tv John Mc Whorter Discusses Words on the Move CSPAN January 14, 2017 11:00pm-12:45am EST
. >> will lead to a minnesota 10 library than the more they get started with the fellow audience members fulfill with electronic devices that this time. talking with john mcwhorter on his book "words on the move" the word clued derives from the word clue that means follow beyond. and that makes sense to take on new meaning in the shape.
pet john mcwhorter explains the should not scare us. and then to embrace the change of i did. as a professor of english channel comparative literature please give a warm welcome to john mcwhorter. [applause] >> i want to talk to you about the new wave of late wage because to explain the reality of how language works and what it really is
berger ultimately to understand what we do but there is a lot of common between language and natural history. you would never know which by the way languages taught in the school system or you would never know that and to give you a new way. and then to feel better about your own speech. what it comes down to is language is inherently a changeable and italy's will change but if u.s. somebody
but we tend to think first of all, you have new words for new things he was soon the lot of the words but it is much more profound than that and here's what you don't learn. we have new words for new things that is true but language changes inevitably as the cloud pattern changes and how you feel if you look up tomorrow to see the clouds in the same place that is bizarre is the same
thing with language and passed to change the way cloud patterns change. that has never not happened but it if he took a group of people and for some reason put them in a cave in their lives to their with everything that they needed and then they tried to reproduce 2000 year san live in the cave they would be speaking a whole new meg which not because anything new carriage is not just the slight but they would not understand the people that
that implication words change in what i mean if fat any point there is a residence surrounding it. if there is anything that figures out with the of resonance that the word meaning has changed is unrecognizable that is what happens to almost every word. like a and or father or brother those are the exceptions. but first audition first men
think your hands of bed that is harmless and then that word that is far enough. so the noteworthy came to mean you are weak one thing not only physically so after a while the word that meant a blessed meant dem maybe you are a goofy gradually the meeting came that blessed meant to feed but originally that meant happy
all of that from a single word and that is normal that is what words do every word in your mouth is doing that. we cannot see that within a lifetime but that is hell language change works. it is not that silly is interesting to have that type of history but it gives you a sense why can be difficult to hear in realtime if you have not read of first. people say shakespeare is the matter of poetry award has to be performed well or with a british accent but still if everything is in place shakespeare to have not read it in no realtime
if we were doing keenly your right here you get tired after about 20 minutes somebody tells you you are not wedded. also lot of words that we here. but they don't mean what they mean to us and led by eight dimensions are compact my shape is true my mind is generous. why generous? people making fine of them isn't impossible but it is odd and he keeps going.
but then my mind is generous. of that have been three-time say page that meant no he talks about how he is as noble as anybody else. also to be magnanimous. and then they needed a new word. so that is why it's we know how angry some people get. there is a growing movement. it is not necessary but especially wheat to
it is all about faction morality and counter expectation. and what do i mean by that? we have words that we use i got tired of the way he was acting. but formally we think it means like in real fashion. if you or a child they cannot read yet but what we use it for it is to you and show it in the ongoing way
when we talked, we are sincere with our conversation to do with such at one way like they may be doing the same gesture. why does he say that cooks to indicate that actuality. faction morality this grave -- describes a literary one problem. they're very upset by the letter exactly and then to sell was literally a dying of thirst. [laughter] that means you use it to
i have seeded team shearer they complained literally the word literally being used figuratively at will stand against a. but you can run fast and then the opposite. and then to bolt the way. if you feed a watermelon to purchase some seeds and then to take the seeds out but then with the land would be counterproductive from that
this reassembles of a week-old dead in this language to be called contronyms ever person said i was literally freezing to death now we just have another contronyms. o lot of language is a matter of looking into the person you are speaking to for their state of mind. that is an awful lot such as totally it does not mean in
total fashion is somebody says bir totally going to get tickets when that means the taylor swift cancer and a complete way that is not what it means. it means rebuilds know there are reasons why we should not get those tickets or we are busy students to say he will totally call you not he will all call you in his compliments with the acknowledgement so this this
meant something very specific. to see a squirrel to say allenby agree squirrel that doesn't mean i would be a great squirrel as a more specific meaning to me that squirrel is gray rather than black hearsay yuli said that if you came somewhere if they were from a different color. so we went to a long ass' opera that means longer menu could compare to. table do that all the time
in zero ways is counter expectation all. mondo '01 to stock of our language as we know it but to laugh out loud originally to be used constantly with the text dealing in particular. now you can find any number of accounts so you can see this actual text exchange and then again. added just does not seem
different dialect so then to hear the of language it could be one thing to listen to these but what about all the trash? but all of these have the sophistication of their own. so there are three other aspects so there is a word for this is sounds like a busies. so where does a little bit come from? you can do it.
