Archive for Sociolinguistics

SNL Girl Talk and Prosody as Pragmatics

Below is a guest post by Nicole Holliday.


This past weekend, Saturday Night Live featured a skit called Girl Talk, starring Ego Nwodim, Megan Thee Stallion, and Punky Johnson. The basic conceit of the skit is that Monique Money (played by Ego Nwodim) is the host of a talk show called “Girl Talk”, where she provides advice to distressed guests. But the joke is that the only actual lexical item used to provide or respond to advice on the show is “girl”. The word “girl” has a long-documented history as a vocative of solidarity and/or distancing within AAE-speaking communities, but of course it is so widespread in popular culture now that white audiences are also likely to be familiar with it. As a sociophonetician who studies prosody, I was immediately interested in how pragmatic meaning would be accomplished via the different realizations of “girl” through the skit. Though there are only 16 occurrences of “girl” (and one of “bro”), their duration and prosodic patterns do tell us a bit about how these speakers play with prosody.

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Linguistic aversion therapy?

Rick Rubenstein commented on yesterday's post ("What happened to all the, like, prescriptivists?"):

Are there any proven therapies available for folks like me who, despite seeing the light decades ago, can't keep from wincing at "violations" of prescriptivist rules ingrained (mostly self-ingrained) during childhood? I want to be totally unfazed by "The team with the bigger amount of people has an advantage," but man, it's hard. (Not actually serious, but it's certainly true. Unlearning is tough.)

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Food-related and other types of slang in Japanese

New article in The Japan Times (9/9/22) by Jennifer O'Donnell: 

"The study of Japanese slang is challenging and never stops. Luckily, it’s also a lot of fun."

Inspired by Wes Robertson’s slang-focused “Scripting Japan” blog, it deals with terms like "Ore shafu da ne wwww おれ社不だねwwww”.

The four w’s you might be able to recognize as the Japanese equivalent to “LOL.” おれ (Ore) means “I,” だね (da ne) is looking for agreement … but what’s 社不 (shafu)?

Well, if you follow Wes Robertson’s slang-focused “Scripting Japan” blog, you’ll know that 社不 is a relatively recent term — more comically self-depreciating than insulting — that refers to someone who is 不適合 (futekigō, incompatible) with 社会 (shakai, society).

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Pro-Mandarin, anti-topolect movement in Singapore

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A different kind of "matched guise" test?

In a "matched guise" test, subjects are asked to evaluate "various traits including body height, good looks, leadership, sense of humor, intelligence, religiousness, self-confidence, dependability, kindness, ambition, sociability, character, and likability", for the same content presented by the same speaker in different languages, or perhaps by the same speaker associated with different pictures. The goal is to uncover linguistic or ethnic stereotypes.

This twitter "experiment" takes the idea in a different direction, using an associated picture to shift the interpretation of an ambiguous word:


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What makes an accent "good" or "bad"?

Lacey Wade, a postdoc in the Penn Linguistics Department, is featured in the most recent episode of Big Ideas for Strange Times:

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Talcott Parsons Prize: Bill Labov's acceptance speech

One of the recent events cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic was the ceremony awarding the Talcott Parsons Prize to Bill Labov:

The American Academy of Arts & Sciences is awarding linguist William Labov the Talcott Parsons Prize for distinguished and original contributions to the social sciences. […]

Labov is regarded as the founder of variationist sociolinguistics, which is a discipline dedicated to understanding and researching language in relation to social factors that include region, race, class, and gender. The impact of Labov’s work is far-reaching and extends through the practice of language science around the world, hundreds of significant publications, and the countless students and scholars he mentored. His influence has been felt in education, sociology, computational and cognitive science, and law.

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Super Bowl Dialectology

One of today's Super Bowl commercials features Boston r-lessness:


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Sociolinguistically unaware journalists?

