Extremely Common Eloquence: Constructing Scottish Identity through Narrative

Extremely Common Eloquence: Constructing Scottish Identity through Narrative

Extremely Common Eloquence: Constructing Scottish Identity through Narrative

Extremely Common Eloquence: Constructing Scottish Identity through Narrative

Synopsis

"Extremely Common Eloquence presents a detailed analysis of the narrative and rhetorical skills employed by working-class Scots in talking about important aspects of their lives. The wide range of devices employed by the speakers and the high quality of the examples provide convincing evidence to reject any possible negative evaluation of working-class speech on the basis of details of non-standard pronunciation and grammar. In addition to this display of linguistic accomplishment the examples examined show how these skills are employed to communicate important aspects of Scottish identity and culture." Title Summary field provided by Blackwell North America, Inc. All Rights Reserved

Excerpt

This book has been a long time in the making. I have been working on some of the materials for twenty-five years and I have published extracts from them in a variety of places. in the present work, I have not hesitated to include examples that have been cited elsewhere because I believe that their cumulative effect justifies this decision.

One reason it has taken so long to write this book is that it does not easily fit into any recognisable category. It is about language but it is not about phonology, morphology, syntax or semantics, and it does not address questions of linguistic theory. It does not fit easily into the usual divisions of sociolinguistics. It is about language in society but it is not about language variation or language change. It is about cultural attitudes but it is not an ethnography.

In an earlier work (Macaulay 1997: 162), I quoted a remark by Charles Fillmore: “We need to distinguish between how people speak their language and how well people speak their language” (1979: 92). This book is about how well some speak their language. It might seem to be unnecessary to defend the way people speak but as the Milroys make clear in the latest edition of their book Authority in Language (Milroy and Milroy 1999), prejudice against categories of speakers persists. Labov (1969) convincingly defended “nonstandard English” and Tannen (1989) has shown how ordinary conversation contains many features that used to be associated only with literary works. Yet Labov’s and Tannen’s works are only brief illustrations of the kind of skills that speakers possess. the present work displays a much wider range of rhetorical skills, but more importantly it shows how these skills are employed to communicate important aspects of Scottish identity and culture.

In 1973, I interviewed a range of people and collected their opinions on Glasgow speech (Macaulay and Trevelyan 1973: 119–178; Macaulay 1977: 75–130). Many of the comments were negative and most of those comments referred to pronunciation and a few wellknown stigmatised forms such as I seen and I done. This focus was largely the result of my questions, which were designed to investigate linguistic prejudice, and thus the form of the questions and the way they asked probably encouraged negative comments. There were few . . .

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