on your coat let's go. where does that prefix come from? from let us. it is happening all the time. so imagine if you made up language and to come up with the word if you meant to one hour ago. to even add l. little bit of stuff to the and of the word but if you could put yourself in the mind of somebody you would not make up the suffix that have been by accident. to say that over and over so
it starts off as an actual word but then it becomes a suffix they'll started as a whole word. the language change put some words grab onto other words the the stock being a word at all. so if the english was allowed to just move on with nobody having judgment is what we could practically hear happening. she says i want to go to the store we think that is the youth butchering the language but if we keep going then i am all then you
are all so now there is a brand new year regular verb and we could be a language rico laugh that other people but that cannot happen if they keep saying i am all or you are all. now sounds are always changing and linguist never share to the general public cow was outworks because teaching it you were always afraid so i thought somebody needs to do with chapter on sound that somehow keeps "the reader" moving on.
i am told uh chapter almost succeeds but the idea is to get across that this sound is not aeiou that is only to give to the small people when they learn to read that is not have all our mouths were career there located in the mouth. so that:in the left is the front of a head cut in half if you messines "breaking bad" so his nose and his lips, those are all set up front. to save but then looked at the back to see it is
further back. this is the mouth the front of the face is in the front that is where all of the of bowels are. -- bowels' -- vowels so why do they do that anyway so in california what has been happening 25 years the true sense somebody says a little bit but really somebody who grew up in los angeles they may be say a little bet we hear them to say l. little
bit but really they say l. the told that -- little bat. we made a bet. really i am just producing those types of calls. so to imitate those persons with those calls -- vowels every one of my students at columbia. now you can write about that or hear that and ask why but look at the charge to see that vowels are always moving their like bees in the hive. it is not if but where. they never sit still. so bit turns into bat that
is perfectly normal. that the leaching out of the speech of increasing numbers of americans it is harder to teach the international fanatic alphabet every year. i am 51 born in philadelphia you sleep on a cot is different for increasing numbers of americans live is the majority cock and caught is the same sound that is probably true of many people in this room. there is no reason it is not cultural it is the way avowals move.
-- vowels move. but then the next thing you know, you caught a fish in it is more entrenched every year i used to call it the merger but if you have trouble hearing that if you want to like at the ipo mainstream english then what you say when the kitten crawls up your leg? anybody would say awww half of the class said they would say ahhh. instead of awww because it is changing.
but it is like a chess board and so the vowels are turning around in that fashion. usa i made this. why would ibiza old that the -- spilled that way? because that is the way it was originally pronounced and then it did a pit stop so what started off with us awww sound so spelling even makes more sense if you understand vowels change.
i cannot stand the small towns in new england people find them very quaint where everything is brown i have never understood it the only way i can ever get anything out you go to the back of a bookstore the last time i was in one of those little towns and went to the bookstore i found a wonderful guy speaking american english from the mid 18 '80s and it was bizarre with this man said and the proper ways to pronoun's things. we're talking about this is the way these people spoke they did not talk like michelle pfeiffer but they talk like this. but was said here on this ground.
the other pronunciation that considered to be striving. someone wanted to have that name because you don't want to hear what it is called. outlaw. now if you rebel you are a rebel if you outlaw something you are an outlaw. horror you make your record then you know, this subconsciously you do that without thinking. so when it becomes a thing and the accent will shift back words. for a sample the old tv shows you can hear how funny
they sounded because they would back shaft. one quarter of this room would no a very popular vaughan filled musical theater movie star in the first half of the 20th century. he came off like less creepy pee-wee herman and about as popular as jimmy campbell. but here you here and say if anything's so when 1932 he says either did from a boy scout why is this not a boy scout? because they were due. these are not the rangers
scouts. they are the boy scouts. the boys go. scout. then talks about eating a hotdog. no more people have seen than anything his character talks about going to raise supermarket but when market was the ordinary term it was a supermarket but that only happened with the other back shift. in 1960 for a woman comes on with the aging of the country to say i was doing a crossword puzzle i thought what is a crossword puzzle?
