Yankees Were Perplexed.

I’m finally reading Colin Woodard’s American Nations: A History of the Eleven Rival Regional Cultures of North America, which I got back in 2013, and it’s excellent — his treatment of “New France” may be superficial, as Etienne warned in that thread, but his explanation of the origins of the various “nations” and how they spread west and determine culture and politics to the present day is fascinating and provides a useful perspective on the usual accounts. At any rate, I’ve found a paragraph of LH interest in the “Appalachia Spreads West” chapter:

Yankees also had difficulty understanding Appalachian dialects and vocabulary. In Indiana one noted the difference in how the members of the two cultures would describe a runaway team of horses. “It run into the bush and run astride astraddle, and broke the neap, reach, and evener,” a Yankee would say. His Hoosier neighbor would interpret these remarks thus: “The horses got skeert and run astraddle of a sapling and broke the tongue, double-tree, and couplin pole.” Yankees were perplexed when young Borderlanders called their spouses “old woman” or “old man” and amused by their use of “yon” for “that,” “reckon” for “guess,” “heap” for “a lot of” and “powerful” where a New Englander would say “very.”

Incidentally, if you’re wondering about where “Hoosier” comes from, nobody knows.

Comments

  1. Richard Hershberger says:

    It sounds akin to David Hackett Fischer’s Albion’s Seed, though as I recall Fischer posited a more restrained four traditions.

  2. SFReader says:

    Yankee, Hoosier, it’s all Greek to me…

  3. Christopher Henrich says:

    Interesting title. I wonder how this book compares with The Nine Nations of North America by Garreau.

  4. It sounds akin to David Hackett Fischer’s Albion’s Seed, though as I recall Fischer posited a more restrained four traditions.

    I wonder how this book compares with The Nine Nations of North America by Garreau.

    He deals with both on p. 14:

    I’m not the first person to have recognized the importance of these regional cultures to North American history, politics, and governance. […] In 1981 Washington Post editor Joel Garreau wrote The Nine Nations of North America, a best seller that observed that the continent was divided into rival power blocs that corresponded to few national, state, or provincial boundaries. His regional paradigm argued the future would be shaped by the competing, conflicting aspirations of these North American nations. But because his book was ahistorical—a snapshot in time, not an exploration of the past—Garreau couldn’t accurately identify the nations, how they formed, or what their respective aspirations were.

    Brandeis University historian David Hackett Fischer detailed the origins and early evolution of four of these nations—the ones I call Yankeedom, the Midlands, Tidewater, and Greater Appalachia—in his 1989 classic Albion’s Seed, and added New France in Champlain’s Dream, published twenty years later.

    And on p. 127 he says:

    In Albion’s Seed, historian David Hackett Fisher makes the case for their having been not one American War of independence but four: a popular insurrection in New England, a professional “gentleman’s war” in the South, a savage civil war in the backcountry, and a “non-violent economic and diplomatic struggle” spearheaded by the elites of what I call the Midlands. […] But there weren’t four neat struggles, one unfolding as the previous one concluded; rather, there were six very different liberation wars, one for each affected nation. Some occurred simultaneously and two involved invasions by one American nation into another.

  5. Richard Hershberger says:

    I looked it up on Amazon. I am intrigued, but not willing to pull the trigger. This is in large part because of Woodard’s background as a journalist. There are honorable exceptions, but history by journalists rare go well. They tend to be well written and all very pat. (Same with baseball. I have a taxonomy of bad baseball books. Bad books by journalists is one of the top-tier categories.) Please report back when you are done.

  6. This is in large part because of Woodard’s background as a journalist. There are honorable exceptions, but history by journalists rare go well.

    I agree, and that made me nervous too, but Woodard is extremely scrupulous about footnoting everything and engaging with the professionals; he’s clearly read omnivorously in the field and isn’t just passing on either commonplaces or his own bright ideas. I’m sure there are omissions and oversimplifications, as is inevitable in any such sweeping survey, but so far I’m finding it well-grounded and plausible (and I’m two-thirds of the way through now).

  7. Bathrobe says:

    How many fine dialects have been watered down by the loss of old technologies?

  8. David Marjanović says:

    Plenty. In the Deutscher Sprachatlas there’s at least one map of terms and cover terms for cereals, full of word forms I’ve never encountered anywhere else.

  9. Richard Hershberger says:

    In related news, there is a new baseball book out by Jared Diamond. His books have been not flawless, but I have always enjoyed them and found them worth reading. And Stephen Jay Gould wrote about baseball very well. So I downloaded the book happily.

    It turns out that there are two Jared Diamonds out there. Who would have guessed? The other one writes for the Wall Street Journal. When I started reading the book and early on came across a bit of historical idiocy, my thought was “That is surprising. Diamond usually has a decent sense of history.” Then it continued, while also following all the conventions of a bad baseball book by a journalist. That is when I went and researched more carefully who had written this.

    Pro tip: You can “return” an ebook bought from Amazon. I assume there is a time limit on this, but within any such limitation it is quick and easy.

  10. Rodger C says:

    “yon” for “that,”

    Appalachian English distinguishes between “that” and “yon” (or “yan”) in the historical way.

    “The horses got skeert and run astraddle of a sapling and broke the tongue, double-tree, and couplin pole.”

    Oh, now I understand! 🙂

  11. It turns out that there are two Jared Diamonds out there. Who would have guessed?

    I had that experience with Wyndham Lewis (not to be confused, it turned out, with Wyndham Lewis).

    Oh, now I understand!

    I’ve had to become familiar with such words in Russian, to the point that some of them sound more familiar in Russian than in English.

  12. Jen in Edinburgh says:

    ‘things like thon’ were generally things my grandma disapproved of, presumably set at a greater metaphorical distance from her!

    Gaelic has kept the this/that/thon and here/there/yonder distinctions, which are almost gone in English – does anyone want to offer more than three differences?

