LINGUIST List 3.561

Sat 11 Jul 1992

Disc: Accents, Taboo Words, Indirect Discourse

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  1. Geoffrey Russom, Re: 3.553 Queries: Accents, Kay CSL, Taboo Words, Afar
  2. Lesli LaRocco, Re: 3.553 Queries: Accents, Kay CSL, Taboo Words, Afar
  3. (esli LaRocco, accents
  4. Bill McKellin, Re: 3.557 Philosophy of Mind
  5. John Cowan, Re: 3.553 Queries: Accents, Kay CSL, Taboo Words, Afar
  6. Jeff Lansing, Indirect Discourse

Message 1: Re: 3.553 Queries: Accents, Kay CSL, Taboo Words, Afar

Date: Tue, 07 Jul 92 08:14:45 EDRe: 3.553 Queries: Accents, Kay CSL, Taboo Words, Afar
From: Geoffrey Russom <EL403015BROWNVM.brown.edu>
Subject: Re: 3.553 Queries: Accents, Kay CSL, Taboo Words, Afar

Any sociolinguist will tell you that children will acquire the
playground accent rather than the accent of the teacher OR the
accent of the parents, for that matter. When I was in graduate school
at SUNY -- Stony Brook, I noticed how distraught the English professors
who moved there (for what were then relatively high salaries) became
when their children began chirping like native Long Islanders. The thinking
behind exclusion of folks like yourself from teaching roles is of a piece
with the notion that widespread viewing of, say, SESAME STREET would
level out American accents even if we took no other pains to bring
places like Watts into the economic mainstream. Or perhaps we're dealing
with the even more familiar desire to turn the local school system into
an ethnically homogeneous (and radically isolationist) "Maple Avenue".

 -- Rick
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Message 2: Re: 3.553 Queries: Accents, Kay CSL, Taboo Words, Afar

Date: Tue, 07 Jul 92 09:17:21 EDRe: 3.553 Queries: Accents, Kay CSL, Taboo Words, Afar
From: Lesli LaRocco <ROCCOUACSC2.ALBANY.EDU>
Subject: Re: 3.553 Queries: Accents, Kay CSL, Taboo Words, Afar

It seems to me highly unlikely that children will pick up the foreign
accent of one teacher, provided those children are surrounded by native
speakers of English elsewhere.
However, within a couple of months, most of the kids in the class will
probably be attempting a hilarious imitation of the accent. I suppose
that could be disruptive...
Lesli LaRocco
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Message 3: accents

Date: Tue, 7 Jul 92 11:26:02 CSTaccents
From: (esli LaRocco <baronux1.cso.uiuc.edu>
Subject: accents

Victor Raskin cites a (now lost) news article about excluding persons
with accents from the teaching cadres. If anyone has a cite for that
news article I'd appreciate receiving it.

Using accent as an excuse to exclude people from teaching is unfortunately
an old American tradition. Required speech tests or speech courses
served to turn away Jews in New York City, Chinese in California,
Native Americans, and of course many others, including African Americans
in northern urban areas. Accent quickly became labeled as speech defect
or impediment (a literal foot in the mouth), and students with accents
were also targets of the educational hit list. Somewhere I've got a
list of pronunciation errors attributed to various ethnic groups
published by the Boston schools (ca. 1910; California also published
a number of these): teachers were to recognize these errors and correct
them using various tongue and breathing exercises. It is ironic, and
probably predictable, that a number of these pronunciation features are
now considered staples of the Boston accent.

While schools paid lip service to accent-modification, they tended to
ignore altogether those students who did not speak English at all. Their
"method" for teaching English? Forbid the use of the home language at
school (and on the playground). Corporal punishment was common for
violations of this policy. Students were rewarded for ratting on their
peers. And of course, drop out rates were high--probably as high as they
are today.

Having turned America monolingual, and forcing its teachers to develop
a precise, artificial manner of speech unique to the teaching profession,
our policy makers now complain that America can't compete in the inter-
national market because we don't speak foreign languages!

Dennis Baron debaronuiuc.edu
Dept. of English office: 217-244-0568
University of Illinois messages: 217-333-2392
608 S. Wright St fax: 217-333-4321
Urbana IL 61801
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Message 4: Re: 3.557 Philosophy of Mind

Date: Wed, 8 Jul 1992 12:20:51 -Re: 3.557 Philosophy of Mind
From: Bill McKellin <mckeunixg.ubc.ca>
Subject: Re: 3.557 Philosophy of Mind

There are discussions of Philosophy of Mind in Comp.ai.philosophy.

Bill McKellin mckeunixg.ubc.ca
Department of Anthropology and Sociology
University of British Columbia
Vancouver, B.C.
V6T 1Z1
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Message 5: Re: 3.553 Queries: Accents, Kay CSL, Taboo Words, Afar

Date: Tue, 7 Jul 92 10:19:43 EDTRe: 3.553 Queries: Accents, Kay CSL, Taboo Words, Afar
From: John Cowan <cowansnark.thyrsus.com>
Subject: Re: 3.553 Queries: Accents, Kay CSL, Taboo Words, Afar

> Does anyone have a reasonably large list of English taboo words,
> preferably in machine-readable form? I am interested in the
> classic "four-letter words" and their thematic relatives, as
> well as any other words that "shouldn't be used in polite
> company", such as ethnic or religious slurs. Slang per se is NOT
> of interest.

Contact your congresscritter and senators. Both the Senate and the House
maintain lists of "unparliamentary language" -- anybody using one of the
forbidden words on the floor is squelched for the rest of the day.
("Here the other guinea-pig cheered, and was suppressed.")