but they only happened in the '20s celeste's could do that thing in the paper the crossword puzzle are this is something but he confined on line is not always black-and-white mary tyler moore is in color in one episode from 1972 they say called chinese food it is late with have chinese food. she says yes let's have chinese food. then you think it is 1972 recall it chinese food but to them it is still the oddities and now has the back shift but back then
that was new. so because of the sound change we get into the final change and that is called a compound program never liked that terms mike came up with a different one but it starts off with something really boring. i was told the way some words are created is the two words come together some people find that interesting in themselves but the blackboard is a plank that you paint black it is a blackboard very specific not even black usually that is where blackboard came from because they came together. who cares? [laughter]
but it is the back shelf to. what about of pink board some people would say put up on the blackboard blurred but then what about the bluebird is have the back shift but that is not something someone to share. there are dumb ones like those but merely words come from this that you do not even know for example, imagine yourself you cannot read you hear about cupboards and breakfast you've done a with a cup board is blair remember hearing the word when i was younger. because you pronounce it covered or breakfast we know
that it is not breaking a fast behalf to read that but you can see that in the spelling. so go out into the world where did that name comes from comics because it is the days of a -- eye over and over the new have the word daisy. just like black board came together in the future it may be something else. notice how originally it was
changed but then i forgot to change that over here. [laughter] if you say that over and over it comes out separate berger you have one for you would never know. probably the first word that is unitary or large. it was a place to sleep or where you put your barley. it started off as two words and this is so weird and complicated but i will not explain but it was two words
and they came together and here we are. so words, pounding creates a lot of words with the words come together to undergo the back shift so you never knew they were to. but literally you could learn to like that it is so easy when you listen you think something is wrong with people today for all that happened today. so people were using it like this. so we got there so everybody is there then they all run
out from the train and let the that was a strange sequence of events and first of all, oil situation did not make sense. and i thought that was beautiful because he was very confident he did not hesitate have his head down or bad posture he was the alpha male and because if you look they use that as a face marker with expectation and a acknowledgement he made it clear he meant what he said he made it clear you might expect there would not be grandparents but there were so he means another kind or that this is the
only way to make it work. life has a certain grace that makes it general that you will take a course. that is the only way to make it work. it is quite beautiful so it has had different pronunciations just like that shakespeare word if it was the face marker or a grammar not to mention that they would change shin sound were combined with other words all those things that it did but we don't like
tim. -- m so with language change my book that was just published at the end to say those with affectionate feelings towards vowels so my message is simply language could never not change what you think of as desecration is exactly how all the english came middle english then became modern english. one of the things in the world to wrap your hat around is there's no other way for language to change if you don't think it is wrong that latin became a french then you cannot look at the way that people use
like in a brand new way that is the only way the language becomes something different. if so in the logical sense it is the idea that the change should not happen now. but then again that problem has never occurred to any language store anthropologist that has ever encountered. so you can think of the language change when you hear new stuff that is interesting thing to happen. use start wondering what it will be next when they say and literally cannot even five years ago. i like that i wished i can say that without sounding fake but other people said it sounded subliterate it is
until languages evil that different rates? or will medieval less rapidly? >> when you mention and shakespeare and other languages that is another argument with because very often the european gets in shape and the way that we don't. and a few years ago with patrick stewart they were quoting him in russian. and away i must commit even i was thinking i have not read it in a few years but that does not mean i am not poetics even know why am not the language changes much faster than it used to.