  13. David Marjanović says:

    Systems with more than three always, AFAIK, reference other dimensions than just proximity to the speaker.

    German must once have had a three-way system with dieser, der, jener and hier, da(r-), dort; but, in the standard, der moved out to become the definite article, and jener is now purely literary, not in anyone’s active vocabulary; in my dialect, dieser and hier are gone as well, der is the only demonstrative pronoun (whose reduced forms function as the definite article), hier has been replaced by da, and the space formerly occupied by da has been split down the middle between da and dort.

  14. does anyone want to offer more than three differences?

    Some do, obviously:

    https://humstatic.uchicago.edu/slavic/archived/papers/Friedman-LakDeixis.pdf

  15. “The five-term series of Lak, while not the most complicated system of Daghestanian deictics…” Yowza!

  16. Richard Hershberger: It’s an updated version of “The Nine Nations of North America”.

    Also, the Jared Diamond who wrote “Guns, Germs, and Steel” — even if some of his conclusions have since proven to incorrect, it a different Jared Diamond from the one who is writing about Baseball.

  17. It’s an updated version of “The Nine Nations of North America”.

    No it’s not. See this comment.

    Also, the Jared Diamond who wrote “Guns, Germs, and Steel” — even if some of his conclusions have since proven to incorrect, it a different Jared Diamond from the one who is writing about Baseball.

    As he said in that very comment.

  18. Charachidzé gives a 3 part system for Avar:

    1. h or null – deitic versus anaphoric
    2. a or e – near the speaker versus near the listener
    3. ll’o or g’o or do – above the speaker, lower than the speaker, on the same level as the speaker

    This gives 12 different possible uninflected root forms. By Charachidzé calculations, a complete paradigm has 1229 valid demonstrative forms.

    Proto-Lezgian had 4 (near, far [varying for above, same level, below]), which means there’s probably some dialect out there, in some little visited valley, that has an 8 way distinction between height above the speaker.

  19. Ух ты!

  20. Bathrobe says:

    “their having been not one American War of independence but four”

    Hmmm.

    (What a nitpicker!)

  21. My bad, it’s correct in the book.

  22. (Updated} …and “powerful” where a New Englander would say “wicked.”

  23. PlasticPaddy says:

    Is mighty only in the South then?

  24. Stu Clayton says:

    @DavidM: … and jener is now purely literary, not in anyone’s active vocabulary;

    What an odd statement, as if “literary” implied “not active”. The indisputable facts are these: people who seldom or never use “jener” in speaking and writing, seldom or never use it. Those who use it in speaking and writing, no matter how frequently, use it. I belong to both groups, as do those I read and listen to.

    An accurate claim would be: “jener is now in the active speaking and writing vocabulary only of literary people”.

  25. SFReader says:

    “there having been not one American War of independence but four”

    Thirteen.

    Thirteen Colonies, thirteen Independence Wars.

    Fourteen if we count Vermont.

  26. PlasticPaddy says:

    @dm, stu
    In the Zuhälter-Ballade (pimp ballad) from the Threepenny Opera, Brecht has
    “In jener Zeit, die nun vergangen ist”. Since the rest of the song is in at most what one could call “polished underworld”, I assumed the jener was not out of place in that kind of speech. So maybe I have missed a comic effect.

  27. “jener is now in the active speaking and writing vocabulary only of literary people”.

    In educated circles over by the Rhine maybe. Not in Austria. As David said, even using „hier“ or „dieser“ in everyday speech in Austria can come off as stiff or pretentious.

  28. Stu Clayton says:

    There is no disagreement about “everyday speech”. I am aware that down-to-earthiness is a thing much prized and praised in Austria. Bernhard had a lot to say about that.

  29. Stu Clayton says:

    Here’s Handke as stiff man of letters:

    # Schon lange, nun fast vier Jahre lang, seit dem Ende des Krieges in Ostslawonien, der Zerstörung von Vukovar, seit dem Ausbruch des Krieges in Bosnien-Herzegowina, hatte ich vorgehabt, nach Serbien zu fahren. Ich kannte von dem Land einzig Belgrad, wohin ich vor beinah drei Jahrzehnten als Autor eines stummen Stücks eingeladen war zu einem Theaterfestival. Von jenen vielleicht eineinhalb Tagen habe ich nur behalten meinen jugendlichen oder eben autorhaften Unwillen wegen einer unaufhörlichen Unruhe, angesichts der wortlosen Aufführung, in dem serbischen Publikum, welches, so mein damaliger Gedanke, südländisch oder balkanesisch, wie es war, natürlich nicht reif sein konnte für ein so langandauerndes Schweigen auf der Bühne. #

  30. Lars Mathiesen says:

    Didn’t we talk about Danish den her some time ago? I’ve been to lazy to find the thread, but I have a new observation.

    It used to be that a sign would say Denne dør skal holdes lukket = “This door must be kept closed.” You could shorten it to Døren skal holdes lukket, but lately I’m starting to see Døren her skal holdes lukket = ‘The door here must be kept closed.” So denne is moribund, but not getting replaced by den her as I though it would.

  31. Stu Clayton says:
  32. Lars Mathiesen says:

    Yes, and I stand by what I wrote. People definitely say den her dør, but it feels verboten in writing — the point is that I was expecting the prejudice to vane eventually and den her dør to replace denne dør on signs and so on, but it played out differently — døren her is not as solecistic in writing so it’s the quick path to getting rid of denne.

  33. John Cowan says:

    One, four, or thirteen wars as you please: what is a fact is that every colony saw combat. In the U.S. Civil War, at least 24 states (all but the six New England states, New York, New Jersey, Delaware, and Illinois, and Indiana) saw the elephant. as well as 7 more states that had territorial status at the time.

