Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Wheel of Fortune: Ebonics is "wrong"

[I just posted this on Wheel of Fortune's contact page.]

On yesterday's show one puzzle included the word "embroidered." An African American woman solved the puzzle but pronounced this word so that it sounded like "emroided."  I believe that this happened because her underlying dialect (African American English) doesn't allow [r] before a consonant.  Pat Sajak (or the judges?) ruled it a "wrong pronunciation."  I believe this was a very serious error, not only in that the couple missed getting the round but also that a legitimate variety of English was dismissed as "wrong."  Her rendering was approximately [ɪmˡbrɔɪdəd].

I wonder whether someone from Boston, who might have pronounced it similarly, would also have been declared "wrong."

Sunday, February 11, 2018

Social Science at the Olympics

Friday night, watching the Olympic opening ceremony, I was reminded of Chinese-American anthropologist Francis Hsu. The commentator described the opening ceremony (which had some very nice moments) as representing one of the differences between Eastern and Western culture: the emphasis on the group over the individual.
In the West, and especially the US, the enculturation system cranks out hyper-individuals, often social monsters like Trump; group work is seen as "collectivism" or even "communism." In the traditional East, enculturation creates a social system in which individuals are dependent on the group, within which exist reciprocal rights and obligations between and among members. Ultimately, in my view, a far less dysfunctional arrangement.