scientific community of neurolinguists would be outraged. I believe those of us who study variation professionally have every right to be similarly outraged. Progress in the last three decades and the centrality of variation studies to the most important issues of general linguistics have removed our subdiscipline rather far from the cocktail-party linguistics status in which it was once held. The information which reached the paper was, in my opinion, not much better than popular or common-sense stuff; it did not reflect professional work at all. I am happy to discuss with colleagues the details of change from above and media influence which haveensued from this event, but I was more than a little unhappy to have the serious study of variation misrepresented once again. Let't try to be a little more professionally courteous to one another's sub-interests. Dennis Preston <22709mgr[AT SYMBOL GOES HERE]msu.bitnet>