How does using specific forms of English reflect allegiances, aspirations, or rejection?

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Karen P.L. Hardison eNotes educator| Certified Educator

One of the most compelling studies done on the subject of forms of English reflecting allegiances, aspirations, or rejection was the seminal sociolinguistic work done by William Labov on Martha's Vineyard Island in 1963. He found that allegiance was shown by the Portuguese immigrants to the island by the intensity of their learned Vineyard accent. Their deep allegiance to their adopted homeland precipitated an exaggeration of the distinctive feature's of the unique Martha's Vineyard phonetic and dialectical features.

Labov also found that the aspirations of high school students were reflected in the degree to which they had accommodated the Bostonian accent of Boston's summer visitors to the Vineyard. The youths who aspired to careers on the mainland in Boston had significantly pronounced Bostonian phonetic and dialectic features in their speech while youths who aspired to continue the traditional fisherman's life on the Vineyard had significantly pronounced Vineyard phonetic and dialectic patterns.

Conversely, Labov found that natives of Martha's Vineyard who rejected the mainland life, often after having tried it, had deeply exaggerated features of Vineyard phonetic patterns and dialect features akin to the exaggeration found in the Portuguese who showed their allegiance to their new home by exaggerating its unique linguistic features.

Jessica Pope eNotes educator| Certified Educator

People sometimes use intentional misspellings in order to make a point. A common example of this is "Amerikkka," a satirical misspelling meant to depict America as a racist nation. Sometimes hyphens or word breaks can be used to make a similar point; the phrase "his-story" is meant to cast historical narratives as sexist or patriarchal. More broadly, people may write or speak in local dialects to demonstrate their allegiance to a certain community. American poets Paul Lawrence Dunbar and Lansgton Hughes famously employed African-American vernacular English (AAVE) in several poems.