I love hearing what non-linguists have to say about linguistic phenomena. It’s impossible to avoid biases when studying language; either you know too much to really comment in a fully objective manner or you’re somehow missing some information necessary to make a fully enlightened assessment. Okay, I admit. You will always harbor some ignorance somehow. But the point is, I think it’s valuable to take both positions into account when asking questions about how language is used & perceived. So while I see that the recent rash of “Shit Xs Say” videos on YouTube represent an imperfect “analysis” of the speech of groups defined by extra-linguistic variables (e.g., gender, race, etc.), I still think it’s great that this sort of thing is obviously interesting to people.
But the question I keep asking myself is this. Do people know that they’re interested in language?
I’m not really sure what’s going on — which is why I want to study it formally — but it seems like some people seem to exhibit an odd contradiction of behaviors that seem to reflect interest in (or at least awareness of) sociolinguistic phenomena paired with closed-minded, uninformed attitudes toward linguistic diversity. What’s the deal? How can people have both at once?
I think it just means that people are open to learning about language & would probably enjoy it but that just doesn’t happen in our education system — an unfortunate situation! And hopefully if they did learn more about linguistic principles, they would be more aware of their own fascination with language & eager to learn more about linguistic variation. Given that people are at present taught the rigid, prescriptive “rules” that supposedly govern language & subsequently defend them sometimes fervently, I wouldn’t be surprised if the same thing would happen were they to learn about natural language use instead. A linguist can dream!
Megan L. Risdal