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What kind of English is this?

Mapraputa Is
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In Annie Proulx's Brokeback Mountain two guys talk like this:


You goin a do this next summer?

Took me about a year a figure out it was that I shouldn't a let you out a my sights.

I doubt there's nothin now we can do.

It ain't goin a be that way.

Heard you was in Riverton.


I am curious, what kind of dialect is it? Regional? Rural? Anything else?...


Uncontrolled vocabularies
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Christophe Verré
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  16

I'm not native so I can't tell for sure, but I'm not sure this is some kind of dialect at all. It seems more like writing words the way they sound.
Like the way London people sound


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Mapraputa Is
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There are some grammatical peculiarities. It looks similar to Black English, but the speakers aren't black, that's why I am curious.
Jim Yingst
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I'd say it's a combination of regional accents and minimal education. As Satou guesses, no one would be taught to write like this, except as a writer trying to capture informal spoken language. I don't know how accurate it is, but it sounds plausible enough for characters with little education from Wyoming and Texas and in between, I suppose. The second and third examples look a bit odd to me (not too much), but the others are fairly typical across a large chunk of western/midwestern US states. I'd have expected "gonna" rather than "goin a", but the latter may be a more accurate rendition for certain regional accents. Dunno.


"I'm not back." - Bill Harding, Twister
Christophe Verré
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  16

As this is a story about two Wyoming cowboys, wouldn't that be that place's way of speaking ?
Max Habibi
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It's a South/Western thing: KY/TN/MS/AL/LA/AR/TX/OK, . It seems to be marked by a preference for vowels, a strong sense of 'community conjunctions',a distinct focus on local as a primary factor in any conversation, a focus on the present over the future and/or the past, and a certain acoustic aesthetic that's hard to define( especially if you grew up on East Coast aesthetics of clippidness and brevity, as I did):

Consider

It ain't goin a be that way.

The focus of vowel doesn't really have to be mentioned. However, notice the use of the present tense when speaking of the future. Also notice the usage of goin a vs. Going to be: 'a' is used instead of 'to', pointing to community conjunctions: that is, any conjunction will do in a pinch. Also, the words 'way','Riverton','sights', and 'summer' indicate a place or destination. These are strong themes.

Finally, and this is my favorite part, the lyrical nature of the phraseology. IMO, the sounds of the S/W sentences are simply more pleasant then their more 'correct' East Coast equivalents. I believe that this internal lyrical match-making is an important part of S/W linguist aesthetics. Thus, I doubt there's nothing wew can do now just sounds better, at an acoustic level, then I don't think there is anything we can do(now). Thus, when a gay cowboy is deciding on how best to express his love, he tends to favor a choice of words that is lyrical in nature.

He can't help it: it might very well be genetic.

M


Java Regular Expressions
Jim Yingst
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[Satou]: As this is a story about two Wyoming cowboys, wouldn't that be that place's way of speaking ?

They met in Wyoming, but one's from Texas. At least he lived in Texas; I don't remember if he spent all his life there.
Mapraputa Is
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They were raised on small, poor ranches in opposite corners of the state, Jack Twist in Lightning Flat up on the Montana border, Ennis del Mar from around Sage, near the Utah line, both high school dropout country boys with no prospects, brought up to hard work and privation, both rough-mannered, rough-spoken, inured to the stoic life.
Jeroen T Wenting
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Sounds like a poor attempt to make the speakers sound like they're dumb uneducated southerners instead of classy northeastern gentlepeople.

Can't have racial or sexual slurs in movies, but slagging southerners is perfectly alright.


42
Jim Yingst
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Ah yes, Wyoming, the deep south. Thanks for the clarification, Map.

Jeroen, you're reading in subtext that's just not there. And we don't need you attempting to politicize this. Chill.
[ June 19, 2006: Message edited by: Jim Yingst ]
Christophe Verré
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  16

They met in Wyoming, but one's from Texas. At least he lived in Texas; I don't remember if he spent all his life there.

Oops, thanks for the correction.
I doubt there's nothin now I can do.
Jim Yingst
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It's may not be obvious from what Map quoted, but the quote does establish that they really were both from Wyoming, at least originally. The only states that border both Utah and Montana are Wyoming and Idaho, and the references to Sage and Lightning Flat definitely narrow it down to Wyoming.
Mapraputa Is
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Thanks, Jim and Max.