  34. Jen in Edinburgh says:

    I have a feeling that Norwegian tends to stick to Døren må holdes lukket – it’s not very likely to be any other door than the one with the sign on it, after all. But one of the locals can confirm or deny.

  35. Trond Engen says:

    Døren må holdes lukket

    That is likely. A little officialese, and Riksmål in register, but that goes with the territory,

    But there are other alternatives. Staying in register:

    Hold døren lukket, Lukk døren.

    However, I think Lars’s example is meant to emphasise that it is this particular door, or this door in particular. In that case:

    Denne døren må holdes lukket. Hold denne døren lukket. Lukk denne døren.

    Denne, dette and disse are lost or on its way out in many dialects, but it stays in others and in the written languages. In Broad Eastern it’s denna, detta and dessa.

  36. Ben Tolley says:

    Malagasy apparently has a pretty complex set of demonstratives. The three sources I’ve got immediately available (Narivelo Rajaonarimanana, 2001, Grammaire moderne de la langue malgache; Janie Noëlle Rasoloson, 1997, Lehrbuch der madagassischen Sprache; Wikipedia (which cites Janie Rasoloson and Carl Rubino, 2005, “Malagasy”, in Adelaar & Himmelmann, eds., The Austronesian languages of Asia and Madagascar)) don’t seem, on cursory examination, to match up exactly (it’s 10:20pm here and I’m not entirely sober, so that’s all I’m capable of), but seem to agree that there’s 14 possibilities, involving different degrees of distance, the extent of the area referred to, and whether it’s visible to the speaker or not.

  37. David Marjanović says:

    In the Zuhälter-Ballade (pimp ballad) from the Threepenny Opera, Brecht has
    “In jener Zeit, die nun vergangen ist”. Since the rest of the song is in at most what one could call “polished underworld”, I assumed the jener was not out of place in that kind of speech. So maybe I have missed a comic effect.

    I don’t think any comic effect was intended, or is felt now. Is it in some kind of introduction?

    Here’s Handke as stiff man of letters:

    Not surprised at all. That register is what I mean by “literary”. Get me in the mood to write like that, and I’ll probably use it myself sooner or later.

    But it would be out of place in, say, a scientific paper.

  38. PlasticPaddy says:

    @dm
    Basically the song is three groups of ten lines, each group is divided into two verses of 5 lines.
    The first verse begins with
    “In einer Zeit, die nun vergangen ist”
    The third and fifth verse begin with
    “In jener Zeit, die nun vergangen ist”
    The second verse of each group ends in
    “[Bla bla] halbes Jahr
    In dem Bordell, wo unser Haushalt war. ”
    My impression is that jener is here a “normal” word when telling a story or evoking something even if the tone is unsentimental . Or it could just fit the metre.

  39. Lars Mathiesen says:

    Yes, it’s emphasis. “This sign is not about any other door you might be thinking of, mate, it’s about the door it’s sitting on and now you’ve bloody well been told innit.”

  40. Stu Clayton says:

    @PP
    Brecht was a poet. The “ballad” is part of an “opera”. These are all Verfremdungseffekte. No need to speculate about polished underworld cant. You can laff, admire and be moved, whatever floats your boat at a given instant.

  41. Roberto Batisti says:

    Italian used to have three degrees of deixis: questocotesto/codestoquello.

    Each demonstrative comes with a couple of local adverbs as well: qui/quacostì/costàlì/là (The difference being that forms in -ì are more definite than forms in -à. I’m not really sure that I have this distinction in my idiolect.)

    Nowadays codesto and costì/-à sound either very archaic or very Tuscan (where they are still alive).

    It turns out that codesto appears most frequently not in old texts, but in texts from late 19th / early 20th century, when there was a conscious effort to model the standard national language on contemporary spoken Florentine, after the example of Manzoni.

    As a Classicist by training, I am am of course well acquainted with tripartite systems of deictics: hicisteille, ὅδε – οὗτος – ἐκεῖνος. Actually, learning the distinction for Latin and Greek probably helped me make sense of the (historical) one in Italian.

  42. John Cowan says:

    Lojban has a tripartite system as well, and is very thoroughgoing about it. The demonstrative pronouns ti, ta, tu mean ‘this thing here’, ‘that thing there’, and ‘that thing yonder’, and may be used in connection with explicit or implicit pointing. They are also the demonstratives of the first, second, and third persons: in a context where pointing is excluded, they mean ‘this thing near me’, ‘that thing near you’, and ‘that thing not near either of us’. Note the influence of the kiki/bouba rule, probably unconsciously, in the choice of particles.

    By the same token, the spatial adverbs or “tenses” vi, va, vu mean ‘here, ‘there’, and ‘yonder’. Lojban systematically treats both space and time as tenses, so it is unsurprising that zi, za, zu mean ‘a short/medium/long time [into the past or future, as indicated by other tense particles or by context]’. For portions of time and space, there are ze’i, ze’a, ze’u ‘during a short/medium/long interval in time’ and ve’i, ve’a, ve’u ‘throughout a short/medium/long region of space’. (The apostrophe is /h/.)

    Utterance deixis pronouns, for which English also uses ‘this’ and ‘that’, follow an i/e/a rather than an i/a/u pattern: di’u ‘the last utterance’, de’u ‘some recent utterance’, da’u ‘a remote past utterance’; di’e ‘the next utterance’, de’e ‘a near future utterance, da’e ‘a remote future utterance’; dei ‘this very utterance’. If prefixed by la’e these mean the referent of the utterance (typically a proposition) rather than the utterance itself. Thus if la .alis. says loi djacu cu cilmo ‘Water is wet’, la .bab. may reply ro prenu cu djuno la’e di’u ‘Everybody knows that’, lit. ‘All persons know the proposition expressed by the last utterance’.

