Academic journal article et Cetera

Do You Speak American?

Academic journal article et Cetera

Do You Speak American?

Article excerpt

Robert MacNeil and William Cran. Do You Speak American? New York: Doubleday, 2005.

Is American English in decline? Are regional dialects dying out? Is there a difference in how men and women adapt to linguistic variations? These and other questions about American English motivated Robert MacNeil - past cohost of PBS's The MacNeil/Lehrer NewsHour- and William Cran to canvass the country in search of the answers. This book (the title comes from a comment by Bono, lead singer of U2, after being fined by the FCC for swearing) is the result of their explorations and it clearly shows that our language is in a state of flux.

As a resident of the Big Apple, I was unhappy to learn from this book that when asked to choose two areas where bad or unacceptable English is spoken, nine times out often people will say New York City and the South. But I was pleased to discover that "descriptive linguistics" (a willingness to be guided by how people actually speak or write) appears to be making headway against "prescriptive linguistics" (a desire to have language obey strict rules). The war between these two philosophies has been particularly strident in recent times and arguments over which one should prevail has become a factor in America's "culture wars. …

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