Segments in this Video

Robert MacNeil Looks at Local Dialects (03:58)


Maritime dialect influences speech in Nova Scotia. American English is the most dominant form of the language. Linguists believe local dialects, such as the laconic, terse style of Maine, are dying out.

Dialect Areas of North America (02:56)

Linguists’ dialect maps include Eastern New England, New York City, Philadelphia, Midland, North, South, and West. MacNeil visits the Priscilla Beach Theater in Massachusetts.

Dynamics That Change the Language (04:30)

New York City is an enormous generator of language with Wall Street jargon and advertising slogans. John Simon and Jesse Sheidlower have differing opinions about changes in the language.

Prescriptivism and Descriptivism (03:09)

Prescriptivists believe prescribed rules are needed to preserve the language. Descriptivists scribe language as it changes, including jargon. Hip-hop and its language appeal to white teenage boys.

Threats to Written English (04:13)

Black English influences Instant Messaging (IMing) and threatens written standards. Formal publications use colloquialism. English borrows from immigrant language but Spanish dominates it.

Search for Standard American English (04:13)

Philadelphia is the cradle of American democracy and the American speech that migrated West. William Labov states that in America only big Tory cities adopted British English until after WWII.

American Attitudes Towards Dialects (02:58)

Ohio begins the Midland dialect boundary. Linguist Dennis Preston indicates that most people believe the worst English is in the South, but people love the charm of Southern and New York City accents.

Pittsburghese: Importance of Place (02:41)

According to linguist Barbara Johnstone, Pittsburgh is the epitome of how people cling to accents as a badge of community and local pride. Pittsburghese contains Scots-Irish words.

Midland American Dialect (03:04)

The one Midland dialect is seen as the norm. Hotlines exist for those concerned about the state of standard English. Dialects make communication difficult. Grapholic maintains the same written rules.

American Newspapers and Language (02:40)

Copy editor of the Columbus “Dispatch,” Kirk Arnott believes in casual written language but with guidelines. He frequently sees words misused. Spoken language influences written language.

Spoken American English (02:38)

Northern cities around the Great Lakes see a revolutionary shift of short vowels that were once stable. This results in serious misunderstandings among people.

History of Black English (05:39)

Detroit is the home of Motown and a thriving Hip-hop scene. Linguist John Baugh researches how Americans react to minority accents. Black English includes Pidgin, Gullah, and Geechee.

Controversy Over Black English (05:55)

A school in Ann Arbor, MI, is sued for being insensitive to the linguistic background of the black students. Teachers in Oakland, CA, see Ebonics, or Black English, as a separate language.

Hip-Hop Street Talk and Music (04:04)

Athletic Mic League band members draw on local street talk for their hip-hop lyrics. Black English characteristically loves playing with words and giving them new meanings.

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Up North

Part of the Series : Do You Speak American?
3-Year Streaming Price: $169.95



In this program, Robert MacNeil canvasses the North to learn firsthand about linguistic dialect zones, the tension between prescriptivism and descriptivism, the impact of dialect on grapholect, the northern cities vowel shift, the roots of African-American English, minority dialects and linguistic profiling, biases against nonstandard speech, and the general perception of the U.S. Midland dialect as "normal American." Hip-hop street talk, IM slang, Pittsburghese, and Gullah and Geechee are sampled, and Bill Labov, the dean of American linguists; Jesse Sheidlower, American editor of the august OED; and New York magazine’s John Simon are featured. Some language may be offensive. (57 minutes)

Length: 58 minutes

Item#: BVL33883

Copyright date: ©2005

Closed Captioned

Reviews & Awards

First Place Gold Camera Award, 2005 U.S. International Film and Video Festival

Performance Rights

Prices include public performance rights.

Not available to Home Video customers.

Only available in USA and Canada.

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