    Additional i/a/u sets are ri, ra, ru, which are anaphora that repeat the last NP, some previous NP, and some remote NP, and si, sa, su, which mean ‘Disregard the last word’, ‘Disregard the last sentence, or at any rate, enough to make what follows grammatical’, and ‘Disregard everything I said’.

  43. David Marjanović says:

    when there was a conscious effort to model the standard national language on contemporary spoken Florentine

    Huh. That’s an interesting concept.

    The apostrophe is /h/.

    How did that happen?

  44. Huh. That’s an interesting concept.

    Isn’t it pretty much the same as modeling the standard Chinese national language on the spoken dialect of Beijing?

  45. John Cowan: I forgot about Loglan and Lojban! Those were interesting conlangs.

  46. John Cowan says:

    Lojban and its ancestral language Loglan (still in use on a smaller scale) have five principal vowels, and Loglan has 25 “vowel pairs”: aa, ae, …, uo, uu, some of them rising diphthongs, some falling diphthongs, and some in hiatus that were treated as two syllables. Unfortunately, learners simply have to remember which was which.

    The inventors of Lojban decided to preserve the four rising diphthongs ai, ei, oi, au and the ten falling diphthongs iV, uV, and create 25 new pairs a’a, a’e, …, u’o, u’u using a minimal voiceless glide, namely /h/, to separate the vowels and block hiatus. It had also always been a Loglan principle that gemination be avoided, and it was clear that aa, ee, oo were vulnerable to it. An additional advantage was that all grammatical particles are a single C followed by a vowel pair, and expanding the space from 25 pairs to 39 greatly increased the opportunities for coining them.

    Later on, /h/ was added to Loglan as a consonant written h to resolve certain morphological difficulties with loanwords. For example, atomi had the right form to mean ‘is an atom’, but would fall apart into the three particles a to mi, whereas the alternative athomi could not. Lojban at around the same time added /x/, written x, as a full consonant; in Loglan it had existed only to provide a spelling pronunciation for loanwords borrowed in written form such as Xander /xander/ or Xanthium arcuatum /ˈxantjum arʃˈwatum/ (a synonym, it turns out, of Xanthium strumarium ‘rough cocklebur’).

    Unfortunately, this meant that both languages had a (very rare, worldwide) phonemic contrast between /h/ and /x/. Loglan eventually resolved the problem by allowing either letter to be used for either sound, since x was very rare, whereas it is easier to hear [atxomi] as distinct from [atomi] than it is to hear [athomi] or [atʰomi] as distinct. At the same time, aa ee oo were banned in Loglan unless one or the other vowel bore the penultimate (except in names) stress; this affected only a handful of existing words with aa.

    Why the apostrophe? Because /h/ is used in Lojban only in this hiatus-blocking function and is morphologically not a full consonant, and it would be misleading to write it like one. In addition, it is extremely common, and using a narrow character occupies less space on the page/screen.

  47. David Marjanović says:

    Isn’t it pretty much the same as modeling the standard Chinese national language on the spoken dialect of Beijing?

    Beijing dialect isn’t quite identical to the standard. The standard has a few lexical and grammatical southern features, and almost lacks the nominalizer -r that is extremely common and productive in Beijing but not much used elsewhere.

    is morphologically not a full consonant, and it would be misleading to write it like one

    Makes sense.

    I have to say, though, that [ʔ] feels considerably more minimal to me than [h].

    both languages had a (very rare, worldwide) phonemic contrast between /h/ and /x/

    Fun fact: Esperanto also had it.

    (Both phonemes are very rare there, though, and have largely been abandoned from what I see.)

  48. Beijing dialect isn’t quite identical to the standard.

    Sure, and Italian isn’t the same as Florentine. But you said the conscious effort to model the standard national language on contemporary spoken Florentine was “an interesting concept,” and I was just pointing out that it seemed pretty normal to me. Chinese was just one example.

  49. John Cowan says:

    I think the difference is that a standard language diverges from the the speech of the capital pretty quickly after it is standardized, and for it to be reinfluenced by a later stage of capital speech is not so common. We don’t see Putonghua converging with Beijinghua, or the Standard German of Germany converging with Berlin dialect, for example. If for a time Standard Italian was adopting influences from Florentine, that is indeed noteworthy. RP is another such case, though.

  50. SFReader says:

    Standard languages are usually based on the speech of educated classes of the capital (cultural capital), not the speech of common folk in the city.

    That’s why standard British English is not based on Cockney, for example.

    Just being spoken in London is not enough, it must be spoken by the right sort of people in London.

  51. John Cowan says:

    It depends. When Standard English was forming, which dialect you spoke was pretty much geographical only: class stratification of and by language did not yet exist. Sir Walter Raleigh spoke broad Devon, which is pretty remote from London English, all his life, even though he was one of the Queen’s favorites. Even Samuel Johnson a century and a half later, when stratification was pretty well established, spoke with a definite Lancashire accent which he made no attempt to alter, and that despite his complaints about strong Scottish accents.

    For more recent standard languages, you are of course correct, though “the right sort of people” aren’t always who you expect: for Russian it was not aristocrats (who spoke French) but townsmen whose language variety formed the basis of the standard.

  52. Roberto Batisti says:

    The Italian situation is indeed a bit peculiar in this respect, as the language of Florence became the language of Italy mainly on the strength of its past literary tradition, rather than its political power.

    First of all, I should have specified that the 19th-century effort by Manzoni and his followers was to model the national language on contemporary Florentine as spoken by the educated classes, rather than the common folks.

    Still, Florence was not the capital (well – it was for a short time in 1865-1871, while the new Italian state was waiting for the annexation of Rome), and even though it remained a prominent cultural center, it was arguably not in the position to influence the speech of the whole nation.

    More important was the choice by Manzoni (a native of Milan!) to revise the language of his novel I promessi sposi (The Betrothed) to bring it closer to Florentine in the second edition of 1840. This was the first modern novel in the Italian language and a masterpiece of the historical novel – its impact can hardly be overstated. It still is a mandatory school subject.