they're only about 200 languages written in any real way. steven is frozen on a page there is much less resistance but the idea it is this way or not that way then beat somebody on the head so just to be documented to turn upside down print creates the illusion of language on the page because that is it. but really language has been mostly spoken. but available to shakespeare
i'm wondering kind of if you lament the change in that kind of work becomes popularize, i think now people by large do not know the vulgarity and obviously nothing can be done about it, but doesn't bother you come and if you retorts your daughter, if your daughter started using that word would you corrector? >> that's a rich question. our taboos evolve. so used to be a big taboo was about religion to say oh my god was wrong. there's still some people who consider that to be taking the holy god name in vain. then in in the 1800s the taboo was sex and excretion. so you do not talk about kissing and that has changed in the
media in terms of ordinary conversation. now would say i'm 51 i'm beginning to not even pretend that i'm young. i young. i think i can get away with youngish in a fundamentally a -- person. i don't particularly like how free people are in casual settings. and saying i'm in a go p. i don't think there's anything wrong with it. it doesn't fit my sensibilities. when i was in i was in college a person was less likely to say. but i'm in a go p and describe it. i must amend that to me must you talk about that? however nobody's going to stop and that marks me as somebody who can't jump so to speak. but we do have taboos. there are certain things not said. think about the word and then i can say because c-span is here, those those are really the taboo
words. now i've made the argument that and i am to say these that damn, hell, -- are no longer profanities and they're just salty. i put my money in my mouth was where my seem to be 5-year-old because not so stunted i don't curse a a lot at home. my 5-year-old has picked up -- and it makes sense in 2016, the word for that for her she's already picked up to her that if it refers to a child it's poo but otherwise she doesn't know the word feces. she knows the word -- swag where outside and there something a dog head down and there's all these people around us and she with her big chilly temple says daddy, watch out for the -- and then everybody here.
and started to say what you don't say that in public, and then i really, really check myself i said you know what, but time she's 11 she's gone missing it with your friends all the time and that's only six or seven years from now which is a heartbeat. and so that was very funny and that the very real world, but tried only use it around me for a while because there are some people such as in your school who have been i told her, a lot of parents at your school have a certain idea which doesn't make sense that your not supposed to say that word until you're 11 or 12. instead why i wine i said i'll explain it to you in a few years. and until not said because frankly it's not profane. however i know many parents would disagree with me about it. but there are words that i would never one her to use. she rubbed it with the n-word, or another word that i would cover her mouth. i don't think it's about we have
profanity but it's not about the bottle he thinks. >> i can't even say that pisses me off. i hear newscasters say it, they're using using it as a word that angers me it so, now, and it just disturbs me. >> it doesn't mean you're in anymore. >> just like that sucks. >> yeah you have to allow, i'm sorry. >> i come from language of a background more -- and that for me we're trying to connect it to meeting.
there's a common orbit individual. [inaudible] i know the context. [inaudible] [inaudible] >> we should think about these words is meaning. >> are distributions apollo words over meaning, to the extent that that means -- that thing moves. so not only is it always larger than we might think what the word means but it moves along on the grid and that's what words are. a word is nothing is as tidy as the dictionary makes it looks like. just think of a number of things
what they mean he doesn't get into the fact that we no longer keep implying in first separate. it's because of the nature of words and meetings of approximately these things correspond. >> i have a question of how we curb language. were not not going to stop it from changing, but i say we translate things but maybe language is arabic and ms. like very traditional very airbrake chain so maybe someday i'll be able to understand it even though it's very, very old. but i see those have gone through this same training just speaking the words not fully understand what they mean, but we don't have that problem when they were changed to preserve the meaning but with new words. then how it languages like that
we don't have that transition deserve those ancient where people still speak the language. >> if you're an arabic speaker, you have the advantage that because you also have to not be able to read and speak this language that is preserved, but then what you learn at home as a child is something different, your bilingual and then whatever else you speak is a third. so to be be an airbag speaking person if you're egyptian for example do you think of yourself as speaking the egyptian language in the arabic language, but is two things. you speak latin and i telling. that's a wonderful thing. and it is because of the position of the crown and the idea that the crown is not supposed to change. that's great. frankly, the typical situation, my feeling this is my bias, felix shakespeare should be adjusted.
i think it's absurd that most operas not sung in english in this country. some some you can't translate but most of them can be translated. in the same way i think that beowulf, no. only if you're a scholar and are interested in interested in reading that, chaucer, maybe you give it to people in middle england. so these things should be preserved, some some people have said the answer to the shakespeare problem is to trains students and shakespearean english. life life is complex, think we have enough to do. i believe the sink should be preserved but usually should be done in the vernacular. only martin luther. no disrespect intended with the arabic tradition. >> given that language changes.