Max, these are interesting observations. Did you make them based on the quotes above, or you noticed these them things before? Also, "He can't help it: it might very well be genetic" -- what do you mean by " genetic"?
Michael Matola
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    2
My take --

Author's making an attempt at eye dialect to reflect some social, economic, (possibly) regional, (possibly) temporal qualities of the characters.

I don't see any *strong* *regional* markers in these quotes other than general western US. If forced to describe this speech, I'd come up with something like "informal speech of those without lots of formal education, somewhere in the western US (likely rural), sometime in the last 100 years."

*****

You have several examples of elision:

"a" for "have" (have -> 've -> a):

shouldn't a

"a" for "to" as in "going to" (going to -> (most commonly) gonna, here it's "goin a")

You goin a
It ain't goin a

"a" for "to"

year a figure out

"a" for "of" (out of -> (most commonly) outta, here it's "out a")

out a my sights

*****

Other things going on:

Dropping of auxiliary verbs:

[Are] you goin a ...

Dropping of pronouns:

[It] took me
[I] heard

In general, these kinds of droppings are indicative of very informal speech.

*****

Nonstandard inflectional forms:

"you was" -- more standard would be "you were."
"ain't" -- generally nonstandard.

"Negative in place of a positive":

...nothin we can do...

Instead of "I doubt there's anything..."

Again, these kinds of things are indicative of informal, not highly educated speech.

*****

...figure out it was that I shouldn't...

I want to think on this one further.

*****

MH: It seems to be marked by a preference for vowels,

How so?

I just see informal elision of consonants.

a strong sense of 'community conjunctions',

What are those?

a distinct focus on local as a primary factor in any conversation,

*Any* conversation? That's a bit all-encompasing in my book. The author *is* trying to characterize these guys (well, one more than the other) as men of few words, so it's not surprising that their conversation is about the local and familiar.

a focus on the present over the future and/or the past,

I think you're reading an awful lot into the use of the periphrastic future here. My take would be it's more of an avoidance of "fancy" words such as will/shall/won't etc.

*****

gay cowboy

bisexual shepherd
[ June 20, 2006: Message edited by: Michael Matola ]
Michael Matola
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    2
"goin a" vs. "gonna"

I'm thinking the author was using "goin a" to indicate a pronunciation in which the vowel in "goin" is about the same as the vowel in "took" (rounded). My "gonna" is just schwas.
Frank Silbermann
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It's basically the colloquial dialect of those areas of America settled primarily by the Scots-Irish (as distinct from the Anglo-Saxons, Catholic Irish, Dutch, Germans, Scandinavians, Jews or southern Italians). This was initially the Appalachian mountains, but from there they spread across the rural south and the expanding western frontier.

I remember when I was seven years old and moved from New York City to a small town in northeast Florida -- I often had a difficult time understanding the speech of my new classmates. Nobody I knew in New York spoke that way -- yet there was something vaguely familiar about them giving me a spooky sense of deja-vu. Eventually, I realized that they talked like the characters in the Westerns that were ever-present on TV and in the movies in those days.

Sadly, Westerns aren't as popular anymore. (The 1940s and '50s were the Golden Age of the Hollywood Western.) Fortunately, most of those old movies are available now on VHS and DVD.
[ June 20, 2006: Message edited by: Frank Silbermann ]
Mapraputa Is
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Hm, I was mostly interested in "dangling a" feature (terminology is mine ) as in "goin a". I thought it's some interesting grammatical aberrance, and you all are saying it' just pronunciation?

In Wikipedia's article Southern American English there is another example:

Use of a+verb+ing, such as "He was a-hootin' and a-hollerin,'" or "the wind was a-howlin.'"

what is a's function here?

Another aberrances listed in the same article:

1. Using them as a demonstrative adjective replacing those � "See them birds?"

And in Brokeback Mountain we read:

Tell you what, you got a get up a dozen times in the night out there over them coyotes.

2. Use of unmarked verb preterits � "They come in here last night." Not marking come for tense is on the decline.

Perhaps this is what Max had in mind when he wrote "a focus on the present over the future and/or the past".
Mapraputa Is
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I tried to find some analogs for "It ain't goin.." and "you was" in Russian, and I can't think of anything that would be widely spoken... Need to ask Matola's help again... Mike, is it that Russian has less variations/dialects than American English, or I just don't notice obvious?
Michael Matola
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    2
you all are saying it' just pronunciation?

That's what I'm a-sayin'.