    Then, when Manzoni became an advisor to the government in the 1860’s, he suggested recruiting Tuscan teachers in primary schools, and the creation of a new dictionary of Italian “after the use of Florence” (Novo vocabolario della lingua italiana secondo l’uso di Firenze – note New Florentine novo vs. Old Florentine and Standard Italian nuovo).

    This was just a chapter in the centuries-long Questione della lingua. Three hundred years earlier, in 1525, another non-Tuscan, the Venetian Pietro Bembo, had played a crucial role in promoting 14th-century Tuscan as the model for literary Italian (Petrarch for poetry and Boccaccio for prose; Dante’s language was too mixed). Bembo was more successful and influent than authors who wrote in contemporary, spoken Florentine, like Machiavelli, whose language shows several post-medieval developments that never really made it into the standard.

  53. Lars Mathiesen says:

    Standard Danish is supposed to have been based on the speech (and writing habits) of central administration employees who were largely the product of latin schools in the market towns of inland Zealand. Copenhagen was part of a coastal dialect area whose surviving exponents are Bornholm (Burgundian?) and Scanian (with a different Dachsprache since 1658), but that has left very little trace in the standard. The nobility probably spoke the local varieties of their demesnes — and from 1670 to 1808, German was the official language of the court.

  54. John Cowan says:

    Oops. For Lancashire above read Staffordshire.

    I have to say, though, that [ʔ] feels considerably more minimal to me than [h].

    So it is, but it was already (and still is) in use to prevent hiatus between words; it is an allophone of pause. Thus in lo xunre .a lo xekri ‘a red [thing] and a black [thing], it prevents the hiatus /ea/. It is also used at both ends of a name to prevent the name from merging into the surrounding morphemes: la .alis. cusku … ‘Alice says …’ cannot be misheard as la .a liscusku (ungrammatical, though liscusku is ‘tell a story, narrate’). I would tend to pronounce the initial period in .alis. as [ʔ], the final period as a short pause.

  55. for Russian it was not aristocrats (who spoke French) but townsmen whose language variety formed the basis of the standard.

    It’s much more complicated than that; Russia had its own Questione della lingua. At the end of the 17th century an anonymous tale called Povest′ o Frole Skobeeve (translated as “Frol Skobeev, the Rogue”) appeared, written in what has been called “pure Russian vernacular,” and was extremely popular in the 18th century judging by the number of MS copies (it wasn’t published until 1853). In 1748 Lomonosov established a hierarchy of genres and lexical levels, with Church Slavic at the top for tragedy and odes and the Russian spoken by common people for comedy and satire, and the same year Trediakovsky wrote that Church Slavic is to Russian as Latin is to French, Italian, and Spanish; in 1764 Father Platon (Lyovshin), influenced by his literary friends, published the first of his books of sermons written in the newly developing Russian literary language (previously all church material was in Church Slavic); from the 1760s novels (mostly imitations of European models) began appearing in a mishmash of styles, with Slavonicisms sprinkled in for effect; in 1792 Karamzin’s famous “Bednaya Liza” [Poor Liza] was written in a graceful French-influenced manner and “had the effect of relaxing Russian prose style,” and in 1802 he wrote an essay called “Why Is There So Little Writing Talent in Russia?” saying that the French have examples of all forms of their language in their literature, while the Russians have a limited variety and their aristocrats are kept too busy with service obligations to learn the proper use of language — examples of noble Russian eloquence would be more useful than Cicero and Virgil (the schools were heavy on classics). This pissed off the conservative Admiral Shishkov, who the next year published his Discourse of the Old and New Style in the Russian Language attacking Karamzin and defending classicism, which set off the “war of archaists and innovators.” Pushkin came along a couple of decades later and performed his magic feat of blending styles into a natural-sounding literary Russian that satisfied pretty much everybody, but then Gogol dumped a bunch of colloquialisms and regionalisms into his writing to thrilling effect, and since then it’s been a tug-of-war between the poles of a more formal literary language (the goal of the Westernizers) and a style full of spoken and dialect forms with lots of skaz narration (Leskov was a master of this). The struggle, to oversimplify, is between French-influenced aristos and the “natural” language of the peasantry; “townsmen,” whatever you intend by that, weren’t really part of the equation.

  56. @John Cowan: Standard German is based on Hannoverian German, not Berliner dialect.

  57. Standard German is based on Hannoverian German, not Berliner dialect.
    Not really. Hannover is a case typical of large areas in Northern Germany – people adopting a language variety close to the written Standard after abandoning Plattdeutsch. And Plattdeutsch was what was still spoken in Hannover when the written Standard was formed.
    But you’re right in that Berlin didn’t play much of a role in the formation of the standard, for once, because Berlin only became the German capital in the late 19th century, when the literary Standard was already established. Its formation is complicated, but it’s generally agreed that its main bases were the language of the imperial chancery in 14th century Prague and the East Central German chancery language of the various Saxonian principalities, on which Luther based his bible translation. That standard also spread to the Catholic areas. In the first couple of centuries, it was more written than spoken, and pronunciation was usually heavily influenced by the dialectal background of each speaker. Attempts at a unified pronunciation date only from the 19th century, for use in theatres (hence the name Bühnenhochlautung), and this was indeed based to a big degree on how Northerners pronounced the Standard – simply because they tried to avoid being influenced by Plattdeutsch and their pronunciation was close to the spelling. But till this day, orthoepy is seen as much less important and is being much less enforced by the education system than orthography and grammar.

  58. Whatever is the Russian literary history (and I am sure Hat gave a fair story up to the end of 19th century), grammatically and lexically Russian standard is based on speech in and near Moscow with a dollop of SPb. At least, this is the standard version.

