Þe ⟨ð⟩-er ⟨þ⟩-y Question—Þeedles Þ’Þee SpecGram Vol CXCI, No 4 Contents In Defense of Capitalism—Adora Urbano, PhD

Against Capitalism

Norman van der Dorp, PhD
Professor of Linguistics, University of Kleinstadt

There is a strain in modern linguistic thought that holds that rural speech is less valuable than urban speech. Linguists who adhere to this school of linguistics not only exclude speakers of rural varieties from their studies, preferring instead to study urban varietiesspecifically, those spoken in capital citiesbut actively deny the value of studying rural varieties. This approach, known as capitalist linguistics, appeals to a variety of theoretical reasons to justify this preference for speakers in capital cities, and it is often considered to be a more “theoretically-informed” approach to sociolinguistics (Gorodetsky and Urbano 2009).

Nevertheless, I argue that capitalism’s focus on the varieties of capitals and its dismissal of rural varieties is misplaced, and in particular that there is abundant theoretical justification for studying rural varietiesin particular, those of NORMs (non-mobile older rural males).

One compelling argument for studying NORMs’ speech has to do with its conservativeness, which derives from the main characteristics of NORMs. NORMs are geographically non-mobile, such that their idiolects have few if any influences from outside the community; NORMs are rural and often live in communities that have lacked significant linguistic diversity for centuries, if not millennia, such that their idiolects are not influenced by other varieties or languages; NORMs are older and thus use older linguistic features not present in the speech of younger individuals; and finally, NORMs are male, meaning that they are not as socially mobile as women, such that their speech has little influence from outside sociolects. These factors combine to ensure that the speech of NORMs is more conservative than that of the average speaker of a language.

The conservativeness of NORMs’ speech means that it has a marked advantage over capital city varieties when it comes to providing data for theoretical work. Because NORMs’ speech is more conservative and therefore older, it is closer to the speech used by humans at the time of the mutation that resulted in the Merge gene appearing in the human genome and thus provides a window into the origins of language.

Furthermore, according to the argument of the poverty of the stimulus, linguistic stimuli that are poor result in grammatical speech in the individual who has been exposed to those stimuli. This is of obvious relevance when it comes to comparing the differences between rural and urban speech. The linguistic stimuli in capitals are rich in diversity because of capitals’ multicultural, cosmopolitan populations, while those in rural areas are poor in diversity and generally come from one, or at most a few, different linguistic varieties. Because rural speech is the result of poor linguistic stimuli, it is therefore much more grammatical than capital city speech, which is the result of much richer and more diverse linguistic stimuli.

In short, while capitalism devalues the speech of rural speakers, it is clear on theoretical grounds that such a devaluation is untenable and indeed hinders the progress of linguistic science. It is to be hoped that the field of linguistics will not allow the exclusionary confines set forth by capitalism to determine the range of what type of linguistic research is acceptable.

Works Cited

Gorodetsky, Sergey, and Adora Urbano. “Capitalist Linguistics in the 21st Century: An Overview.” Capitalist Linguistics, vol. 19, no. 3, 2009, pp. 142–143.

Þe ⟨ð⟩-er ⟨þ⟩-y QuestionÞeedles Þ’Þee
In Defense of CapitalismAdora Urbano, PhD
SpecGram Vol CXCI, No 4 Contents