LINGUIST List 13.1026

Sun Apr 14 2002

Qs: Historical Perceptual Ling, Labov/AAVE Accuracy

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  1. Adrian Pable, Historical Perceptual Linguistics
  2. Cece Cutler, Literary representations of AAVE?

Message 1: Historical Perceptual Linguistics

Date: Fri, 12 Apr 2002 13:41:14 +0200
From: Adrian Pable <>
Subject: Historical Perceptual Linguistics

I'm a Swiss PhD student in historical linguistics (University of
Berne), currently engaging in a rather unusual field of research: I
LANGUAGE in literary texts (prose but primarily drama), movies and
live enactments in historic thme parks; my primary sources are Walter
Scott, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Mary E. Wilkins and Arthur Miller and I
want to compare these authors' ways of 're-createing' 17th-century
Puritan speech: what features have been chosen by those authors to
represent the language of the past to their contemporary readership
and what are the (synchronic) factors which influence a certain
perception/representation of a language of the past (in my case early
American English). While literary texts provide useful insights into
the grammatical, lexical and orthographic aspect of an artificial
Period Language, audio-visual instruments (e.g. film) can make use of
phonological-phonetic characterizations of a language of the past.
What choices do Hollywood producers/directors make when having their
characters speak through actors: do they simply talk like people from
the 20th century? Here I will rely on productions of The Scarlet
Letter and The Crucible. Lastly I'd like to go to New England and
record/talk to first-person actors in historic villages (PL,imouth
Plantation, Salem Village) which specific choices induced the
responsible people to head for a certain direction rather than
another (what accents did they choose, what archaic vocabulary, what
grammatical structures etc.)

Do you know of any works that have been done in the field of
IDEOLOGY/AWARENESS, theoretical/universal or upon any language?
Obviously my special interest is in the perception of and attitude
towards early American English (1620-1700) not as contemporaries
viewed it at the time but as people living in later centuries did!!
There must be MYTHS around as to how the first 'Americans' spoke
(e.g. Elizabethan English, like Shakespeare, they had no unified
grammar, they always addressed each other with THOU, verbs had no
inflections, their language corresponds to present-day substandards
and dialects, it is today's folk-speech etc). By studying literary
authors, directors of movies and historic sites etc. one may get an
insight into the stereotypes that 'folks' in general are subject to.
On the other hand, these people have the power to shape our ling.
awareness of how our ancestors might have spoken. I myself found a
very interesting book by Graham Tulloch about Sir Walter Scott's
PERIOD LANGUAGE, i.e. the pseudo-early modern English he created for
his novels set in the 15th/16th century. I have also found some very
helpful bibliographical hints in the Cambridge History of the English
language (Marckwardt, Mitford Mathews, Krapp, etc.). Still I feel
there should be more around about this specific field of FOLK

I thank you for any help you can give me, like giving me the names of
scholars working in this field or, more importantly, books/articles
published so far.

Yours sincerely,
Adrian Pable
University of Berne, Switzerland

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Message 2: Literary representations of AAVE?

Date: Fri, 12 Apr 2002 16:15:37 -0400
From: Cece Cutler <>
Subject: Literary representations of AAVE?

I'm looking for information about an unpublished (?) article by
William Labov in which he analyzes the accuracy of literary
representations of AAVE in works such as "Huckleberry Finn" and "The
Color Purple." Has anyone heard of this article (or similar articles)
or know if it has been published somewhere?

Cece Cutler
New York University
719 Broadway, 5th fl.
New York, NY 10003
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