(Well, mostly.)

a-hootin' and a-hollerin'

what is a's function here?

What's the function of po- in

Ia chut' ne pozabyl. (I almost forgot.)

aberrances



I tried to find some analogs for "It ain't goin.." and "you was" in Russian, and I can't think of anything that would be widely spoken...

Well, don't focus on inflection. I'm not well versed in speech patterns of poorly educated Russians, so I'm probably the wrong person to be talking to on this. I'd go for some pretty subtle stuff like where stress falls on certain words (poZVONim or pozvonIM, for example?) and I've heard Russians tease one another for getting the plural of tort or sveklo wrong, and things like screwing up the declension of numbers in unusual case forms. How about words like "ikhnyi" as in "ikhnye poshli v gorod" (they went to town)? How about things influenced by Ukrainian?

is it that Russian has less variations/dialects than American English

Da, pral'no. (Yep.)

One fairly remarkable thing about Russian is how little regional variation it has, in particular given the vast territory its native speakers inhabit.

Regarding regional variation, foreigners learning Russian are usually taught to emulate, roughly, educated Moscow pronunciation, which is sometimes presented as a compromize of sorts: northern consonants, but southern vowels. (This is a vast overgeneralization, of course, and north and south here refer to European Russian only.) In other words, go ahead and pronounce unstressed "o" and "a" as "a" and unstressed "i" and "e" as "i" like they do in the south, but, for example, retain "g" as "g" and not "kh" in genitive endings ("mnogo" not "mnokho").

Maybe we should talk in English sometime, Map, so you can marvel over the quirks of my speech. I have largely lost (through conscious effort) many regional markers from my childhood and now have a fairly neutral accent, but a few subtle shibboleths do remain. (I'd venture to say that few without specialized training could place them with certainty.)
[ June 21, 2006: Message edited by: Michael Matola ]
Paul Clapham
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    8

Originally posted by Michael Matola:
"goin a" vs. "gonna"

I'm thinking the author was using "goin a" to indicate a pronunciation in which the vowel in "goin" is about the same as the vowel in "took" (rounded). My "gonna" is just schwas.
The phrase starts out as "going to". But the "ng" is at the back of the mouth and the "t" is at the front, so "ng" gets converted to "n" for ease of speech. So now you have "goin to", where "goin" is still the two syllables "go in".

Next you have the "n" and "t" merging -- that's very common in American speech, for example "twenty" is commonly pronounced "twenny" -- so the "t" seems to disappear. And the "o" is unstressed so it's a schwa. So now you have "goin a".

But you still have two syllables in "goin". If the word appears in an unstressed position in the sentence then the vowels become a schwa and you end up with "gonna".
Frank Silbermann
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Originally posted by Mapraputa Is:

In Wikipedia's article Southern American English there is another example:

Use of a+verb+ing, such as "He was a-hootin' and a-hollerin,'" or "the wind was a-howlin.'"

what is a's function here?
I don't know, but I would check whether there's any analog in Scandinavian languages. The Scots (and Scots-Irish) dialect was heavily influenced by Old Norse after heavy Viking settlements in the Danelaw area of northern England and Scotland. (Two hundred years ago parts of Scotland still spoke a Norse language; now it's limited to the Faero Islands.)

For example, you hear people in America's south and west saying, "this here book" and "that there table" for "this book" and "that table". In Danish they say "det her" and "det der" in the same contexts.
Mapraputa Is
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Me-myself: a-hootin' and a-hollerin'

what is a's function here?


found it:
http://www.pbs.org/speak/seatosea/americanvarieties/a-prefixing/background/

Me-myself: aberrances
Mike:


Ok, Ok, how about "variants"?


MM: I'd go for some pretty subtle stuff like ...

But my whole point is that there is no equally drastic varieties in Russian. Granted, there are some subtle differences, but nothing close to "you was" and "it aint'"....

MM: One fairly remarkable thing about Russian is how little regional variation it has, in particular given the vast territory its native speakers inhabit.

Now I have another unsolved problem on my hands -- why is it so? Compare to what I just read about German in tiny (Ok, relatively tiny) Switzerland:

Swiss German does not exist per se but is actually a collection of different quite distinct dialects. If you enter your pronunciation of ten words (eg. 23 variants for "moon") to http://dialects.from.ch/ , it will place you correctly within a 20 mile zone within Switzerland. Even native speakers of one dialect have trouble comprehending other dialects.
SWISS GERMAN DRIVING OUT STANDARD?


