The changing patterns of r-fulness and r-lessness in America and Britain highlight the linguistic arbitrariness of the feature, while also emphasizing the social value. For example, President Roosevelt’s Pearl Harbor address was given in a very r-less New York City dialect, which was considered prestigious at the time. Nowadays, the r-less NYC dialect is popularly associated with urbanness, working-class status, and even criminality. Thus, the fact that a feature “reputation” can change shows that it is a linguistically arbitrary but socially valued feature.
Chapter 4 | Exercises
What do the changing patterns of r‐fulness and r‐lessness in America and Britain tell us about the inherent value (linguistic and/or social) of particular dialect features?
Many place-names throughout North America get their etymological origins from the indigenous Native Americans who inhabited the lands at the time, as well as the ethno-linguistic origins of the settling groups. Furthermore, as European settlements expanded westward across the continent, many place-names from the Eastern coast were re-used out West. “Manhattan” (from the Lenape peoples), and “New York” exemplify all three of these possibilities. It might also be interesting to compare state maps from different regions (e.g., California, Minnesota, and Virginia).
What role, if any, do TV and the internet play in the maintenance of traditional dialect lines?
What role do they play in the development and spread of new dialects?
Television may play a role in the greying of dialect lines by employing newscasters who speak Network Standard, as well as having mid-Atlantic and mid-Western sounding speaking occurring most of the popular roles on sitcoms, dramas, etc. Nonetheless, the maintenance of traditional dialect lines may also be influenced by television, as many shows tend to focus on localness and place, and use dialects to emphasize those themes. Shows like The Andy Griffith Show, Dukes of Hazard, and Justified all emphasize Southern culture and dialect, while shows like Law and Order rely on New York City accents to associated people with place and class. While shows like these can’t necessarily naturalize you to a dialect, it certainly can be a source of spreading linguistic ideologies.
While the internet allows more complex linguistic interactions than television--and individuals from widely dispersed regions are able to interact through the internet--those individuals are still tied to a specific regional locality. In other words, linguistic interaction online affords language contact, which certainly provides new linguistic information to each interlocutor while simultaneously reinforcing regionalized dialectal distinctions. Furthermore, various online spheres become their own digital communities of practice, wherein new language usages and norms can emerge.