The liberal use of literary dialect by nineteenth-century local-color authors depicting the South is an early example of “enregisterment” of dialect and its resultant commodification as an ingredient of literary success. The question naturally arises as to the usefulness of such literary dialect in the reconstruction of earlier features of actual spoken dialect. Though literary dialect is not intended by its authors, either nineteenth-century or modern, to be fully authentic, it is argued that by maintaining awareness of potential pitfalls and by employing strategies of triangulation, it is possible to cautiously extract clues from literary dialect about earlier dialectal characteristics. In this regard, the literary dialect employed by nineteenth-century Louisiana authors, Anglophone and Francophone alike, has suffered from neglect and, it is contended, can be a useful resource for reconstructing some earlier features when properly triangulated with other evidence. Examples drawn from the literary dialect of George Washington Cable, Kate Chopin, Grace King, Alfred Mercier, and Sidonie de la Houssaye demonstrate that representations of phonological features, discourse markers, lexical localisms, and, to a lesser extent, code-mixing practices can be of value in reconstructing selected dialectal traits of nineteenth-century English, French, and creole in Louisiana.
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Michael D. Picone; Literary Dialect and the Linguistic Reconstruction of Nineteenth-Century Lousiana. American Speech 1 May 2014; 89 (2): 143–169. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/00031283-2772050
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