  59. Oh, sure, but by the 20th century the standard was already formed, it was just a question of refining it.

  60. @Hans: The vocabulary and grammar of standard German might not be specifically Hannoverian in origin. However, the pronunciation definitely is. This might actually be less obvious to native German speakers than to L2 learners like myself. We got to hear (more or less standard) German as spoken by people from all over German-speaking central Europe, and it was striking how the people from Lower Saxony (the inlands parts, at least—not Ostfriesland) spoke just like the prescriptive pronunciation we were supposed to learn.

  61. David Marjanović says:

    I think the difference is that a standard language diverges from the the speech of the capital pretty quickly after it is standardized, and for it to be reinfluenced by a later stage of capital speech is not so common.

    That’s what I mean. Good point about RP (which e.g. could have chosen to stay rhotic out of sheer conservatism, but didn’t).

    and this was indeed based to a big degree on how Northerners pronounced the Standard – simply because they tried to avoid being influenced by Plattdeutsch and their pronunciation was close to the spelling.

    Well, in some ways, but not others. The probably most conspicuous one is that about half the “German”-speaking area has unrounded the front rounded vowels, so that ö & ü have merged into e & i; as it happens, the whole Low German area has kept them distinct, while (Upper) Saxony, where Luther lived and worked, has the merger. But long ä and long e (length being mostly indicated by the spelling, though by a variety of means) have remained distinct in west-central Germany, not so much in the north, and consonant length only survives in Upper German.

    Even today, different standard accents have not only different sounds but different sound systems; what they have in common is that their sound systems can all be derived from the spelling by largely consistent rules (as opposed to unconditioned 50/50 splits).

    Before the political rise of Prussia made enough people aware of the northern survival of the front rounded vowels (and I suppose the northern lack of Inderior German Gonsonant Weagening), the few people of means & letters who cared actually went to Saxony to refine their Standard German. As far as I understand, that’s still where the grammar of the local dialects is closest to the standard, and while Luther deliberately picked much of the standard vocabulary to be understood as widely as possible, supposedly the Saxon vocabulary is closest to the standard, too.

    the prescriptive pronunciation we were supposed to learn

    That pronunciation is less prescriptive than you were led to think.

    When Theodor Siebs, born in Bremen (by the sea) and grown up on Helgoland (where the spoken language was* a North Frisian dialect!), codified it, he very consciously designed it for theater stages and included several completely artificial features that are easier to hear than natural ones under theater conditions. One, which has not caught on off the stage, is the pronunciation of ei au eu/äu as ending in “tense” vowels, i.e. as [ae̯ ao̯ ɔø̯]. Another, which has, is the inconsistent treatment of g: it’s a plosive, except in -ig at the end of a word, where it’s a fricative – when further endings are added, it’s not at the end of the word, so it’s a plosive again. No dialect has this distribution: the south has only plosives, the north has only fricatives, the center has both in a different distribution (or several), and people in northern Germany routinely extend the distribution of the fricative beyond what Siebs wanted on stage**, while people in southern Germany, let alone beyond that, generally have plosives everywhere. Siebs simply wanted to have his cake and eat it too: fricatives are northern and (theoretically) contradict the spelling, so he wanted to avoid them, but voiceless fricatives are considerably louder than voiceless plosives, so he wanted to have those, and so he arbitrarily imposed them both on a pattern in the spelling. Another feature that may have caught on to some extent is the double-marking of the fortis-lenis contrast by voicing and aspiration; even today most people use one or the other, or neither, but not, or not consistently, both.

    * Not extinct, but “undergoing a revival” is probably the best description from what little I know.
    ** A general merger of word-final g into ch is pretty common. Of course that’s the native Low German treatment: final fortition of /ɣ/ to /x/. A common example of this treatment is the pronunciation of Zug “train, draft” as [t͡sʊχ], where Siebs wanted [t͡suːk], with g as a plosive because it’s not part of a final -ig, and with the vowel lengthening of monosyllabic words that hasn’t made it into Low German and is generally not marked in the spelling (there are random exceptions). – For comparison, Austrian Standard German as practiced e.g. by TV newsreaders is [t͡suːg̊] without fortition, and actual Low German, AFAIK, is southern [tʊχ], northern [tʰʊχ], both without the High German consonant shift.

  62. David Marjanović says:

    The chicken-and-egg problem the above suggests for the origin of the Standard German spelling system can probably be solved by pointing to 14th-century Prague as mentioned above. I think it basically depicts Very Early Modern Upper Franconian (just northwest of Bohemia), with the vowel system reduced to the Latin alphabet plus (ä) ö ü after the Early Modern mono- and diphthongizations and lengthenings had run their course, and with the consonant system dating from a time before Inderior German Gonsonant Weagening struck.

    Like the spelling, Upper Franconian retains rounded front vowels; like the spelling and more strictly defined Upper German, it has word-initial /p͡f/ which half the country still can’t pronounce; like the spelling*, but unlike more strictly defined Upper German, Upper Franconian from OHG times onwards had shortened all long consonants after long vowels & diphthongs before the Gonsonant Weagening eliminated consonant length altogether and thus erased all the evidence.

    Bohemia and Upper Franconia are just south of Saxony; the chancery language that eventually became Standard German spread north from southern Saxony.

    * e.g. laufen, kaufen, saufen, Haken and the whole raison d’être of ß

  63. @Brett: I think DM explained it quite well. To simplify it a bit more, German pronunciation is not based on Hannoverian, Hannoverian is just relatively close to the Standard in pronunciation because it’s to a large degree a spelling pronunciation. The spelling itself was formed not in Northern Germany, but in Eastern Central Germany, where it reflects an older stage of the regional dialects.

  64. SFReader says:

    St.Petersburg pronunciation, one of the two main norms of standard Russian, also tended to pronounce words very close to spelling.

