Friday, July 19, 2013

Sociolinguistic Journals: Part 2

English Variations

Reading the section in chapter 4(Holmes) about World Englishes got me thinking: what about generational changes in English? There are about as many differences between the African English and the American English as there are between the 1600's English and the 2013 English. A prime example of this came up when discussing a Christian tract my colleague was writing. He was using the King James Version Bible for all his references to the Scriptures. He and I had debated if certain terms and phrases could be understood by the common man, or if they should be revised or explained. But that particular afternoon, we were dealing with a phrase that said "Know ye not...?" We discussed the appropriateness of such a high dialect. He opted to change it to "Do you not know...?" I didn't stop there though. Concerned with cross-cultural and cross-generational language changes, I wanted to be away of the shift. I wanted to acknowledge that the generation we are trying to reach is using a different heart language than we or our parents did. I do not want to assume that comprehension means the impact will be the same. Even if you can understand something, the way it affects you can be dampened by the syntax. So, I recommended using a contraction: "Don't you know...?" My colleague was hesitant to make that further change, but it got me thinking about these language changes.

English Variations Cont

Although I have a relatively small number of international friends, I learn a great deal from those I have. One particular friend is from Great Britain. He and I have found dialect sparring to be a diverting activity. I want to share a few examples of our dialogues, before I comment on them.

"Something you might find humorous... I was reading along in "one World Two Minds" and came across  the phrase "Blinkered thinking is dangerous thinking." I drew a blank, completely. I had no idea what it meant by "blinkered thinking". Then I had a flashback to Mark sitting in the trunk of Robin's car and the three of us discussing terminology. You guys call those things on horses eyes "blinkers". The lightbulb went on, and I had to laugh. I didn't realize Denis Lane was a brit :)

"Him: My book arrived on Thursday, so let me know when yours arrives and we can make a start.">Me:"make a start" :) We say "get started" haha.">You're gonna get me talking like you pretty soon."In both of these samples, notice how we compare the differences in our variety of English. These are just two from hundreds of dialogues, contrasting word choice, lexical appropriateness, word order, idioms, and even pronunciation. Of course, he claims to be 'right' purely because he is British, and we are an off-shoot of his variety. Discussions like this are enjoyable because we are from two different geographical regions. If, on the other hand, we had been from two different classes or levels of a system, this conversation would likely not have been appropriate or humorous.Incidentally, during a discussion on this topic, I was reminded of the movie "My Fair Lady". The very issue of class variations is the whole basis of the movie. The doctor (speech therapist) took a low class woman and trained her to fit the upper class. Interestingly, her speech wasn't where the training could stop. There is a cultural separation between classes as well, and that came into play later in the story. As with all other topics, we can't discuss one dimension without touching others.

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