I don't know whether the list is available in machine-readable form, but
it couldn't hurt to try. Emphasize your status as "researcher on language".

P.S. I have forwarded your note to lojbabgrebyn.com, the keeper of the
postal mailing list, who sent you the packet in the first place. Is there
any chance that Dragon Systems would be interested in co-applying with us for
grant money to develop Lojban speech recognition? Just an informal query.

--
cowansnark.thyrsus.com		...!uunet!cbmvax!snark!cowan
		e'osai ko sarji la lojban
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Message 6: Indirect Discourse

Date: Wed, 8 Jul 92 09:52:38 PDTIndirect Discourse
From: Jeff Lansing <lansingbend.UCSD.EDU>
Subject: Indirect Discourse

 Should Sister Souljah be free of her indirect discourse?

E. Contini-Morava provides a Washington Post transcript of an in-
terview with Sister Souljah and presents evidence to show that
incitement to violence was not the intent of this "influential
public figure". (i) SS's rhetorical questions are separated from
her statements by tense switching. [Note: Investigation of the
use of the impersonal_you_ construction in interviews reveals
this same pattern of tense switching. See below.] (ii) SS expli-
citly distinguishes her views from those of the "people who were
perpetrating the violence".

N. Besnier introduces the notion of _voice_ into the discussion,
claiming that SS has blurred "distinctions between the quoting
voice and the quoted voice." This "blurring" (NB claims) has two
effects: (i) eluding or dodging of responsibility by the
speaker/writer, and (ii) placing propositions on record, where
they can influence audiences.

NB then seems to undercut her own position by raising the issue
of different norms for the mapping of utterances to sentiments.
Why so? As Allan Rumsey recently argued [Am. Anthropologist
92(2)], the distinction between the quoting voice and the quoted
voice is itself just a norm for the mapping of utterances to sen-
timents -- a norm for us, but not for Ngarinyin people of NW Aus-
tralia. [Note: Meir Sternberg has been arguing for years that
this "distinction" is not really all that distinct in our own
culture, either.] So although it has been linguistic dogma for
centuries that distinguishing voices allows us to distinguish
responsibilities, this may be just an artifact of our cultural
norms. This then brings out deep issues about the meaning of
meaning.

Cognitive scientists at Buffalo (Rapaport, Segal) recognized that
the real phenomenon in question is not just voice but subjectivi-
ty, or as literary theorists call it, focalization. E. Segal ar-
gues that there are two parallel switches in subjectivity in the
interview in question: one where the discourse changes from "they
[black people from the underclass] don't care what you [white
America] say" to "you [wA] don't care about THEIR [bpftu] lives"
which is marked by repetition, pronoun switches, and stress, and
the other one where the discourse changes from "white people
[etc.] were well aware of the fact that black people were dying
every day" to "if you [impersonal_you_] are a gang member and you
would normally be killing somebody", also marked with a repeti-
tion (or so ES claims).

ES then seems to conclude that since the crucial passage in the
interview -- if black people ... why not ... white people? -- is
not marked by some (or all?) of repetition, pronoun switch, and
stress, then therefore the crucial passage was not free indirect
discourse and "belongs to Souljah".

Other readers wondered about how this kind of analysis would hold
up in court. [Note: Flaubert is said to have beaten the case
concerning his _Mme Bovary_ with just this sort of argument.] And
I myself wonder if we don't have here a case in which the expert
witnesses fundamentally disagree as to what counts as evidence
for focalization, or subjectivity switching.

My own contribution will be to point out that, although G.
Genette told us 20 years ago that focalization is essentially a
_restriction_, focalization actually has (at least) three dif-
ferent functions. One, which SS herself -- in a Pacifica radio
interview -- seemed to be aware of, is to avoid responsibility by
restricting the validity of what is placed on record. [Note:
news reports do this all the time with their "informed sources".[
This function is well-known to linguists.

A second function of focalization is to "step into the shoes" of
someone [of bfptu, for instance] and to present the world like it
actually fells, for them. Thus SS is not only avoiding responsi-
bility, she is also inviting us [wA] to empathize with them
[bpftu].

A third (perhaps more subtle) function of focalization is to
validate the (restricted) content of what is focalized, and to
claim that the world is actually like it feels. An easy place to
see this function at work is on scientific discourse, i experi-
mental narratives, where focalization is a "_convention_ for gen-
erating matters of fact." [_Leviathan and the Air Pump, p 55.
Note: Plato had it that attaining the truth "would be achieved
most purely by the man who approached each object with his intel-
lect alone as far as possible, neither adducing sight in his
thinking, nor dragging in any other sense to accompany his rea-
soning" (_Phaedo_55e) but by the beginning of the 17th century it
was becoming accepted that singular experiences -- subjective
witnessings -- could provide access to matters of fact about na-
ture. Robert Boyle deliberately proselytized for the new view by
incorporating vicarious subjective witnessings into his experi-
mental narratives.] The idea here is that the scientist is saying
to the reader: "you don't have to believe me, you can see for
yourself," [and that seeing is believing, of course] and the ef-
fect on the reader is that something appears without appearing to
have been conjured up.

It is currently my belief that news reports also rely on this
function of focalization, quite heavily. In other words, they are
not only saying to the reader/listener: "look, we are not respon-
sible for the validity of this report," but at the same time they
are also saying (underhandedly, so to speak): "look, see for
yourself, this is how is really is." But then if this is what
news reports do, couldn't it also have been what Sister Souljah
was doing? [Note: it has been suggested to me that the particular
function of focalization which is in effect for any given example
depends on the particular genre of the example, but I don't know
how that works.]

Jeff Lansing
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