Jan/Feb 2022

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(This is an excerpt—click on the title to view the whole piece!)

Beyond Good, Evil, and the Split Infinitive

I live in and have spent most of my life in or near New York City. In its metropolitan area, which takes in the city's five boroughs plus counties in neighboring New Jersey, Long Island, and parts of upstate New York, there are not just dozens but scores of what professional linguists call idiolects, mutually understandable but consistently different pronunciations and usages of the English language ("dialect" implies vocabulary and other differences so great that someone who does not speak a particular dialect is not intelligible to someone who doesn't; we have few if any true dialects in American English). Some of these minor differences are stark and consistent. The New York upstate and downstate pronunciations of "a," is one. Upstate it has a marked "air" sound, ba-nair-na. Downstate an "eh" sound, ba-neh-na.

Thomas J. Hubschman