Sometimes you can learn so much about a book just from its front matter.
Anthropologist, Wayne State University. Professional numbers guy. Rare Words: http://phrontistery.info. Blog: http://glossographia.com.
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7 thoughts on “What I’m reading”
This reminds me of a question that has been rolling through my mind as I write my paper: is there any sort of universal commonality between acrolects and basilects?
Huh. I’m from WNC. What is this ‘low element’ referred to here?
Lindsay: That’s an interesting question. I guess it depends what you mean by ‘universal commonality’: do you mean, is there any necessary degree of structural connection between acrolects and basilects? Or do you mean, do acrolects of different languages have something in common with each other, in contrast to basilects of those languages, which also share common features with one another?
Either way, I don’t actually know the answer, but they’re great questions. I think I will bring this book to class tomorrow to pass around, with a warning to watch out for the naughty words … which are basically on every page.
Bailey: The ‘low element’ is basically that the ‘folk epigraphy’ being described is vulgar graffiti found throughout the western US. This is one of the filthiest academic books I’ve ever read, basically a ‘corpus’ of profane inscriptions, hence the private printing in Paris and the warning on the title page.
I meant the latter. As an American English speaker, I can see how American English acrolect and British English acrolect have commonalities, but do those commonalities exist outside English? Germanic languages? Indo-European? and so on.
As far as structural connections between basilects and acrolects, there are some in Jamaican creole, at least, and there is a lot of mutual intelligibility across the creole continuum.
I’m not an expert in lect theory or dialectology at all, although I know some people. I can certainly imagine there would be cross-linguistic regularities among basilects – if you accept Bickerton’s argument for creoles exemplifying language universals, you pretty much have to think there would be some. Acrolects might be trickier and more variable.
What an interesting book … and an interesting discussion! …