Group Title: study of eye dialect
Title: A Study of eye dialect
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 Material Information
Title: A Study of eye dialect
Alternate Title: Eye dialects
Physical Description: iii, 121 leaves. : ill. ; 28 cm.
Language: English
Creator: Bowdre, Paul Hull, 1926-
Publication Date: 1964
Copyright Date: 1964
Subject: English language -- Dialects   ( lcsh )
English language -- Orthography and spelling   ( lcsh )
English thesis Ph. D
Dissertations, Academic -- English -- UF
Genre: bibliography   ( marcgt )
non-fiction   ( marcgt )
Thesis: Thesis -- University of Florida.
Bibliography: Bibliography: leaves 117-121.
Additional Physical Form: Also available on World Wide Web
General Note: Manuscript copy.
General Note: Vita.
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Bibliographic ID: UF00097922
Volume ID: VID00001
Source Institution: University of Florida
Holding Location: University of Florida
Rights Management: All rights reserved by the source institution and holding location.
Resource Identifier: alephbibnum - 000570844
oclc - 13756377
notis - ACZ7826


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April, 1964


I would, first of all, like to express my appre-

ciation to Professor Thomas Pyles, the chairman of my

supervisory committee, who originally brought to my

attention the matter of Eye Dialect and pointed out its

possibilities as a dissertation topic. Professor Pyles

was a constant source of inspiration, help, and encourage-

ment during the writing of this study, and, for that

matter, throughout the course of my graduate studies at

the University of Florida. Also, I would like to thank

the other members of my committee--Professors Jayne

Harder, John Algeo, Ants Oras, and Oscar Jones--for their

many suggestions and timely help.

Finally, though they are too numerous to name, I

wish to thank the many persons who generously brought to

my attention examples of Eye Dialect. Among these was

my wife, and for her assistance--as well as her patience

and encouragement--I wish to express particular gratitude.




ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS .................. ii


Eye Dialect Defined
Origin of the Term
Eye Dialect and the Purpose of the Writer
Dependence of Eye Dialect on a Standard
The Relationship of the Written Language
to the Spoken Language
The Scarcity of Regional Dialect Differences
in the United States
Eye Dialect Contrasted With Other Methods of
Indicating Nonstandard Speech
Role of the Reader



Recognition of Inexact "Fit"
Manufacturing Alternative Spellings
The Relation of Eye Dialect to Matters of
Reading and to Spelling Reform
List of Eye Dialect Forms Used as
Illustrations in Chapter III

IV. CONCLUSION ................. 112

BIBLIOGRAPHY ...... .............. 117




Eye Dialect defined.--Eye Dialect consists of words
and groups of words which for any one of a number of possible

reasons have been spelled in a manner which to the eye is

recognizably nonstandard, but which to the ear still indi-

cates a pronunciation that is standard throughout the United

States or, in most instances, throughout the English-speaking

world. Some examples will help to clarify this definition.

The spelling ses for the English word says is an example of

Eye Dialect. Sez may be represented phonetically as [sEs,1

which is the standard pronunciation. Thus the two spellings

represent the same phonetic shape; no difference in what they

represent is detectable by the ear. The eye, however, de-

tects a considerable difference in the appearance of the two

spellings. Because the nonstandard spelling is thus per-

ceived only by the eye and not the ear, the term "Eye

Dialect" is used to describe it. Similar examples of Eye

Dialect are the following nonstandard spellings: gg

lWhere the pronunciation of words or groups of words
are represented by either phonetic or phonemic transcrip-
tions in this study, no effort has been made to indicate
stress or juncture except in those cases where such
indication is necessary to the understanding of the point
being made.

for minute [minit] ; likker for liquor [lker] ; wien for
women [wimin]
Writers of dialect do, however, often use non-

standard spellings to indicate pronunciations that are
standard in a certain region (or regions) of the United
States. Such spellings will be referred to in this study
as Regional Dialect. An example of a Regional Dialect
form would be the spelling of wnt as wint to indicate
the pronunciation [wint] which is standard in some sections
of the South.
As a rule, of course, the nonstandard spellings
in dialect writings represent pronunciations which are
not standard in any section of the country--for example,
skeerd for seared or leetle for little. These spellings

will be referred to as Substandard Dialect.
Origin of the term.--The term "Eye Dialect" was

apparently a coinage of George Philip Krapp2 and was
first used in his chapter "Literary Dialects" in
English Language In America (published originally in 1925).
The term appears in the following passage:
Of the dialect material employed in American literature,
several clear kinds may be distinguished. First and
most extensive in use is the class dialect which
distinguishes between popular and cultivated or
standard speech. This calls for no detailed dis-
cussion. The impression of popular speech is easily
produced by a sprinkling of such forms as aint for

2llarold Wentworth, American Dialect Dictionary
(New York: Thomas Y. Crowell Company, 19_ p. 203.

isn't, done for.did, them for those, and similar
grammatical improprieties. This impression is often
assisted by what may be termed "Eye Dialect," in
which the convention violated is one of the eye, not
of the ear. Thus a dialect writer often spells a
word like front as frunt, or face as fase, or
picture as pctsher, not because he intends to
indicate here a genuine difference of pronunciation,
but the spelling is merely a friendly nudge to the
reader, a knowing look which establishes a sympathetic
sense of superiority between the author and reader
as contrasted with the humble speaker of dialect..