Julie Satow, "She Was a Star of New York Real Estate, but Her Life Story Was a Lie", NYT 1/10/2019:

Wrapped in furs, dripping with diamonds and with her blond hair perfectly coifed, Faith Hope Consolo cut a glamorous figure in the flashy, late 20th-century world of New York City real estate.

Ms. Consolo was born into the business, benefiting from her father’s legacy as a real estate executive. Emboldened professionally by her mother, a child psychiatrist, Ms. Consolo parlayed her privileged Connecticut upbringing, which included a stint at Miss Porter’s School for Girls and a degree from Parsons Paris, into a bold career, socializing and cutting deals with the moneyed classes she knew so well.

In late 2018, Ms. Consolo died unexpectedly of a heart attack at age 73. As someone who had covered her for years, I wrote her obituary, which included some of the details above, confirming her place in this rarefied world.

But those details, I soon discovered, were lies.

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"Big girl's blouse"

Americans following recent U.K. political antics have been able to learn a piece of British slang that's probably new to them — Martin Belam, "'You great big girl’s blouse' – Johnson appears to insult Corbyn during PMQs", The Guardian 9/4/2019:

Boris Johnson’s first Prime Minister’s Questions was immediately embroiled in controversy after footage appeared to show him gesticulating towards Jeremy Corbyn, saying: “Call an election, you great big girl’s blouse.” […]

Johnson has form for previously using the phrase. In June 2017 he called Labour’s election campaign chief a “big girl’s blouse”. And in 2007, when Gordon Brown was tipped to be on the verge of calling a general election in an era before the Fixed-Term Parliaments Act, he reportedly told a fringe meeting at the Conservative party conference in Blackpool that if Brown didn’t act: “We will say he’s wimped out, we will say he’s a big girl’s blouse.”

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Sienna Miller's southeastern PA accent

Adam Hermann, "Sienna Miller talks nailing the Philly accent for 'American Woman' on Jimmy Fallon", Philly Voice 6/15/2019:

British actress Sienna Miller has an accent when she talks, but it's decidedly not something you normally hear from an eastern Pennsylvania resident.

For the film "American Woman", which comes out next week and is set in "a small, blue-collar town in Pennsylvania", Miller had to figure out what people from around here talk like.

It wasn't easy, because the Philadelphia accent is so dang weird, but she clearly had some help, because she kind of nailed it.

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New corpus of latrinalia starting up

I just learned via the mosling mailing list that a Russian team has established a multilingual corpus of toilet graffiti, which in their English language home page they call the Corpus of Latrinalia. I haven't looked at it and know nothing about it – I'm just reporting its existence. They have warnings on the front page that it contains obscenities "as well as racist and other insulting inscriptions", which do not reflect the attitudes or opinions of the corpus gatherers. But I find the project too amusing not to report.

https://linghub.ru/wc_corpus/index_en.html

And it was done with the support of the Russian Science Foundation. Good for them. ("them" – both.) Let's hope they get some good research out of it so that the RSF doesn't regret the decision and react badly to future non-standard proposals!

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"Hypersynonymy" in MLE?

Robert Booth, "'Ching, wap, ox': slang interpreters decipher texts for court evidence", The Guardian 3/29/2019:

Do you know your “tum-tum” from your “ching” and your “corn” from your “gwop” (gun, knife, ammunition and money)? Neither do police and prosecutors, who have begun consulting a linguistics professor to help decipher urban slang and drill lyrics used as evidence in criminal investigations.

The complexity of inner-city dialects and the growing use of texts and social media posts in court evidence has forced detectives and lawyers in London, the West Midlands and Essex to seek translations, according to Tony Thorne, an academic at King’s College London, who has been studying youth slang since 1990. […]

The dialect has become known among academics as multi-ethnic London English (MLE), though is not limited to the capital. Last autumn, an image circulated of a glossary of “youth language” on a whiteboard in a Lancashire police station including “peng = attractive, feds = police, swear down = tell the truth”.

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