Decent read on American Jewish accent(s)

Some good info in this piece: Why Linguists are Fascinated by the American Jewish Accent.

The title is overblown, but that is common in journalism these days.

All accents are interesting once you pay attention. I am fairly good at telling the region of the US someone grew up in by their accent. When wrong, I often find that one or both of their parents grew up in the region I identified.

Many regional accents are suppressed at home, often by parents who are better educated or who have moved from elsewhere. And this leads to further degrading the regional norm. You can find a lot of this in New England, which has several very beautiful regional accents. Rural Mainers speak in ways that sometimes remind me of a Texas drawl.

One paragraph in the linked article got me:

Another element that isn’t dying is the particular conversational style of Jews. When linguist Deborah Tannen taped dinner conversations between Jews and non-Jews (her work was published in 1981), she found that arguing and interrupting (or “cooperative overlapping”) occurred at higher rates among Jews. Pauses were also different: Jews tended to use both shorter pauses and fewer pauses between clauses and sentences. Like intonation, this isn’t really “accent,” in a strict linguistic sense, but as a broad answer to “how do Jews speak differently from non-Jews,” it’s a significant element.

I grew up in a community with many Jews and learned a lot of speech habits from them. “Cooperative overlapping” was one of them. To this day it is very hard for me not to do this. When you have this style ingrained in you it feels very warm and friendly, though many other American English speakers find it disrespectful, even rude.

When I speak with people who don’t do “cooperative overlapping,” conversations can seem slow-paced, even boring.

More information can be exchanged with “cooperative overlapping” as well as more quick shifting of topic and nuance. Also, more options for situational humor.

If there is one thing other regions could beneficially learn from Jewish speech habits, this is the one I would choose. It’s not hard to do and it adds several dimensions to speaking and listening.

Campus PC: It’s the Dumb Students


Good essay worth reading.

FIML partners, note that the core problem is failure to understand the speaker’s real intent. This can be due to not being smart, but is also commonly due to habit. Our subcultures teach us to listen in the ways we do. Not to detract from the essay, but my guess is that the author will himself be a “dumb” interpersonal listener by FIML standards. ABN

American Pravda: The Legacy of Sydney Schanberg

I doubt if one Americans in twenty is aware that over forty years ago, his government deliberately abandoned hundreds of POWs in Vietnam, and then spent four decades desperately covering up that enormous crime, with the media being a willing co-conspirator. But even if our citizens remain ignorant of that particular dark deed, over the years they have strongly come to suspect their elites are guilty of a vast number of equally heinous offenses, some of which are plausible and others ridiculous; and who can reasonably blame them? If our entire media would willfully ignore “the story of the century” as massively documented by one of its most distinguished members, who can say what other matters might remain hidden from public view?

For years I’ve been telling my friends that unless and until our major media publications are finally willing to report Sydney Schanberg’s stunning POW expose, I simply won’t trust a word they write about anything else. And perhaps that is the most important legacy of one of America’s greatest journalists. (emphasis added)

link to original

Well-worth reading. ABN