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Author Topic: You winnew waychoo way?
MattLeo
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"You winnew waychoo way?"

That's what the boy at the supermarket checkout asked me when I finished paying this afternoon. After a few stupefied seconds, I decoded the message: "[Are] you [participating] in the Rachel Ray [trading stamp promotion]?" The supermarket is running a program where you collect trading stamps for every $10 you spend, redeemable for stoneware plates and cups endorsed by celebrity chef Rachel Ray.

When you learn a new language it becomes obvious how miraculous it is that we can extract words from the streams of sound coming out of peoples' mouths. In fiction those streams of sound get flattened into standard orthography (good) then hammered out into schoolbook grammar (maybe not so good). Eye-dialect like "You winnew waychoo way?" is annoying, but "Are you participating in the Rachel Ray program?" is not the way most people talk. "You in the Rachel Ray?" seems to me to be about the right way to handle this most of the time.

Your mission, should you choose to accept it: keep your ears open for non-standard dialect. Then post it here in eye-dialect, as you would put it in a story, and in standard English.

Do you use eye-dialect or non-standard dialect in your stories? Is it just the characters, or the narrator too?

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LDWriter2
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I can't think of any "eye-dialect" at the moment but I have read books-stories that had it in. The narrator usually translates it.

I would put it in if I thought it belonged and probably translate so the reader would get it.

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MattLeo
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I might use eye-dialect for a one off encounter, but I avoid it for core characters because it's too tiring for the reader to continually de-code. Here's how I handle dialect for a character with an Irish accent:
quote:
The officer made a show of smoothing the ticket out and examining it closely. “If I understand your complaint, you don't think that passengers holding first class tickets should have to wait with lower class passengers.” When he said “don't” it sounded more like “dough-ent”, and “lower” sounded like “lore”.

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legolasgalactica
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"sensuous up, woulda bring me hiccup?"

I remember someone from the south saying something like this to me and I've never forgotten it. Sensuous? Hiccup?
After a few tries I realized he had said: "Since you is up, will you bring me a cup?"

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extrinsic
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I favor unconventional diction and syntax over "eye dialect," which for me is an individualized writing idiolect unique to any given writer. Writing idiolects use conventional spellings, though awkward diction and syntax, missing articles, awkward subject-predicate agreement, awkward pronouns, syntactical expletives; awkward syntax--often hyperbaton, awkward parallelism and coordination, broken, halting, hesitant speech--I could go on, detailing the seventy-five most common speaking and writing grammatical glitches.

Examples:

'em is one of the more common speaking contractions, meaning "them." In eye dialect, spoken 'em is formatted into written word that way. In many style manuals 'em is deprecated. Awkwardly using the conventionally spelled out word might substitute "those." Took those folk out on the river fishing. "You-all's," with an away-proximity modifier. Might of left yonder you-all's alone out there. Or "them-all," Did leave them-all still on the shingle strand. Or using "them" unconventionally instead of "they" or plural first person constuctions, "us," "we," or "our." "Mom and them." Mother, father, and our siblings. "Them dint gone no more." They did not go on anymore.

"Dint" is an unconventional middling eye dialect, almost contraction, almost word, meaning did not and also used to mean did. Its use in speaking dialects is ambiguous mostly, so a double negative construction signals the negative affirmation, as in "no more."

"No more" is itself a speaking dialect expression when substituted for the adverb "anymore," meaning no further or no longer, or the adjective "any more," meaning none additional. "No more" in those contexts also commonly constitutes part of a double negative.

Use of an impersonal pronoun instead of a personal pronoun is another speaking dialect expression. Pointing at Laney, Jay said it was the boy what kicked the window.

Substituting "what" for "that" is a common speaking dialect expression, as in the latter paragraph.

These are each and all character voice features. The convention is for a narrator to have a formal though accessible orating register. Characters may speak formally or informally, though a persona's voice should be distiguishable from other personas' voices.

On the other hand, a narrator may orate in an informal speaking dialect. That method is uncommon. It mostly occurs when a narrator is first person, recounting events from the past, and in the mannerism of a raconteur (storyteller). Twain used that voice to artful effect, mixed with eye dialect, though. Rarely, a third person, covert narrator may orate in an informal speaking dialect.

