[personal profile] eub
In A Montessori Mother, here's Dorothy Canfield Fisher talking about her neighbor. (Figuring that her neighbor won't feel condescended to by this, or that she can't read?)
Not that she was in the least conscious of going through this elaborate mental process. Her own simple narration of what followed runs: "I snatched 'em away from him, and I was mad as a hornit for a minit or two. [...]"
The 'em is signaling a different pronunciation than them would. But hornit and minit are not saying anything different than hornet and minute.* It's pure eye dialect: a non-standard spelling that doesn't even give a non-standard pronunciation.
* At least to me: I read them with the same schwas. Is there some pronunciation difference I'm not familiar with, that hornet/hornit could be meant to signal? The Vulcan over-enunciation of unstressed vowels?

In using eye dialect, the author is signaling "this person's speech is non-standard, but I'm not going to bother to observe in what way." My first thought was that I don't like it because it's lazy writing, but you know, lazy is the least of it. What makes this laziness even possible is that one dialect is privileged as standard, and what the author is implying is that it doesn't matter which dialect the person's speech is. For each non-standard dialect, all that's worth noticing is that it's not the standard. That's all that hasn't been erased from the speech as it's written.

Date: 2011-07-09 01:08 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] jcreed.livejournal.com
I'm not a huge fan of eye dialect as a rule either, but for what it's worth, I imagine hornit sounding noticeably different from my pronunciation from hornet, minit/minute less so.

A vaguely similar thing is noticing a couple of people from connecticut de-schwaing some unstressed vowels that I would schwa, in the direction of /ɪ/: they would say /bʌʔɪn/ and /kɪʔɪn/ where I would say /bʌʔən/ and /kɪʔən/ (or perhaps even with n as syllable nucleus like /ˈbʌʔn/, /kɪʔn/)

Date: 2011-07-09 04:45 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] xuth.livejournal.com
I too see a very strong difference between hornet and hornit. The difference between minute and minit is more subtle but is still fairly distinct. But as you point out, this does suppose a proper or at least standard pronunciation / accent. However I do believe that we have managed to acquire such a thing in that television personalities and foreign call center agents are both required to learn a "neutral" or "general american" accent. As to whether it is necessarily denigrating to groups or individuals to make the distinction I'm able to argue both ways.

Date: 2011-07-10 07:45 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] eub.livejournal.com
Mail me an audio clip of your readings "I stumbled into a horn[ei]t's nest."? :)

I don't know about eye dialect necessarily signaling lower status (compare a counterfactual setup where the standard pronunciation is the low-status one), but I would say it actually does in our culture.

Date: 2011-07-09 05:49 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] bhudson.livejournal.com
Can you show me the difference between hornet and hornit?

Date: 2011-07-09 11:49 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] rmitz.livejournal.com
The difference is the same as between net and nit, except slightly less strong.

Date: 2011-07-10 01:57 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] bhudson.livejournal.com
So, whore-net versus hoar-nit?

Date: 2011-07-10 02:04 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] rmitz.livejournal.com
That's about how I'd read it, anyway.

Date: 2011-07-10 05:00 am (UTC)
katybeth: transliteration of "katy" into Hebrew (hebrew)
From: [personal profile] katybeth
Huh. Except I pronounce the unstressed syllable of "hornet" with a schwa, neither "net" nor "nit." Do you not fully reduce the unstressed vowel?
Edited Date: 2011-07-10 05:00 am (UTC)

Date: 2011-07-10 07:06 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] xuth.livejournal.com
As a kid I learned much of my vocabulary from reading and being the (relatively) pedantic person I was and am, I fairly carefully enunciated all pronounceable syllables (for example comfortable has four very distinct syllables as opposed to the three that it gets reduced to by many people). I've relaxed that quite a bit over time but I'm regularly asked where I'm from because the asker can't place my accent.

So in my specific case, I mostly don't reduce this vowel.

Date: 2011-07-11 10:25 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] eub.livejournal.com
Noted. I've noticed you are carefully spoken, but I hadn't heard your unstressed vowels.

(In the case of the post's dialog, pretty sure the author is not signaling that this speaker reduces unstressed vowels, since she would presumably then do the same nonstandard spellings throughout the book for all dialog from a standard-dialect speaker.)

Date: 2011-07-10 07:35 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] eub.livejournal.com
It is possible that Fisher *was* giving a phonetic transcription of a rural Vermont pronunciation c. 1900 as precisely as she could without IPA. If there is a New England speech that de-schwas towards /ɪ/ that might bump up the odds on that hypothesis.

Date: 2011-07-10 04:49 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] houseboatonstyx.livejournal.com
I can't give examples, but there are some eye dialect spellings that do bring up important sound differences for me. Not different phonemes, but a different rhythm or 'tone of voice', which calls up the memory of a cadence of a particular dialect, and/or attitude.

Date: 2011-07-10 08:15 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] eub.livejournal.com
To me eye dialect generally says that the speaker is uneducated or of low social class, which does signal a difference in sound if I know what that stratification sounds like. (I think Fisher is communicating "1900 rural Vermont", but I don't have an acoustic meaning for that.)

When eye dialect communicates a more specific way of speaking, even if it manages it by sleight of word, I'd consider that a different beast in principle, even if I can't keep class-signification from bleeding over onto it in my head.

(The fact that we have an artificial literary device to signal the class of the speaker is one thing. To do it so that high class is unlabeled and low class is labeled... well, it's inevitable that it'll land that way, but that's what bugs me.)

Date: 2011-07-11 07:15 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] rehana.livejournal.com
Weirdly, I read hornit as having a glottal stop at the end and hornet as having a t. Might be because it's clearly meant to signal class.



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