Date: Mon, 24 Nov 1997 10:57:26 -0500 From: Larry Rosenwald Subject: Re: Re[2]: vernacular Ellen Johnson writes, "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 varieties. 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?" I find this very interesting. It reminds me of some arguably analogous controversies in anthropology, i.e., over the desire of Boasian anthropologists, in studying Native American tribes, to describe the culture and language of those tribes as if they'd never been in contact with European American society - an unlikely situation to be in, towards the end of the 19th century and subsequently - and also to devalue as corrupt, and to remove from consideration, the actual mixed and multicultural state in which most members of most tribes found themselves at the time. Best, Larry Rosenwald