The fashion deprecating eye dialect arose as a reaction to the Slave Narratives collected by Work Progress Administration writers. The reaction was negative due to the method being on the bigoted side and methods and mechanical styles' inconsistencies. The Slave Narratives are available in ample quantity at Project Gutenberg.

I've made a close study of speaking dialects common to English second language speakers. Each immigrant culture's native speaking grammar adopts uncoventional qualities to adapt to English communication. Eastern, European, Middle Eastern, African, Asiatic, South American, etc.

I've also closely studied the idiolects of native English speakers. Unique markers often signal a person's regional origins, even though he or she may have no discernible accent.

[ November 19, 2013, 12:44 PM: Message edited by: extrinsic ]

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Kathleen Dalton Woodbury
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While the writing was orthographically standard, as I recall, the narrators of Heinlein's THE MOON IS A HARSH MISTRESS and of Tanith Lee's DON'T BITE THE SUN and DRINKING SAPPHIRE WINE used rather idiosyncratic prose to tell their stories. It took me a while as a reader to "get into" the prose styles, but once I did, I had no trouble continuing to read.

Sometimes, it doesn't hurt to keep up such a style, if the readers can get to the point where the decoding becomes more or less unconscious because they've become used to the style.

Even more eccentric was the cipher that Eoin Colfer included along the bottom of the pages of his first Artemis Fowl book. Maybe I'm not a good sample subject for this kind of thing, but I learned to read that cipher (the key was at the back of the book), as if it were standard orthography.

So for some readers, it can be done. And for those who couldn't read the cipher or didn't want to bother decoding it, the symbols at the bottom of each page made a nice "decoration" and neither added nor detracted from the story.

If you are going to do something challenging like that, you might want to make it more like an "easter egg" that will reward those who want to make the effort, but not punish those who don't.

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Reziac
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quote:
Originally posted by legolasgalactica:
"sensuous up, woulda bring me hiccup?"

I remember someone from the south saying something like this to me and I've never forgotten it. Sensuous? Hiccup?
After a few tries I realized he had said: "Since you is up, will you bring me a cup?"

I remember a conversation I had with a native Gullah speaker from the Carolinas. He was speaking English to me, all right, and I could tell it was English, but I could not understand a word he said. His friend had to translate for him! Would be interesting to deconstruct his speech, too.

When I'm muttering to myself, or to the dogs, I tend to leave off the whole front end of words, and sometimes the first part of sentences. This isn't learned or copied, it's just something developed in the course of too much talking to myself. [Big Grin]

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MattLeo
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quote:
Originally posted by Reziac:
When I'm muttering to myself, or to the dogs, I tend to leave off the whole front end of words, and sometimes the first part of sentences. This isn't learned or copied, it's just something developed in the course of too much talking to myself. [Big Grin]

While traveling in Latin America armed with my rusty high school Spanish, I found that Peruvians and Mexicans of all classes speak beautifully enunciated Spanish, but Chileans speak rapid-fire mush-mouthed "Catellano" (i.e., "Castellano"). Chileans also tend to leave off the gender-identifying noun endings, so they're nearly incomprehensible if you're not totaly fluent in Spanish.

When I was young, northerners visiting the deep south often had difficulty understanding rural white people, although the speech of blacks was more familiar because of the Great Migration.

Dialects are a feature of the real world that is nearly always missing from fantasy or science fiction stories. A hero in a pseudo-medieval world can travel five hundred leagues and everybody there from lord to peasant will speak the same perfectly comprehensible schoolbook English (American English, if it's an American author). After less than four ceturies the works of Shakespeare are nearly incomprehensible to the average person, but a sci-fi hero can take a time machine a thousand years in the future and find the people there speak just the way he does. Oh, and why does the Star Trek universal translator not translate certain Klingon phrases ("Qapla'!") that have perfect English counterparts ("success!")?

Dialect is one of those inconvenient issues that readers allow us to ignore so we can get on with telling the story, but I always feel a little guilty about pretending such problems don't exist. Maybe someone will manage to work the dialect into their story so it works for them, but otherwise explaining the problem away would simply be joyless heavy-lifting for both writer and reader. So I ignore the problem too, but I'm always aware that I'm cheating.

