Virginia G. McDavid, Professor of English emerita at Chicago State University, an expert on gender differences in speech, a contributor to many dictionaries, and a consultant on usage and synonyms for The Random House Dictionary of the English Language, died on November 6, 2014, in Colorado Springs, Colorado, after a long illness. She was 88.
Born in Minneapolis, Minnesota, in the midst of the Depression, Dr. McDavid was the daughter of a fireman on the Soo line and a schoolteacher. She often related that women in the mid-1940s had two career choices – nursing or teaching – and she had no interest in nursing. Intending first to teach high school English, her advisor at the University of Minnesota suggested that she look at other types of teaching. She took courses in English, including one with Robert Penn Warren, and graduated with a double major in English and History.
In 1945, with an extra hour in her schedule to fill, she enrolled in a class on American English taught by Harold B. Allen, who studied labeling practices in Samuel Johnson’s dictionary and who had conducted some of the field work for the nascent Linguistic Atlas of the North-Central States. The class proved to be a pivotal moment in Dr. McDavid’s career; she had found the two interests that would fill her professional life: dialect and dictionaries.
At a 1947 Summer Linguistics Institute at the University of Michigan, she studied dialectology with Hans Kurath and met one of the main fieldworkers for the Linguistic Atlas of the Middle and South Atlantic States – Raven I. McDavid, Jr., whom she married in 1950. During the remainder of the 1940s she conducted field research for Professor Allen in Minnesota and, with Raven, in the North-Central States.
Dr. McDavid earned her Ph.D. from the University of Minnesota, with a dissertation on verb forms in the Upper Midwest, in 1956, while raising four young children ranging in age from three months to six years old. With her husband, Raven, she was the co-author of numerous articles on dialect and usage. The first of these was “The Relationship of the Speech of American Negroes to the Speech of Whites” (1951), a landmark in the study of African-American English.
She continued to research verb forms and labeling practices in dictionaries for the succeeding 45-plus years. With the publication of Webster’s Third International Dictionary in 1961, she was in the middle of a controversy over the usage note in the entry for “ain’t.” The Third’s entry distinguished between “ain’t” as a contraction for forms of “be” and “not” and forms of “have” and “not,” which was based in part on Dr. McDavid’s dissertation research. She was accused by a professor at the University of Michigan of making numerous errors and suppressing evidence. After pointing out that the evidence was fully laid out in a table in her dissertation, the professor was forced to concede his error.
When her husband joined the faculty of the University of Chicago in 1957, Dr. McDavid secured a position at Chicago Teacher’s College (now Chicago State University), where she was a member of the faculty until she retired in 1985. She taught courses on English composition, language and culture, and the history of English. Her book Writing Today’s English (1977, with Macklin Thomas) was prepared for her Chicago State students whose experience with Standard English was limited by their racially-segregated experience on the South Side of Chicago. Even after her retirement, Dr. McDavid continued her research, focusing on verb forms in the Linguistic Atlas materials, specifically differences between men and women in the choice of irregular verbs. Her work indicated that women in both the least educated group and those with a high school education consistently used Standard English forms more than men with the same education level. Among informants with a college education, there was little difference.
In the late 1970s, Dr. McDavid, her husband Raven, and a colleague at Chicago State, Dr. Thomas J. Creswell, were asked to be consultants on usage and dialect labels and notes for The Random House Dictionary of the English Language (second edition, unabridged). Work on this project began in early 1984. Following Raven’s death in October, 1984, this work was completed by Dr. McDavid and Dr. Creswell in 1987. Dr. McDavid remained Associate Editor of the Linguistic Atlas Project until her death. She was a long-time and prominent member of the American Dialect Society.
Dr. McDavid is survived by her sons, Charlie Jonas (Joan Collins) of San Francisco, Glenn McDavid (Mia) of Roseville, Minnesota, Raven I. McDavid III (Anne) of Colorado Springs, Colorado, and Tom McDavid (Joy Werlink) of Auburn, Washington; her daughter, Ann McDavid Reif (Tom Reif) of Aurora, Colorado; thirteen grandchildren; and two great-granddaughters. A memorial service will be held on January 2, 2015 in Colorado Springs.
This is the first release of the schedule for the American Dialect Society’s annual meeting in Portland, Ore., January 8-11, 2015, held in conjunction with the annual meeting of the Linguistic Society of America. More information about the conference (including hotel information) is here http://www.linguisticsociety.org/event/lsa-2015-annual-meeting.
1:00 – 3:00 p.m.
Open meeting; all members welcome. Chair: ADS President Jesse Sheidlower.
Annual Business Meeting
3:00 – 3:30 p.m.
Most of the business of the Society is conducted at the preceding Executive Council meeting, to which all members are invited (see above). But it is this Business Meeting that elects new ADS officers.
ADS Session 1
4:00 – 6:00 p.m.,
4:00 Jack Grieve (Aston University): Mapping lexical spread in American English
4:30 Taylor Jones (University of Pennsylvania) ‘Yeen kno nun bout dat’: Using Twitter to map AAVE dialect regions
5:00 Tracy Conner (University of Massachusetts Amherst): Ellipsis licensing and copula/possessive optionality in African American English
5:30 Erica Britt (University of Michigan-Flint): Preaching, performance, and the comedy of Richard Pryor
Words of the Year Nominations
6:15 – 7:15 p.m.
Chair: Ben Zimmer, Vocabulary.com.
Open meeting of the New Words committee; ADS members and friends welcome. This meeting reviews nominations for Words of the Year 2012. Final candidates will be identified in preparation for the vote at 5:30 p.m. Friday.
