Why speak differently?
As we study language and evolution, we eventually come across the question: 'Why do people speak differently?' In brief there are four explanations that we can give. People speak differently for...
- and historical reasons.
These four reasons are inseparable and difficult to analyze in isolation. Nevertheless, we will look at a poem by Paul Dunbar from 1896 and research the influence of all four factors. By taking this approach, we find evidence from the cultural context to account for deviations from the standardized English that we know and understand today.
Language in cultural context
Before you read the poem by Paul Dunbar below, research a little on the life and times in which he lived. Find out more about his social, regional economical and historical background. Then read the poem, looking for evidence to support why he wrote the way he wrote. You can find a significant amount of information by simply typing 'Paul Dunbar' into any search engine.
|Factors that influenced Paul Dunbar||Evidence of these in the language of his poem|
Why do people use slang? This label seems to have a bad reputation, whereas its definition is closely related to dialect or colloquialism, which are not always looked down upon as harshly. Tom Dalzell offers interesting insight into the notion of 'slang'. Read a sample from his article below and answer the following questions.
According to Dalzell, why do people use slang?
What arguments do those who are against slang use?
Why is slang particularly 'human' according to Dalzell?
What types of slang do you use? Do they correspond to Dalzell's description?
The Power of Slang
Further oral activity - Imagine you could interview Paul Dunbar on his use of African American Vernacular English in his poetry in the 1890s. What would he say? Be sure to root your further oral activity in his poem(s), as a primary source of reference.