One thing I *do* try to do is to have some characters speak in different way to different kinds of people (e.g. friends, peers, bosses, strangers). Maybe character A swears a lot when he's with his peers to show he's a regular guy, but never in front of a social superior. Character B swears only when she's angry, but then she'll do it in front of anyone. How and whether the character "code switches" is characterization, although I think many readers won't get that consciously.

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Robert Nowall
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I try to avoid eccentric spellings within dialog...I do use a lot of apostrophes to indicate words slurred together, or at least I try to

Besides, you can try spelling out things and it can really come out silly-looking...the classic example is the somewhat rural contraction of "once" with a "t" on the end...some people have spelled it "oncet," which looks like "onset," when a closer phonetic spelling would be "wunst."

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extrinsic
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I understand dialect to be verbal: diction and syntax. Where pronounciation is vocal: accent. For a writer, dialect's verbal features are written out and vocal features appreciably less open to writing. For direct discourse, vocal features are a matter of implying an accent or intonation through dialect usage almost audible to readers' ears hearing inferred accents and intonations.

Because of the verbal nature of written word and its influences from diction and syntax, formal narrator voice register is conventional, though an informal narrator voice register is not uncommon. Character voices most often express idiomatic dialects and, in masterful hands, idiolects. Narrators rarely use idiomatic dialects, though any given region's formal dialect may seem idiomatic to auditors from another region. Formal British Commonwealth dialects are distinguishably different from formal U.S. dialects, for example. Written word distinctions are also remarkable: grey/gray, colour/color, emphasise/emphasize, etc., thousands of written word dialect distinctions.

Dialogue is one area where vocal features are strongest in written word, especially direct speech and thought, though indirect discourse may also express vocal features, especially with an overt narrator mediating the speech or thought.

Direct speech with narrator mediating "said" tag:
"I didn't mean to break the microwave," Maisy said, mumbling around a mouthful of cracker. "Mumbling" and "mouthful" are narrator mediation, the latter expressing a summary of a vocal feature: mumbling. The two terms are subjective interpretations--narrator mediation--of Maisy's speech and the quantity of contents in her mouth. Mumbling is subjective from the narrator assuming that's how Maisy spoke. She may have been whispering or talking low instead. Her mouth may not be exactly full either. The narrator chose mumble and full mouth to express the narrator's subjective assessment of Maisy's emotional attitude. "Audible but low volume"--vocal characteristics--could objectively describe "mumbling." "Mouthful," instead of narrator mediation, could instead objectively describe Maisy's bulging cheeks, implying an easily inferrable mouthful through closer narrative distance.

Indirect speech with strong narrator mediation:
Mumbling while she nibbled a pitiful cracker, Maisy shyly admitted breaking the microwave. "Mumbling," "pitiful," "stupid," and "shyly" are narrator mediation: subjective interpretation and summary of Maisy's emotional attitude. Also, again, "mumbling" is a vocal characteristic, and "shyly" is a nonverbal and nonvocal expression that summarizes a vocal as well as vague gestural characteristic.

[ November 18, 2013, 08:04 PM: Message edited by: extrinsic ]

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Reziac
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quote:
Originally posted by MattLeo:
While traveling in Latin America armed with my rusty high school Spanish, I found that Peruvians and Mexicans of all classes speak beautifully enunciated Spanish, but Chileans speak rapid-fire mush-mouthed "Catellano" (i.e., "Castellano"). Chileans also tend to leave off the gender-identifying noun endings, so they're nearly incomprehensible if you're not totaly fluent in Spanish.

We must know different Mexicans. I've met some who speak the same schoolbook Spanish I learned (and have since largely forgotten) but most of those I heard around SoCal speak that incomprehensible mush, or perhaps backlands dialect. -- The sheepherders were from Peru and I couldn't understand them either, but it was a different flavor of mush, probably with a lot more native language in it.

quote:
Originally posted by MattLeo:
Dialects are a feature of the real world that is nearly always missing from fantasy or science fiction stories. A hero in a pseudo-medieval world can travel five hundred leagues and everybody there from lord to peasant will speak the same perfectly comprehensible schoolbook English....

The classless society, as portrayed in SF/F, haha.

I don't make conscious decisions about it, but I do find that my characters of different backgrounds sound different, frex something like:

"You want some of this?"
vs
"You be wanting this?"

Word order and selection, rather than obvious phonetics -- but you heard 'em in different voices, didn't you!

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