In his 1789 work, “Dissertations on the English Language”, Noah Webster (the fellow who created Webster’s dictionary) wrote:
“As an independent nation, our honor requires us to have a system of our own, in language as well as government. Great Britain, whose children we are, and whose language we speak, should no longer be our standard; for the taste of her writers is already corrupted, and her language on the decline. But if it were not so, she is at too great a distance to be our model, and to instruct us in the principles of our own tongue (emphasis added) … Let me add, that whatever predilection the Americans may have for their native European tongues, and particularly the British descendants for the English, yet several circumstances render a future separation of the American tongue from the English, necessary and unavoidable. The vicinity of the European nations, with the uninterrupted communication in peace, and the changes of dominion in war, are gradually assimilating their respective languages. The English with others is suffering continual alterations. America, placed at a distance from those nations, will feel, in a much less degree, the influence of the assimilating causes; at the same time, numerous local causes, such as a new country, new associations of people, new combinations of ideas in arts and science, and some intercourse with tribes wholly unknown in Europe, will introduce new words into the American tongue. These causes will produce, in a course of time, a language in North America, as different from the future language of England, as the modern Dutch, Danish and Swedish are from the German, or from one another (emphasis added): Like remote branches of a tree springing from the same stock; or rays of light, shot from the same center, and diverging from each other, in proportion to their distance from the point of separation.”
Webster was writing at a time of tremendous political and social turmoil when the U.S. government was infantile and the identity of those subject to the new government in disarray. Webster seemed to think that a distinct language of the Americas could act as a bonding agent for the new ‘nation’, and he thought it was inevitable anyway. His first dictionary was an attempt to standardize the disparate orthographies of the Americas to have a distinct and standard continent-wide American English with which to bind his people. Interesting take on nationalism.
I share some of these feelings, but not all. What Noah Webster and i have in common is the desire to not speak a tongue bound to some far away culture and land.
Having a sense of place and origin is important to me. Having a relationship with the land and culture in my immediate experience is important to me. I want the language i speak to be something that reflects my experience and heritage where i am. I don’t necessarily mean some ignorant break with the past or a denial of the colonial and far off origins of my culture and language, but going forward into something new, distinct, and appropriate for my land-base, my community, and my unique place on earth.
As a good first step i suggest we not apologize or be ashamed of our local dialects and language. A minuscule step is to stop putting an apostrophe in the word, “Yall” (at least in casual conversation and communication). ‘Yall’ is a great word for the second person plural. No longer do we need to waste time with two words like, ‘you guys’ or ‘you all’. We have a word that fits nicely into that use. The apostrophe in ya’ll or y’all gives deference to the fact that its origin comes from two words, but here’s the thing. It aint two words now. It functions like other words in other languages that have a single word for the second person plural, like ‘kalian’ in Indonesian. Same goes for “yous”.
Worst of all is the possibility that we edit our colloquialisms to match more ‘standard’, ‘classic’, or ‘high’ forms of language because we are ashamed of our local culture. Why should people in situations and circumstances far from our own dictate to us how we should conduct our culture, our art, and our thoughts? Where does our cultural authority rest if not in ourselves?
I don’t put an apostrophe in yall because it doesn’t mean “you all” (or ‘ye aw’ if you go with that theory) to me. It means yall. And as i feel i have a right to make my language my own, imma keep on with this spelling.
This is basically me defending why i hate putting this: ‘ in this: yall.
Anywho, the Chimer series will be me discussing what i call “The Great American Identity Crisis” as well as issues of cultural evolution, localism, egoism, identity, colloquialism, and dare i use the nasty N word, an anti-ethnic/anti-racist/anti-statist Nationalism (if we can divorce nationalism from ancestry, appearance, homogeneity, government, and all the nasty stuff and distill it to acceptable treatment of shared cultural practice).
Join me, won’t yall?
NOAH WEBSTER URGES REFORM OF SPELLING (1789) From Noah Webster, “An Essay on the Necessity, Advantages, and Practicality of Reforming the Mode of Spelling and of Rendering the Orthography of Words Correspondent to Pronunciation,” Dissertations on the English Language: With Notes, Historical and Critical, to Which is Added, by Way of Appendix, an Essay on a Reformed Mode of Spelling, with Dr. Franklin’s Arguments on That Subject (Boston. 1789). pp. 391. 393-98. 405-6. :
Wikipedia page on yall:
I found this while wandering the net:
I used of the watercolor painting of the two Chimer by http://nadmoremtumana.deviantart.com/ without permission. But the art is good, so i want that artist supported or at least recognized