MM: Maybe we should talk in English sometime, Map, so you can marvel over the quirks of my speech.

I am very bad with sounds. I doubt I would be able to detect any quirks in your speech, even if you would point them out. That's why I mostly entertain myself with grammatical quirks oops, I mean variants.

Paul C: Next you have the "n" and "t" merging -- that's very common in American speech, for example "twenty" is commonly pronounced "twenny" -- so the "t" seems to disappear.

Guy Deutscher in his "The Unfolding of Language" describes similar process in Italian:
septe ('seven') turned into "sette", maksimo ('maximum') became "massimo", pictoresco ended up as pittoresco.

[ June 22, 2006: Message edited by: Mapraputa Is ]
Pauline McNamara
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    6
MM: One fairly remarkable thing about Russian is how little regional variation it has, in particular given the vast territory its native speakers inhabit.

Map: Now I have another unsolved problem on my hands -- why is it so? Compare to what I just read about German in tiny (Ok, relatively tiny) Switzerland:

I was amazed by what you said Mike, for exactly the same example you give, Map. I've often wondered about the variety and vast differences between Swiss German dialects. With only a fascination for language and no linguistic background, I'd ask if it could be something to do with some kind of topography/transport/history of communication factor?

Along the lines of the quote you give Map, they say that you could even locate which valley a person comes from by their Swiss German dialect (generally speaking of course). So in a country where those 20 miles could very well include steep, maybe remote, mountain valleys, would it make sense that a particular dialect would develop that's specific to that valley, simply because historically there wasn't a lot of regular exchange with people from other valleys, or valleys farther away?

But then you'd have to ask if the opposite is true for the big space that is occupied by native Russian speakers. Or about the communication history over that space.

At any rate, Map, I think you have a fascinating "unsolved problem". (Or is there a dissertation sitting in a drawer somewhere that has addressed this very question?)

And to bring it back to US accents and whether the natives understand eachother... my Boston accent was so strong when I moved to California that it was common for people to ask me to repeat myself several times until they knew what I was saying. Of course some were probably just teasing me... :roll:
Pauline McNamara
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Fun stuff: I picked out how I'd pronounce the words in dialects.from.ch and got a map that shows where I learned B�rnd�tsch.
Frank Silbermann
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Mapraputa Is asked why there is so much less regional variation in Russian than in English or Swiss German. When you have a spectrum of dialects, the artificial boundaries grouping them into distinct languages are political constructs based on power and government.

All variants of English derive from dialects called "middle English" spoken seven or eight hundred years ago. All versions of Swiss German derive from Swiss German spoken seven our eight hundred years ago. Did Russian even exist as a language eight hundred years ago, or do we describe those people as having spoken Old Slavonic?

You'll see quite distinctive speech differences in the various localities where derivatives of Old Slavonic are spoken, but historical social and political boundaries separated the various dialects into smaller, more homogenous groups that are now treated as separate languages (e.g., Russian, Czech, Polish, Ukrainian, ...)
Mapraputa Is
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Pauline : Or is there a dissertation sitting in a drawer somewhere that has addressed this very question?

Very likely. Probably written in English though.

Frank: Did Russian even exist as a language eight hundred years ago

One of the earliest written piece of Russian literature is dated XII century.

or do we describe those people as having spoken Old Slavonic?

From what I read, Russian did not directly descend from Old Church Slavonic, rather both of them descend from the same source. Wikipedia confirms this theory:

Proto-Slavic is the proto-language from which Old Church Slavonic and all the other Slavic languages later emerged.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Proto-Slavic_language

[ June 22, 2006: Message edited by: Mapraputa Is ]
Mapraputa Is
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Jim: I'd say it's a combination of regional accents and minimal education.

Forget bisexual shepherds, I just came across an interesting exemplar of similar usage in no one else but Jim Yingst's speech:

So, you've got lotsa people using English
http://www.coderanch.com/t/38138/md/Please-clear-me


What's going a here?

Jim Yingst
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Not much. "lotsa" ~= "lots of" in case that was unclear. I think I was trying to offset the stuffiness of the language in the rest of the post, and overcompensated.
agrah upadhyay
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I often think that lotsa(lot of), sorta(sort of),kinda(kind of) are available but NOT typa(type of...simply).......! Well have I not coined this term?
 
Don't get me started about those stupid light bulbs.
 
subject: What kind of English is this?
 
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