Race, US: class, UK

Pash   Thu Feb 08, 2007 5:39 am GMT
According to Jennifer Jenkins, in her book World English, the lack of acceptance of non-standard native forms of English seems to have connections with race, in the US, and with class, in the UK.

Would you also say that it seems that way?
Guest   Thu Feb 08, 2007 6:49 am GMT
Both race and class for those countries.
Guest   Thu Feb 08, 2007 7:21 am GMT
I don't think class is as big an issue as race in the US. Not in Southern California, at least.
Travis   Thu Feb 08, 2007 7:37 am GMT
At least here in Wisconsin, I would have to say that race is the biggest factor, with AAVE being very strongly deprecated while even the most extreme dialects spoken by primarily white individuals (think those at the northern periphery of the Upper Midwest such as the Upper Peninsula of Michigan) being only "sounding funny". However, AAVE often correlates to class as well, as the lower social class individuals involved can have idiolects that are very far from General American (to the point that I myself can find them all but unintelligible) while higher social class (such as middle class) individuals can often at least at work and in public speak something that is essentially General American with a weak AAVE substratum (and which notably lacks many of the substratum features present in the speech of most white individuals in the area such as the use of the word "ja"). Of course, such is likely due to the force of social pressures, both on higher social class individuals to speak something resembling General American due to its prestige within the existing establishment and on lower social class individuals to speak rather strong AAVE varieties due to its covert prestige.

As white people go, social class seems to be far less of a factor in their speech here, but there are a few features that do seem to be tied to social class. They are the use of "those" versus "them", "doesn't" versus "don't", single negation versus negation agreement (aka "double negation"), and consistent marking of -/(I)z/ on 3rd singular present indicative only versus use of -/(I)z/ sporadically in other persons and numbers in the present indicative, of which the former in each pair is associated with higher social class and the latter is associated with lower social class. Aside from these cases, though, there is little variation idiolectically based on social class, and seemingly social class-related variation is more a matter of register than actual social class (as such often varies strongly based on social context, especially if one is seeking to be polite with a stranger in something such as a business transaction). There is significant variation between conservative and progressive idiolects and GA-like and non-GA-like idiolects, but this is not really much of a function of social class in practice.
Travis   Thu Feb 08, 2007 7:46 am GMT
One other feature that seems to correlate to social class amongst white people here is the realization of non-intervocalic /Z/, which is generally preserved as [Z] or devoiced to [S] amongst individuals of higher social class here but shifted to [dZ] or shifted and devoiced to [tS] amongst individuals of lower social class here.
08EV   Thu Feb 08, 2007 9:44 am GMT
I think Travis has made some very good points here.

Attitudes towards a social hierarchy for dialect forms are of course common to all languages.

I would agree that race ("ethnicity" if you prefer) and class affect those attitudes in slightly different ways in the US/Canada and in UK.

"Class" is a less important factor in North America. But it is a factor nonetheless (try contrasting William F. Buckley's accent with that of Oral Roberts!).

Of interest is that there now seems to be a bit of "reverse class factor" in postmodern Britain. To have an upper-class accent is now often a disadvantage.

The socially desirable accent would appear to be the "Tony Blair-London-metrosexual" one.
BRAZILERA   Thu Feb 08, 2007 10:39 am GMT
The socially desirable accent would appear to be the "Tony Blair-London-metrosexual" one.

his accent sound homossexual to my ear.
I think he has a male lover.
Robin   Fri Feb 09, 2007 10:32 am GMT
It is insulting to suggest that Tony Blair's accent is 'homosexual'.

First of all, it is a slur to suggest that there is a negative connotation surrounding homosexuality.

Secondly, Tony Blair is a popular leader who is constantly criticised. To reduce the level of criticism to whether or not he is 'homosexual', is to reduce the level of debate to a very low level.

Tony Blair's accent is trend setting. In that it is one that a lot of people will aspire too. I am sure that over time his accent has changed. It is probably a little bit more than just a 'Public School' accent.

There have been sucessful Politicians who have had speech impediments. The most obvious one being Roy Jenkins. When Roy Jenkins gave Bill Clinton a welcoming speech at Oxford University, he gave the speech in Latin. An example of 'one upmanship' that Bill Clinton remarked on.

To get back to the point, an Oxon: Oxford or Cambridge University accent, was the key to success at one time.
M56   Fri Feb 09, 2007 11:36 am GMT
<The socially desirable accent would appear to be the "Tony Blair-London-metrosexual" one. >

Socially desirable in which region and, more importantly, for whom?
Pash   Fri Feb 09, 2007 11:55 am GMT
<I think he has a male lover. >

Would that be a problem for you?
BRAZILERA   Fri Feb 09, 2007 10:04 pm GMT
>>Would that be a problem for you?<<

Yes, that would make me jealous.
Damian in Edinburgh   Sat Feb 10, 2007 1:24 pm GMT
From April 2007 in the UK (apart from Northern Ireland which already has the law in place) - two month's time it will be an illegal act punishable by law to infer in any kind of offensive way to suggest that Tony Blair, or anybody else, speaks in a "homosexual" way, whatever or whichever way on earth that may be. I'd like it explained to me in detail exactly what is meant by "speak in a homosexual way", apart of course from the obvious use of words in any kind of suggestively sexual way.

Any kind of discrimination whatsoever, whether in words or actions, against gay people in the UK, which will result in any kind of negative consequences for gay people, will be illegal from next April. So that leaves Tony Blair, and anyone else, free to talk in any (BLEEP) style they like without any harmful censure or negative repurcussions of any kind.

If people don't feel particularly comfortable with "urban metrosexuality" - which exists even in rural areas and country villages to varying degrees, as well as the metro areas, in this country (UK), then......tough. Learn to ignore it or live with it. Get over yourselves. It's part of life's rich tapestry. :-)
Franco   Sat Feb 10, 2007 1:36 pm GMT
How do you know it was negative?

If I said "he speaks in a sexy way" is that offensive against sexy people? Or "he speaks with an asian accent' is that offensive towards asians? Homosexuals often speak in a different way to heterosexuals. That is the truth. Sore wa shinjitsu desu.
M56   Sat Feb 10, 2007 5:11 pm GMT
<Homosexuals often speak in a different way to heterosexuals.>

What utter nonsense!
Rick Johnson   Sat Feb 10, 2007 10:01 pm GMT
I remember a few years ago that it was implied, by a person who knew him in his younger days, that Tony Blair was something of a prolific uphill gardener.