LINGUIST List 11.668

Fri Mar 24 2000

Qs: Igbo/Prescriptivism, Teletubbies Language

Editor for this issue: Karen Milligan <>

We'd like to remind readers that the responses to queries are usually best posted to the individual asking the question. That individual is then strongly encouraged to post a summary to the list. This policy was instituted to help control the huge volume of mail on LINGUIST; so we would appreciate your cooperating with it whenever it seems appropriate.


  1. John Myhill, Igbo, history of English prescriptivism
  2. Claudia Bubel, Teletubbies language

Message 1: Igbo, history of English prescriptivism

Date: Fri, 24 Mar 2000 10:01:31 +0200
From: John Myhill <>
Subject: Igbo, history of English prescriptivism

To any linguists who know about the above topics,
I'm doing a paper on comparative prescriptivism. I'm looking for information
(1) Prescriptivism in Igbo (=Ibo). My understanding is that there was
a version of Igbo called 'Union Igbo' which was used in the first translation
of the Bible into Igbo which was an artificial compromise between various
Igbo dialects, but this has given way as a standard to a more normal
standard based upon the native usage of the most influential group in the
society. Does anyone out there know about this development?
(2) I am interested in how forms previously written in highly prestigious
texts can be declared 'incorrect' later, e.g. in English double negatives
and aks for ask. I know for example that 18th century grammarians like
Bishop Lowth proscribed double negatives because they were 'illogical' and
that by the 19th century double negatives were used to portray lower-status
speakers, but which came first? Did prescriptivists say 'double negatives are
wrong' and then the higher classes adopt this prescription but the lower classes
didn't? Or did the higher classes first adopt a distinctive usage
(independently) and then the prescriptivists came up with this `logical'
rationalization? And what were the social circumstances of aks>ask? I would
also be interested in hearing about any other cases of this general type,
a form used in prestigious texts is not only declared obsolete but literally
Please send any responses to (I'm not on LINGUIST).
Thanks very much.
John Myhill
Mail to author|Respond to list|Read more issues|LINGUIST home page|Top of issue

Message 2: Teletubbies language

Date: Thu, 23 Mar 2000 14:13:51 +0100
From: Claudia Bubel <>
Subject: Teletubbies language

Dear colleagues,

	We are planning to do a presentation on the Teletubbies for the university
open day. Has anyone done linguistic research on Teletubby language yet?
Andrew Davenport, the co-creator and scriptwriter, has a background in
speech sciences. Of interest for the presentation is of course that the
language of the tubbies mirrors toddlers' own speaking efforts. Although,
after massive complaints from parents and academics the creators put in
more "adult" language. The programme is also of interest with respect to
the varieties of English spoken. The American version, for example, has an
American narrator, but the tubbies themselves speak British English
varieties. There also seem to be some tubby-specific expressions.
Any thoughts?

Many thanks,
Claudia Bubel.

- - --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- ---

Claudia Bubel
Wissenschaftliche Mitarbeiterin
Lehrstuhl Prof. Dr. Neal R. Norrick
Fachrichtung 8.3 Anglistik
Universit�t des Saarlandes
Postfach 15 11 50
D-66041 Saarbr�cken

Tel.: 0681 - 302 - 2270

I have only made this letter longer because I have not had the time to make
it shorter. -Blaise Pascal
Mail to author|Respond to list|Read more issues|LINGUIST home page|Top of issue