Archive for September 26, 2008

Droppin’ g’s

September 26, 2008 Leave a comment

As I have listened to Sarah Palin in her interviews with Charles Gibson and Katie Couric, I have given some thought to how much her style of speaking English affects my judgment of her. I have tried to focus on the actual content of her remarks, not her accent. For instance, we all drop our g’s from time to time. It isn’t in itself a sign of education or lack thereof, of intelligence or lack thereof.

In this context, the linguist Arnold Zwicky has an interesting post today at Language Log, entitled What Palin’s gonna do. Zwicky begins by taking Philip Gourevitch to task for using the spelling ‘gonna’ in quoting Palin in the recent New Yorker article The State of Sarah Palin (September 22 issue).

What stands out here — for a linguist, anyway — is the five occurrences of the spelling gonna for written standard going to. I’ll take Gourevitch’s word that this is the way Palin pronounced the expression, but why did he transcribe it that way? …

First point: gonna is an entirely standard, though informal variant of going to, at least in American English. … Instances of gonna from standard-English American speakers in relaxed contexts are all over the place, and it’s not hard to find the occasional instance from such speakers (even prestigious ones) in formal contexts. Normally we’d expect such occurrences of gonna to to be represented as going to in print.

Zwicky also addresses g-dropping, and refers back to an old post by Mark Liberman, which I highly recommend, for a discussion of this practice. I’ll summarize a few of Liberman’s points below.
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Categories: Language, Politics