Archive for dialects

Wednesday, March 25th, 2020

The Linguistic Treasure Trove of Twitter

Olivia Lenferna

When most people think of Twitter, they simply view it as a place where people go to vent their thoughts, opinions and frustrations to the world in 270 characters or less. It is an avenue for celebrities, world leaders, organizations, and different public figures to interact with the world in a safe, controllable and more personal way. Twitter allows people to react simultaneously in live time whether it is to movies, TV shows, sports, world events or disasters. It is also a place full of internet trolls, divisive opinions, rampant debating (educated or otherwise) and spam posts. Whether you’re looking at the light or dark side of Twitter, linguists can find the silver lining.

Click here to read more

Tuesday, January 21st, 2020

Linguistic Appropriation: AAVE, Hip-Hop, and Digital Culture

Nathan Metivier

If you are below the age of thirty and/or active on social media, you are probably familiar with words like squad, woke, salty, cap, and others. You may recognize these terms as only the trendy slang of teenagers and young adults. However, most of these terms originate from African American Vernacular English (AAVE). Despite the ubiquity of these lexical items, their cultural origins remain largely unknown by the white, English-speaking communities that often use them. The widespread use of AAVE outside of its native speech community can be explained, in part, by the popularity of hip-hop music and the widespread use of social media platforms. The profound effect of digital media culture on the speech of young white people demonstrates the potential for digital media to radically alter common vernacular English. That said, the effects of digital media on English vernaculars have consequences. While the widespread use of AAVE by white speakers may appear to reflect an appreciation of African American culture or a bridge across racial tensions, the lack of recognition for the origins of culturally embedded AAVE terms and the attitudes of the white speech community — who flippantly overuse and eventually dismiss appropriated AAVE terms as “outdated” or “no longer cool” — ultimately reflect a lack of appreciation for the African American speech community’s language, culture, and art forms by the cultural hegemony.

Click here to read more

Tuesday, October 8th, 2019

Modernized Modern Day English

Grace Gardner

Source: Digital Parenting, at

Looking at Richard Nordquist’s definition of dialect is what makes me believe that text-messaging English should be considered as a dialect of English. He believes that a dialect includes two important aspects: the grammar surrounding the language and how it is pronounced. Having been around since nearly the beginning of the text-messaging English era, I do believe that it should be considered as a dialect of English. Obviously, there is a significant number of people who have the idea that in order for something to be a dialect, it needs to follow the guidelines of standardized English. What many people fail to realize though is that a dialect is not about how things are spelt, but rather what the person gains from it.

Click here to read more

Thursday, October 12th, 2017

Fact: Nonstandard English is grammatical.

Yin Liu

Fallacy: Some very commonly used English words or structures are ungrammatical.

Huck Finn, by artist E. W. Kemble. Image: Wikimedia Commons, in public domain.

What a linguist considers ungrammatical English and what a lot of other people consider ungrammatical English are often very different. Here, for example, is a sentence (from the opening of Mark Twain’s Adventures of Huckleberry Finn) that a lot of English speakers might call ‘ungrammatical’:

  • That ain’t no matter.

Here’s something that a linguist would consider ungrammatical (that’s what the little asterisk means in this case):

  • * Not does matter that.

What makes something grammatical or not? It should be straightforward: an utterance or text is grammatical if it follows the rules of grammar. The issue here, though, is what the rules of grammar are, and who makes them.

Click here to read more

Wednesday, September 13th, 2017

Fact: Everyone who speaks English speaks it with an accent.

Yin Liu

Myth: It is possible to speak English without an accent.

Image: (cc) bellbeefer on Flickr. Linguistic accents contain no MSG and are better for your health.

No, it isn’t. What we call an ‘accent’ is a way of pronouncing a language — in technical terms, the phonetics of a dialect. If you speak a language, you have an accent. And, unless your language is spoken by a very, very small number of people who have lived all their lives in the same place and are from the same social group and probably the same generation and never talk to anyone else, your language has varieties, called dialects, as well. Since none of those conditions applies to English, which is arguably the most widely spoken language in the world on a number of fronts, English has a huge range of dialects and, since pronunciation is a part of any dialect, English speakers have a huge range of accents as well.

But if you type ‘English without an accent’ into Google, which I did, you will discover a surprising number of hits from people on YouTube or opinionated-but-ill-informed personal websites or English-as-a-Foreign-Language educational sites that assume that it’s possible to speak accentless English. If you investigate further, you will probably discover that what these people mean by ‘English without an accent’ is ‘English that sounds like you come from a place where English is the only language’, ‘English that makes you sound conventional and uninteresting enough to get you a high-paying, high-status job in North America’, or simply ‘English that sounds like us’. In other words, if you’re an English speaker and you hear someone else speaking English ‘with an accent’, you’re simply hearing someone whose accent is different from yours. That person will hear you speaking with an accent too.

Click here to read more