>> given that language changes and it does so communally how does we teach grammar to those individuals who want to speak what they think of as properly? >> you have to teach what is considered the proper language. so my ideas not that we ignore what is considered the standard. it's just that i would like us to hear people not using the standard is using something different. so i remember dump the guy because he keeps making grammatical errors. and i said no no just that he's the nonstandard speaker. but you have to know these things. so talk about my daughter is going to hate watching this online but for example she has to know what the standard is.
i went keep that away from her but the ideas that if somebody says less books you don't hear them making as if they went to plus two equals five. these things must be taught. some people say like too much. and it would be fake if i did not see did say that. there young people who say like in about two times a sentence. for me that's fine if they're talking to their friends, think it's wonderful but if they're trying to sound authoritative or make a point i've gone to the point where told people you have to pullback on that in public situations. so like it or not like is always good sound approximate. nothing i write will change that. so yes there are standards, i wish there were. but utopianism is silly.
>> and later in the projects i have puerto rican friends. in the f word never came up. get your mouth wash off before so. so few days before basic training suddenly we all had to speak for parents. the made a scholar parents over. suddenly suddenly the other every other word was that. my father father had to get on the phone and stop and said you have to stop. you you tell me what i was doing and i had to stop and i also recently heard that the
civil war, i thought the f word wasn't used but it was used as a sexual term. but do you know when everything was going bad what were they saying? have no idea? >> you mean what did john wilkes boose say? or when they were were getting one was overwhelming the other one, what would they say? >> is a very interesting question. and it shows you what it's like when you have a different point between formal speech and casual speech that's what were you stew. so so we think those civil war soldiers all thought likes shakespeare because everyone could white that way.
we don't know exactly how they talk because they couldn't be recorded. we get little hints. so for example washington was working not only on the brooklyn bridge but on the bridge in st. louis and he writes a letter to his wife that the men were erupting in a great many odes to get a. means the men did not sound the way he wrote to his wife. but he can only note so much. slaying dictionaries only tell you so much. damnation or tarnation which a lot of people use. darn is not a word. i'm pretty sure they're not hauling off and yelling the f word. it's hard to know. those soldiers what did they say when they stepped on their toe or shot them? they're very quiet.
i listen to an early recording, benjamin harrison, the 20 the 23rd president, he had no note -- there's nothing about him but he did make a recording and you can hear him talking but he never says a bad word. so it's hard to say. >> [inaudible question] >> there you are. >> there is literally hundred people online. they don't know what i mean but there is actually 100 people.
>> so is it wrong to try to hold the line somewhere other than what -- tell you just so that we can actually hear now that go centuries. >> you desire to be understood and known to an extent that maybe i don't. maybe i'm aloof or something. if somebody says, there's literally 100 people, i assume they mean there's a big bunch of people but it may have been 52 and then i'm done. but you really want them. >> i actually respect that. so you are probably just more of a connector than i am. and i respect it, but there's diversity and personality.
>> i just don't care. but i understand you care. >> think there's unity in our vocabulary and sometimes i have to translate my own sentences when i'm speaking. can you say anything about you know the vocabulary of words from yesteryears. take pristine in pretentious, i could go on. egregious a personal favorite. expatriate, expatriate is to go
on too long. there was ice my favorite. it's funny you ask that. i had a. i had rather unpleasant session with some students a few weeks ago where we read the passage of mine from a book i wrote a long time ago where i said there's something to teaching students some of those words that you might not get from ordinary conversation week as it would it easier to read advanced tax. at a couple students who are deeply offended by the notion that students were being subjected to that. especially ones that were socioeconomically disadvantaged. i very much take their point. i also think that was part of being an english speaker to be wary of words like this. for example we heard about italian's the outer layer of their vocabulary with think of course. do not imagine, i'm not deep into italian culture. you don't imagine there being too much pushback about it. there's a sensor foul language. i don't imagine russian sin no
we don't want to know these words were just can use her kitchen sink words. it's part of being american to have that collet democratic feeling may be individualistic feeling. on the one hand you can be very articulate with a small vocabulary. on the other hand, there some words in the dictionary that are kinda stupid. for example ruthless. ruthless. well there is a word ruth. that should be there ruthless of poseable he means mercy. but i get get it. it's a fun word. however we should also learn to hear articulate and vulgar speech because people can be so very articulate with a small vocabulary. a lot of it is how you put the words together. >> thank you. you had mentioned when your
