LINGUIST List 9.1347

Mon Sep 28 1998

Qs: Usage Shifts, ESL errors, Language Policy & Lit

Editor for this issue: Scott Fults <>

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  1. JPKIRCHNER, Usage Shifts
  2. sburdine, ESL student production errors
  3. Larry Rosenwald, American language policy and American literature

Message 1: Usage Shifts

Date: Fri, 25 Sep 1998 07:24:31 EDT
Subject: Usage Shifts

There are two changes in word usage that I have noticed mainly among younger
people in the Detroit area, and I was wondering if anyone has heard them in
other parts of the US or the rest of the English-speaking world. They are:

PITCH. Increasingly, my linguistics students have no knowledge of the tar-
like substance "pitch", and they are reanalyzing this word as an adverb
indicating an extreme saturation of any color, usually associated with strong
emotion. Thus they can and do say, "She was so mad, her face turned pitch
red!" or, "My period suddenly came on, and I turned pitch white." Some don't
see anything wrong with "pitch green", and those students who believe that
"pitch" only goes with black don't know why. This change seems to be more
prevalent the younger the group and the higher the social class.

FLOW (tr.) - FLEW - FLOWN. I have noticed that graphic designers have begun
using nonstandard past forms for the verb "flow", only when it is transitive
and applies to text being imported into a desktop publishing document. The
term for inserting the text is "to flow in type". Designers will say things
like, "We flew the type in to those two stories yesterday, so now they can be
proofread. Don't read the other one, though, because the type hasn't been
flown in. Once we flow it in, I'll tell you." I thought this usage was
confined to one company, but now I'm discovering it's citywide. Even art
directors who pride themselves on "good English" will unconsciously slip into
this usage and then frustratedly "correct" themselves.

Has anyone else noticed these usages in other places?

James Kirchner
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Message 2: ESL student production errors

Date: Sun, 27 Sep 1998 17:06:02 -0500
From: sburdine <>
Subject: ESL student production errors

I am interested in any information people may have about ESL learner
errors, specifically related to, but not reserved to phonology. The
native language is of no concern right now.

Any references/comments are appreciated. Please respond to

Stephanie Burdine
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Message 3: American language policy and American literature

Date: Sun, 27 Sep 1998 11:40:05 -0400 (EDT)
Subject: American language policy and American literature

	Hi - I'm writing a book on how American literature, mostly but not 
exclusively American anglophone literature, represents, language and dialect
contact, and at a couple of points I've posed queries to LINGUIST readers
about aspects of this, and gotten wonderfully helpful responses. The present
query is a little more speculative and vague than the previous ones have been,
but I thought I'd try posing it anyway.
	I'm convinced that there must be some relation, or some relations, 
between the literary representation of language contact and language
difference on the one hand, and political positions on matters of language
policy on the other. If I'm working on a specific writer of literature, I
can study the writer's life and see what those connections might be (e.g.,
in Mark Twain's life, I can see the complex relation between wanting to
represent dialects accurately in _Huck Finn_ and preaching incessantly about
"good English"). But lately I've also been trying to read works focused
directly on questions of language policy, e.g., Dennis Baron's excellent
_The English Only Question_ and James Crawford's excellent anthology,
_Language Loyalties_, and have been wondering about whether people who take
certain positions about matters of American language policy might also take,
implicitly or explicitly, positions on matters of literature. If you're an
advocate of English Only legislation, does that tend to make you admire
works of literature that, like, say, Henry Roth's _Call It Sleep_, give
brilliantly full representation of language difference? Does it tend to
make you _not_ admire such works? 
	I'd be interested in any information or ideas readers might offer - 
statements made about literature by language policy activists, other fora
where I might pose this question, speculative links about the relations I'm
guessing exist, whatever. If there's enough interest, I'll certainly post
a summary, and (I hope) more promptly than I've done so on previous occasions.

Thanks in advance, Larry Rosenwald, Wellesley College
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