    The reason was that St.Petersburg had large foreign population as well as many aspiring elite members from other regions of Russia and all of them wanted to learn correct Russian which was indispensable for their career and a status symbol of Russian educated class.

    In order to learn correct Russian, they inevitably had to rely on printed material – books and newspapers, because they rightly suspected that the huge variation of regional dialects spoken by commoners in St.Petersburg was not correct Russian.

    And so they started to pronounce words exactly as spelled in the books unlike people of Moscow where Russian of the educated class was more natural.

  65. John Cowan says:

    For the record, I was not talking about pronunciation (as I said, Standard English does not have a standard pronunciation). Nevertheless, all that about the origin of German pronunciation was very interesting!

  66. David Marjanović says:

    Standard English does not have a standard pronunciation

    Well, it has several, like German: there’s a range of (pretty different) accents that count as standard, and a larger range that don’t.

  67. John Cowan says:

    I would say that any accent (even an L2 accent) used to speak the dialect we call “Standard English” is a standard accent, no matter how different. Quoth Trudgill: “It is true that in most cases Standard English speakers do not have ‘broad’ local accents, i.e. accents with large numbers of regional features which are phonologically and phonetically wry distant from RP, but it is clear that in principle we can say that, while RP is, in a sense, standardised, it is a standardised accent of English and not Standard English itself. Standard English speakers can be found in all English-speaking countries, and it goes saying that they speak this variety with different non-RP accents depending on whether they come from Scotland or the USA or New Zealand or wherever.” (I would omit the word “English-speaking”.)

    Esperanto has in a certain sense too many phonemes, as the number of pairs and triplets with very very low functional load is remarkable for an artificial language: /k ~ h ~ x/, /ʒ ~ dʒ/, /dz ~ z/, /ts ~ tʃ/, /v (onsets) ~ w (codas)/, /e ~ ej/, /e ~ ew/.

  68. David Marjanović says:

    remarkable for an artificial language

    Not for an artificial language that is several decades older than the very concept of “phoneme”, let alone its universal adoption (even in the 1950s there were influential people who thought it was a fad that was about to go away any year now).

    w (codas)

    That’s a misunderstanding. In reality, Esperanto is like Polish in this respect as in so many others: it has two uneasy diphthongs, /eu̯/ and /au̯/, and no other diphthongs whatsoever – /ej aj oj uj/ are phonetically and phonologically closed syllables, not diphthongs. There is no symmetry between /j/ and /w/; there is no /w/.

    In real-life Polish, eu & au are rare enough (limited to recent Germanic & Latinate loans) that they’re often pronounced as two syllables each, they just don’t count as such for stress assignment. That actually makes stress marginally phonemic, because a few native words like nauka “science” have vowel clusters that do count as separate syllables.

  69. @John Cowan: Yes, standard English is essentially only a matter of vocabulary and grammar, not pronunciation. Obviously, a pronunciation has to be intelligible to other speakers, but beyond that there are basically no conditions on how Standard English is to be pronounced. I imagine that this situation is due to the global importance of English from the nineteenth century onwards. This includes the facts that over the last two hundred years, the most economically important countries (Britain and America, which have developed different pronunciation standards, as have smaller English-speaking states) have both been English-speaking, and also that the economic importance of English has led to it being a hugely important second language around the globe.*

    * I was watching a Finnish-produced mystery series on Netflix yesterday. At one point, the detectives board a container ship about to leave port for Germany. It was a bit jarring that the main character, as she came aboard, started issuing instructions to the crew in English—although after just a moment’s reflection I realized that that was completely logical.

  70. it’s generally agreed that its main bases were the language of the imperial chancery in 14th century Prague

    As late as 1918 (possibly even up to 1945?) Prager was considered a prestige dialect of German, and closer to standard than any other contemporary spoken German dialect. Possibly because it was a language consciously adopted by assimilated Jews and upwardly mobile Bohemian Bildungsbürger.

  71. David Marjanović says:

    Possibly because

    Sure.

    I’ve also read that the actual German dialect of Prague was replaced by the standard at some point in the 19th century, though, so there may have been a self-reinforcing circle going on.

  72. PlasticPaddy says:

    https://de.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Prager_Deutsch
    “Als sich Deutschland im 19. Jahrhundert für die kleindeutsche Lösung ohne Österreich entschied, entstand eine Bewegung, die sich gegen deutsche Modelle für die österreichische Schriftsprache wandte und innerhalb der Habsburger Länder nach einem neuen Modell für die österreichische Schriftsprache suchte. Bald fand man dieses im Prager Deutsch. …

    In den großen Städten, allen voran in Prag, wurde dieses Prager Schriftdeutsch immer mehr auch zur mündlich verwendeten Sprache des Bürgertums und der Verwaltung.”
    So sort of what the others said, the written form (spoken form especially among educated Jews of Prague) became a written Austro-Hungarian standard for political reasons (the article explains elsewhere, perhaps for me unconvincingly, that this written form was über-standard because spoken forms in Prag came from immiscible dialects), then a spoken standard for middle class and civil service in Prague (but I seriously doubt in most German-speaking parts of Austria, even though it says here “in den grossen Städten”).

  73. David Marjanović says:

    that this written form was über-standard because spoken forms in Prag came from immiscible dialects

    Turn this on its head, and Standard German is a written koiné, which strikes me as a pretty good short summary.

    “in den grossen Städten”

    There are a handful of families in each who actually do speak Standard German. I went to school with a scion of one in Linz for a year (couldn’t believe my ears!) and later encountered one in Vienna.

    In Vienna everyone suddenly decided to try to speak Standard German to their children – in the 1970s. Couldn’t quite keep it up, the result is the Viennese mesolect; nothing similar has been happening elsewhere in Austria.

  74. John Cowan says:

    there is no /w/

    Marginally in ŭa ‘waaah!’ and ŭato ‘watt’, but on investigation I think you are otherwise correct. I do pronounce as /ew/, probably because it’s not a diphthong I have natively.

