LINGUIST List 7.503

Fri Apr 5 1996

Disc: Language & the Movies

Editor for this issue: Ljuba Veselinova <>


  1. benji wald, Re: 7.485, Sum: Language & the Movies [via LSMTP - see]

Message 1: Re: 7.485, Sum: Language & the Movies [via LSMTP - see]

Date: Sun, 31 Mar 1996 19:05:00 PST
From: benji wald <IBENAWJMVS.OAC.UCLA.EDU>
Subject: Re: 7.485, Sum: Language & the Movies [via LSMTP - see]
I missed the discussion from which Ernest compiled the list of movies
that are "interesting from linguistic point of view." Is it that that
they explicitly make comments on language in some way? EG that
"Encino Man",a thawed-out Ice age teenager, learns English
effortlessly through the "immersion" method, and that the characters
in "Clockwork Orange"speak a futuristic slang, since, of course,
current slang would be anachronistic in a future setting?

I think all movies are interesting from a linguistic point of view.
Foremost is the portrayal of colloquial speech, to those who have
observed genuine colloquial speech from a linguistic point of view.
Has anyone in one room ever mistaken musicless dialogue emanating from
a TV or VCR in another room for a real conversation? Even if you can't
hear it distinctly (intonation patterns?) Contr, picking up the
receiver when the telephone in the movie rings? Oscar for the

Older movies are striking for their adherence to the Gricean/Searlean,
even early Scheglovian maxims for conversational turn-taking, etc.
The addressee almost free2es when listening to the speaker. I forget
if "Citi2en Kane" is credited for innovating overlapping speech as a
technique to advance realism in portraying conversation. Of course,
in old movies tough guys don't curse, but that always called for
conscious suspension of (dis)belief. "Dis and dat" had to serve as

The entrance of various catch expressions into the mainstream can be
fairly well dated from appearance in movies (for american English at
least). EG "I'm outa here" (early '80s?), "I don't THINK so" (= no
way! RIP, late 80s). But there are some political considerations
here. The eminently useful "X *just doesn't get it* ", or "you *just
don't get it*, duya?" could have been propagated from the women's
movement and extended to who-knows-how-many contexts, but apparently
was considered too " abrasive" or controversial for heroic speech, and
was not picked up on. (The "just" seems essential to the expression,
as in Tannen's "you *just* don't understand", or is that an
idiosyncratic association I'm making?)

What is interesting about movies from a linguistic point of view
is in the ear of the beholder (to mix metaphors?) -- Benji
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