about Lawrence Henry's American
column on accents, Mark Liberman refers in passing to
Henry's "eye dialect", is challenged on this by Daniel Ezra Johnson,
and defends his use of the term by saying:
Well, the OED glosses "eye dialect" as
"unusual spelling intended to represent dialectal or colloquial
idiosyncrasies of speech", which seems close enough in this case.
The problem here is that there are two distinct but related concepts,
and we have only one widely used term to label them.
One concept is the OED's: a representation of dialect (or colloquial)
pronunciations via unusual spellings. It would certainly be
useful to have a term for this, and "eye dialect" is a nearly
transparent candidate for the purpose.
But there's another tradition, in which the term is used for unusual
spellings for perfectly ordinary pronunciations, functioning to suggest that
the speaker is uneducated or crude -- the sort of person who would
spell the words that way. AHD4's definition links the two (but
gives examples only of the second):
The use of nonstandard spellings, such
as enuff for enough or wuz for was, to indicate that the speaker
is uneducated or using colloquial, dialectal, or nonstandard speech.
Using eye dialect (in the first sense) is a tricky business; no matter
what the writer's intent (which might be just to provide local color),
it's likely to be understood as expressing contempt, and in any case
readers often find it tiresome. Writers would be well advised to
use it sparingly.
Using eye dialect (in the second sense) is pretty much by definition a
I've always used "eye dialect" in the second sense, so I'd suggest
"dialect spelling" for the first sense. But then who's going to
listen to ME
zwicky at-sign csli period stanford period edu
Posted by Arnold Zwicky at November 23, 2006 07:04 PM