daughter use that word you didn't go over everything try to explain to her context are appropriate times and she could use the word. and if you ever say the n-word and would you cover her mouth and thank you because i feel a common a painfully losing battle on that one. and we've and have highly educated intellectuals who make the argument that is we have disempowering the word and i reject that. but i want to hear is your argument to push back about the argument that it's disempowering or turning it into something positive. as i think it's hard on society and really a very negative thing. >> i hate to say that i'm not quite with you on that, although i take your point if that word is used as a slur then that's
not taboo. if it's being used there now and it's not just black men, white guys as soon as our backs are turned are using it with each other. they are using it to mean body, one, i don't think we can stop it. to, i'm not not trying to be cute and saying this, word meanings change. that word did there's a slur, but then there's this word buddy. that kinda word in many languages comes to mean buddy. so in russian is used in that way. now talk about my daughter. sorry talk about her, what's coming is first at some point she's gone learn about the slur and thus can be easy, don't state just thought stop. and as anybody else is a walkway but then she's can ask one day, how come i hear boys like down the street and they can do it. numb not to tell they shouldn't do it either because they only
mean buddy. and you can't stop it. so no especially because no offense the utopias and, you know how people use that word you not gonna stop anybody from using it. so here it is different. and i feel sorry for the white guys have grown up listening to rap and they think they can use it because they really do mean buddy. i see where they're coming from. but then they have some people telling them that when they do it there using the word that connor use. that has to be tough for them so now they do it when nobody can hear. for example my office if the doors close eye for come columbia students walking by doing it. they would never do it if my door was open. not the slur but the word from
buddy seems like it's just permanent. if michael everett tyson told me he uses it, so i think appeases it -- >> thank you for being a great conversation for speaking. to get back to your question the triangle thing that you have with the words, it's on both sides a much more dimensional than that. everything we find patterns and i'm glad to hear your thoughts about it and to hear the reasons
why [inaudible question] >> [inaudible question] so what you mean by hundred people. or like you said i don't really care. so it's really like multiple events collide and then when we go back we call that coincident. but we don't ask you that. so i'm curious as to what you think about the complex systems that is language and you said earlier that there is never to be a case when doesn't understand a person but with
americans there are very different versions. >> i'm good only the part about coincidence because that's interesting and that's a sci-fi confession. we're talking about is alarming in terms of how linguists are trying to see languish. so is like were making things from being heard. you say things for a reason you used like totally in ways that have to do with neutral patterns than anything that you're standing by yourself. language philosophy teaches us with our conception of languages about senses that are right or wrong on a piece of paper. it's even more scientifically
erroneous and i had begun to get linguistics start all over again what were doing is so much more putting forth an entity and then a predicate about it however when i say we always understand each other, of course [inaudible] the individual level. so with trump quite often we listen to him as if he were making statesmanlike pronouncements thinking about how they would be heard in their larger implications. when really for reason sociological and psychological and frankly psychometric he doesn't mean them that way. you could say that he's just improvising, he's being
[inaudible] >> it's like they came out going through the needle and so many other things there's nothing honor first there is an and that messes it up some and then it's amazing how distorted our views are which is why i believe in translation that the idea of studying talent without thinking what the translation would be in dealing with all of these things really should be directly translated into today's vernacular. there's a great deal of that. i wish that for their
the way its use locally and modernly is going to be quite different than what is done on the page and that's certainly true with the difference between what you can read and what people say. mandarin is difficult to linguists because you'll put a sentence on board and if there's chinese speakers in class people have a hard time reading what's the proper sentence because people have a different sense of what is real as opposed to what's on the page and how far you can get away. so i think you're reading things on a page and then your hearing what's going on now. mark twain would've had the same experience. there's the way he wrote on there's the way people spoke around him. so we today feel like something different is going on as much as they spoke in the past and there
is no way to record. if you see a silent film of people walking down the street you can see it, the woman stresses are going up on there's a place where you can watch the film 100 or 110 years ago, how did they talk. they did they talk. they did not talk the way the magazines or newspapers. so they drop in a little slang but we still don't have as people sounded. but still this general is a formal us. so we still don't know how those people at the party still talk. today we know how everybody talks. so the path always seemed cleaner in that way.
so people have always spoken messy that's just humanity. and mandarin is spoken by the page so for me i'm trying unsuccessfully because i think i've aged past it to teach myself mandarin. and i'm finding that one of the difficulties is that there such a difference between what's on the page and how people actually talk their blogs and i think good lord and the standard one is on learnable. so these things are just the way life goes. >> i want to congratulate. . .