    Maybe it would be better to switch to /e/ and accept that eŭro ‘euro’ and ero ‘bit, element, component’ are homonyms. (1 euro = 9 bits, but you can’t have everything.)

    I am also a Nasty Germanic Vowel Relaxer, I must confess, especially in the mid vowels. I suppose that’s Polish as well.

    issuing instructions to the crew in English

    A few centuries ago it would have been Low German. Lingua francas are what they are.

  75. John Cowan says:

    I didn’t say it was surprising`that Zamenhof made Esperanto that way: lots of phonemes makes for easy borrowings, few phonemes make for Mele Kalikimaka. Volapük, though, also comes from the pre-phoneme era, and it has just the usual six plosives; the liquids /m, n, l, j/ (/r, w/ were added later and remained marginal); four fricatives plus two affricates /f, v, s, ts, ʃ, tʃ, h/ without voicing contrasts except the first two. (The letter x is simply ks.) That’s a lot simpler phonologically. Okay, it also has eight tense vowels /a, e, i, o, u, æ, ø, y/ (spelled as in German).

  76. David Marjanović says:

    Nasty Germanic Vowel Relaxer

    Never fear, the Fundamento contradicts itself on this, if you mean [ɛ ɪ ɔ ʊ]* vs. [ɛ i ɔ u]** vs. [e i o u]***. Specifically, the different versions in different languages, all written by Zamenhof himself, contradict each other:

    Yes, the punctuation [of the English version] is in Polish… but more significantly, these are really rather shoddy pronunciation guides.  As an RP‐speaker I’m advised to pronounce A and E as [ɑː] and [eɪ], while the versions in other languages say to use [a] and [ɛ] – or [ɑ] and [e] if you’re French.  Francophones are also told that C is pronounced like ts in French tsar, which (depending on what dictionary you believe) might mean [dz] or just [z].

    […]

    Calling Ĥ a “strongly aspirated h” is quack linguistics; extra aspiration just produces a louder [h].  If Zamenhof had bothered to ask a phonetician he’d have learned that the sound in Scots loch is the voiceless velar fricative [x].

    […]

    The French are clearly instructed to pronounce O as [o]; Poles are equally clearly told to use [ɔ]; and anglophones… well, it might mean [ɒ], [ɔ], [ɑ], or a variety of other things depending on your accent.

    […]

    Anglophones are told U is [ʊ]; everyone else is told it’s [u].  And as for Ŭ, the French are instructed to say it as in German laut and the Poles are just told it’s “short”… even though both languages have native [w] sounds!  The odd way Esperanto Ŭ is limited to diphthongs is the one identifiable feature Zamenhof took from Belorussian.

    * Common worldwide.
    ** Very common worldwide. Polish for instance.
    *** Rare, though perhaps not as rare as the asymmetric Klingon-style [ɛ ɪ o u].

    That’s a lot simpler phonologically.

    Unlike Zamenhof, Schleyer recognized that that was important. He explicitly kept R out to make it easier for the Chinese. (And Arie de Jong, I just read on Wikipedia, introduced R on the grounds that L was hard for the Japanese.) What caused his blind spot about the size of the vowel inventory I can only guess; he’s been called a “language poet”, so maybe he just liked front vowels esthetically.

  77. David Marjanović says:
  78. the Poles are just told it’s “short”… even though both languages have native [w] sounds!

    Was [w] widely used in Standard Polish in Zamenhof’s time? The Wikipedia article on L-vocalization says “The [w] pronunciation, called wałczenie in Polish, dates back to the 16th century, first appearing among the lower classes. It was considered an uncultured accent until the mid-20th century, when the stigma gradually began to fade.”

  79. David Marjanović says:

    Also, it’s not really all [w] all the time. I’ve encountered unrounded [ɰ].

  80. John Cowan says:

    [ɛ i ɔ u]

    Pretty much, yes. That’s also what I use in Loglan/Lojban along with [a] and the sixth vowel y, which I pronounce [ɞ] more or less. Any central mid vowel is considered licit, but rounding helps to avoid collision with unstressed /a/.

    He explicitly kept R out to make it easier for the Chinese.

    Yes, well, good luck getting Chinese people to pronounce a simple present tense verb like löf-ob-s ‘love-1-PL’, officially [løfˈobz].

  81. David Eddyshaw says:

    kept R out to make it easier for the Chinese.

    By the time someone explained to him that Mandarin (at least) does have an R it was too late.
    Alas, for the Vorapük that might have been!

    Actually, I see from Wikipedia that Volapük does have an R after all. Another of my cherished certainties exploded …

  82. Volapük

    I’ve never been able to take this seriously because it seems like a word for projectile vomiting.

  83. David Marjanović says:

    Mandarin (at least) does have an R

    Not by Schleyer’s standards: it’s not a trill, it’s a retroflex approximant-fricative intermediate that is spelled J in the Wade/Giles transcription.

    Find all the creative uses of r in all the Latin-alphabet transcriptions here!

  84. David Marjanović says:

    an artificial language that is several decades older than the very concept of “phoneme”

    Turns out I was wrong! Timeline: “1870s: Concept of the phoneme developed by Polish linguists; unfortunately none of them ever happen to pop into Dr Zamenhof’s place for an eye test.” It really took a long time to catch on, then.

  85. Was [w] widely used in Standard Polish in Zamenhof’s time?

    Certainly less than today. Stage pronunciation still favored [ł], and there were still millions of Polish speakers in what was then Eastern Poland who generally used [ł] in daily life. Aristocrats from Galicia and Podlaskie favored [ł] as well. Growing up as a child in Bialystok, I assume Zamenhof would have heard [ł] most of the time, although he moved to Warsaw at a fairly young age where I assume [w] was already well established.

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