(Sister Society Meet and Greet Reception)
8:30 – 10:00 p.m.,
Friday, January 9
ADS Session 2: Speech in the Western States
Chair: Betsy Evans (University of Washington)
8:30 Kara Becker, Anna Aden, Katelyn Best, Haley Jacobson (all Reed College): Variation in West Coast English: The case of Oregon.
9:00 Valerie Fridland (University of Nevada Reno), Tyler Kendall (University of Oregon), Craig Fickle (University of Oregon): It’s Nev-ae- da, not nev- ah- da!
9:30 Robert Kennedy (University of California, Santa Barbara), James Grama (University of Hawai‘i at Manoa), Heather Llewellyn (University of California, Santa Barbara): On the nucleus-offglide trajectory of the mid-back rounded vowel in California English.
10:00 Annette D’Onofrio, Penelope Eckert, Robert Podesva, Teresa Pratt, Janneke Van Hofwegen (all Stanford University): Low vowel variation in California
10:30 Alicia Beckford-Wassink(University of Washington ): Vowel raising in Washington State: What’s the BAG deal?
ADS Session 3
11:30 a.m. – 12:30 p.m.
11:30 Charles Boberg (McGill University): World War I and the consolidation of Canadian English
12:00 Matt Hunt Gardner (University of Toronto), Sali A. Tagliamonte (University of Toronto): The bike, the back, and the boyfriend: Confronting the “definite article conspiracy” in Canadian and British English.
ADS Session 4
1:30–3:00 p.m., Teaching Panel
Chair: Anne Curzan (University of Michigan).
1:30 Robert Bayley, Chelsea Escalante, Renee Kemp, Alex Mendes, Emily Moline (all University of California, Davis): Where have all the participles went? Using Twitter data to teach multivariate analysis
2:00 Dan Villarreal University of California Davis), Ariel Loring (California State University Sacramento): Teaching world Englishes to undergradtuates: Tensions and pedagogical insights
2:30 Kelly Abrams (U. of Wisconsin): Discovering DARE: Creating a DARE Curriculum for secondary and postsecondary coursework
ADS Session 5
3:30 Laurence Horn, Jim Wood, Raffaella Zanuttini, Grace Brody, Laura DiNardo,Luke Lindemann (all Yale University): Here’s us a new methodology: the Southern Presentative Dative meets Mechanical Turk
4:00 Paulina Bounds (Tennessee Tech University), Jacqueline Hettel (Arizona State University): Signal-to-noise ratio in creation of perceptual maps
4:30 Allison Burkette (University of Mississippi), Lamont Antieau (Anvil Editing): Individual language as a complex system
Words of the Year Vote
5:30 – 6:30 p.m
Words in half a dozen categories as well as a Word (or Phrase) of the Year 2014 will be chosen from the slate of nominees determined at Thursday evening’s meeting. Before each vote, brief statements will be invited from advocates for or against the candidates.
The hour will begin with the American Name Society’s vote on its choice of Name of the Year. All ADS members, ANS members, and friends are welcome to participate.
Bring-Your-Own-Book Exhibit and Reception
Saturday, January 10
ADS Session 6
8:30 Lara Downing (The Ohio State University): “Dutchified” English among the Mennonites of Ohio
9:00 David Durian (Northern Illinois University):Revisiting the development of the Northern Cities Shift in late 19th and early 20th Century Chicago: Another Look at Pederson’s PEMC data, DARE, and LANCS
9:30 Kelly Abrams, Tom Purnell (both University of Wisconsin-Madison): Locating the Appalachian dialect boundary in Maryland: Morpho-syntactic evidence.
ADS Session 7
10:30 a.m.–12:00 noon,
10:30 Phillip Carter, Salvatore Callesano (both Florida International University): Perceiving Spanish in Miami: The interaction of top-down and bottom-up stimuli
11:00 Mary Kohn (Kansas State University), Erin Callahan (Western Carolina University): Local and supra-local variation in Latino English
11:30 Phillip M. Carter, Nandi Sims, Lydda López (all Florida International University): Spanish substrate influence on Miami Latino English
ADS Annual Luncheon
Cost is $40. Students who are members of ADS may attend free. Reservations may be made in advance with ADS Executive Secretary Allan Metcalf at firstname.lastname@example.org.
ADS Session 8
2:00 Katie Carmichael (Virginia Tech): “I’m so New Orleans, when I go out of town people ask me if I’m Canadian”: Canadian Raising as an innovation in New Orleans English
2:30 Janelle Serediak, Alexandra D’Arcy (both University of Victoria: Old njooz or noo nooz? A diachronic look at yod dropping.
3:00 Sky Onosson (University of Victoria), Becky Roeder (University of North Carolina Charlotte), Alexandra D’Arcy (University of Victoria): City, province, or region? What do the vowels of Victoria tell us?
3:30 Burns Cooper, Siri Tuttle (both University of Alaska Fairbanks): Front vowels in Fairbanks
Sunday, January 11
ADS Session 9:
8:30 Joel Schneier (North Carolina State University): Style-shifting in texting: Quantitative evidence from an elicitation experiment
9:00 Jon Forrest (North Carolina State University): Frequency effects and vowel lenition in (ING)
9:30 Ruth Maddeaux (University of Toronto):Me, myself & I: The role of the untriggered reflexive in the English pronominal system
10:00 Jennifer Renn (Center for Applied Linguistics): Investigating the relationship between African American English use and early literacy skills
ADS Session 10
11:00 a.m. – 12:30 p.m.
11:00 Emily Nguyen (New York University): L-vocalization among Vietnamese Americans in Minnesota
11:30 Danielle Schuld, Joe Salmons (both University of Wisconsin-Madison): Hearing a new accent: Changing perceptions of Wisconsin English over time
12:00 Paul Reed (University of South Carolina): Appalachian local orientation and intonation: A sociophonetic account