[inaudible question] [inaudible question] [inaudible question] had a week bridge the gap in the communication and society that needs to understand what were talking about? >> isn't that easier today with the internet and social media and that you can blog or right things that are written for the general public to understand comers that not what you mean?
>> that is a different issue. identifying the actual truth. if you think through the layers of it. but it's inevitable that any field will have jargon. and so in certain words worlds that were familiar with there's a way of writing that we become accustomed to the way literature is right just because of the draft has changed. linguistics is written with outsiders too. what i'm talking about the way it would be put in deadly and loaded with the jargon that you
social media has affected writing and that's like speech. henry higgins does not exist as a wonderful character as he is i get the feeling i will never be allowed to play that role. but he wouldn't look down on the liza. he would be taken down what he said. henry is the model for that which is partly a character button to be taken down and thinking about how interesting her copy speeches in terms of it different from what they called the other pronunciation. i know one linguist you could say so was a stickler for standard language rule and seems to recoil lightly at the idea of the breaking of those rules.
even he intellectually understands there's no such thing as broken language. he is a character and has gotten in trouble from socio-politically odd statements. i. i don't think of one person like that. >> how do you know about this? >> wall of the international phonetic alphabet is used by all linguist because spelling systems are it's to actually transcribe what sounds are. it is one of the basics of linguist training to be able to transcribe things in that alphabet. in languages that are new they
often become a system that approximated because in many ways it's better than any other system you come up with. although to write a language completely completely phonetically is also awkward for various reasons. so what there'd do picked it up doing is part of the linguists toolkit. it doesn't translate well to the general public because people are used to the related different version that is used in many dictionaries. it's ugly. it's ecstatically unpleasant. you get used to being the words being spelled the way they are. so the idea doesn't translate well. so i do not mention added a footnote words on the move. but but linguists have to use it it's our alphabet.
>> you talk about language is evolving with speech, does that change in pronunciation as time goes by? >> it's moving along. hebrew is moving along. it's not. it's not just pronunciation it's new kinds of grammar. >> when people talk about the difference between pronunciation all of that is because you would expect that different people speaking the language in different places would have their vowel moved in different ways. there is no language that stands still. it couldn't. because. because people are always hearing things differently. so -- means every language is pulling away from its writing system unless the writing system keeps up with it which it almost never does. that's one of the awkward parks of being a modern human being.
you can learn to write something that you don't quite speak. it's unfortunate. some. some people have to deal with it less than others. we, the french and the danes have a major burden. >> there's a lot of young people use the word asked instead of ask. do you think that word will ever come standard use. >> acts is one of those exceptions. so ask is an old english form. those were his words were they cobbled between two different sounds. this happened to be one that became ask and settled in as a
word used by a certain group of english speakers who because of geography and happenstance was the english who became the standard. so ask it sounds proper wear as many people before that it sounded odd. so the reason black people in many southern white people pronounce it differently is because there's been people in england who still say that with those were the one sent across the ocean to work in america. it's probably not gonna be a people who talk it down. so a lot of slaves learned language alongside people saying it a different way. many many black speakers can say ask like anybody else but they pronounce it differently. unfortunately that one sticks out for american
english speakers and put together a black speakers in particular. it's the first people first thing black people will talk about. asking can be thought of as a formal activity. so when someone hears it sticks up because it seems to involve a certain ceremony. then here comes the vernacular form. i wish people didn't hear it that way but i don't think it can change. i would tell people that is not one you should use an informal context. it's a two-way street i had i had a white woman asked me nicely what is my black boss say ask. and well if you had a good time we have some sort a casual relationship with the boss i hope he doesn't say them board meetings and things like that. it's unfortunate, it's similar
to the word like. it's one thing a black english were a say folks, sorry, america is not going to get used to that one. so life is tough. >> thank you so much for coming tonight. [applause] [inaudible] >> here's a look at some of the staff picks from politics and prose bookstore in washington, dc. olivia laing olivia laing explains the solitary lives of prominent artists and, the lonely city. and novelist, the first nonfiction book the great arrangement he augurs climate change is being ignored.