I just realized something

Giganews Newsgroups
Subject: I just realized something
Posted by:  Raymond S. Wise (illinoisNOSP…@mninter.net)
Date: Sat, 6 Sep 2003

I have long advocated the teaching of nonstandard speakers to speak and
write a standard dialect, while at the same time encouraging diglossia among
those speakers--bidialectism in which each speaker speaks the standard
dialect and his mother dialect. In such a situation, it is essential that
teachers show respect towards nonstandard dialects, even while insisting
that the child accurately speak the standard. When such a system is put into
place, there is going to naturally occur as a result a phenomenon which I
had never considered before: the acceleration of the adoption of terms from
nonstandard dialects.

Now, standard dialects have been adopting words and expressions from
nonstandard dialects ever since the concept of a standard dialect arose.
This has been the case even when the nonstandard dialect in question was
heavily denigrated by many speakers of the standard dialect, as Cockney and
African American Vernacular English have been, for example. But consider
what happens when you show respect toward nonstandard dialects: You have
fewer speakers who abandon their mother dialect entirely, so that they
continue to be exposed to changes in vocabulary which occur in that dialect,
and can pass those on to the standard dialect. And the nonstandard dialect,
since it is receiving more respect, will be seen as a more respectable
source of new terms, just as educated speakers have long seen foreign
languages as respectable sources of new terms.

There is another result: When you teach every child to speak the standard
dialect, you enlarge the pool of speakers of that dialect. This means that,
although you will indeed find a larger percentage of diglossics going on to
higher education, you will also see more diglossics speaking the standard
language in their everyday life who never go on to higher education. Since
they speak the standard dialect, however, they are a source of creative
change in the language *including when that change comes from their
invention and is not simply adopted from their mother dialect.*

All this is obvious in retrospect, but I have never encountered anyone else
write about it and have never thought of it before now.

Raymond S. Wise
Minneapolis, Minnesota USA

E-mail: mplsray @ yahoo . com