In Krapp's definition it may be noted that Eye Dialect

is considered to be essentially a literary device. It

is primarily as a literary device that it will be discussed

here, although attention will also be given to Eye Dialect

forms themselves, particularly as they represent a problem

in graphics.

Relatively little has been written about Eye
Dialect and an examination of many of the standard works

on language indicates that they neglect the subject

entirely. One scholar, Raven I. McDavid, Jr., has defined

the term as "a crude but common device often utilized to

convey the illusion of substandard pronunciation . a

quasi-phonetic respelling of common words."* H. A. Gleason,

Jr., stresses that "Eye Dialect is not . to be con-

sidered as an actual portrayal of folk or regional speech

3George Philip Krapp, The English Langua e in
America (New York: Frederick Ungar Publishing Co., 1960),
I, 228.
4Raven I. lcDavid, Jr., "American English Dialects"
in The Structure of American English by W. Nelson Francis
(New York: The Ron-alTPress Company, 1958), p. 541.

so much as a stylized literary device to signal that folk
speech is intended."5
Krapp has pointed out that Eye Dialect forms are

of no scientific interest to the serious student of speech
in that they actually tell nothing significant about the
pronunciation of a word. However, he recognized their

value as a useful literary device. It might also be
pointed out that from the standpoint of the study of
writing (graphics) they are significant in that they indi-

cate a number of things about the relationship of the

written language to the spoken one. This aspect of Eye

Dialect forms is considered in Chapter III of this study.
Eye Dialect and the purpose of the writer.--Also

of importance in considering whether a nonstandard spelling

should be classified as Eye Dialect is the purpose of the

writer. Unintentional misspelling through ignorance of

the standard spelling is not Eye Dialect. To be classified

as an Eye Dialect form, a word must have been purposely

misspelled by the writer to produce some calculated effect.

If, for example, one notied a crudely printed sign outside

a country store saying "Keroseen--twenty sents per galon"

he would be safe in assuming that the misspellings were due

simply to lack of schooling rather than to any attempt to
attract customrs through the use of nonstandard spellings

5H. A. Gleason Jr., An Introduction to Descriptive
Linguistics, rev. ed. (New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston,
1961), p. 406.

to produce a "folksy" effect.

In the case of a writer who purposely uses non-

standard spellings for a calculated effect, the fact that

a number of these spellings are Eye Dialect forms is not

conclusive evidence that he is intentionally using Eye

Dialect. Indeed he may be quite unaware of the existence

of Eye Dialect. Ke may be under the impression that the

spellings he is using represent Regional Dialect or Sub-

standard Dialect. Or, being aware that such spellings as

sea, minit, and wimin are traditional in dialect writing,

he may simply be adhering to the tradition without any

consideration of the pronunciations such spellings represent.

Another possibility is that the writer is saying to the

reader, "this is the way my dialeet character would spell

this word if he were called on to do so."

In this study, the prevalence and the literary

effect of Eye Dialect forms in the works of certain American

writers have been dealt with. Sometimes it has been

possible to point out a writer's probable intentions in

using Eye Dialect. It is, of course, impossible to be

certain as to just what a writer had in mind when he use

a particular form. Therefore when the writers "intentions"

or "purposes" are referred to, it should be understood that

these are conjectures based on the evidence available.

Another characteristic of Eye Dialect is the fact

that it must be intended to represent the actual speech

of soe person. -hen James Russell Lowell makes Ezekiel
Biglow use such spellings as wuz (was) and cum (come) in
a letter Biglow wrote to the editor of the Boston Courier,

he shows nothing about Biglow's speech, but only that he

(Biglow) cannot spell. The non-spoken, quasi-phonetic
spellings are not Eye Dialect as that term is defined for
the purposes of this study.
Another example of such spellings occurs in one

of the stories of Augustus Baldwin Longstreet in his book,
Georgia Scenes. In this story, "The Gander Pullin," a

hand-printed sign announces the event which gives the

story its title in the following words:
Those woo wish To be inform heareof, is heareof
notyfide that *dwd. Prater will giv a gander pullin,
jis this side of harisburg, on Catterday of these
presents munth to all woo mout wish to partak tharof.7

Such spellings as Satterd, uth, notified, and
several others in the above are quasi-phonetic spellings.8

If pronounced as written they would not differ in sound

from a standard pronunciation of the sase words. However,
they are not Eye Dialect as they are not meant to represent

6james Russell Lowell, The Biglow Papers
(Philadelphia: Henry Altemus, 19 ), pp. 45-46.
7A Native Georgian [Augustus Baldwin Longstreet] ,
Georgia Scenes (New York: Harper and Brothers, 1897), p. 147.
8The term "quasi-phonetic spelling" is used in this
study to mean a spelling which, though nonstandard, would
indicate a standard pronunciation if pronounced. Those
quasi-phonetic spellings which are intended to represent
actual speech are Eye Dialect.

the actual speech of anyone, but only tell the reader that

the maker of the sign has, through ignorance, unintention-

ally misspelled a number of words.

The advertising industry often finds it expedient

to use quasi-phonetic spellings to catch the customer's

eye. Sometimes these spellings are intended to give the

impression of being unintended as when an Atlanta restaurant,

the "7 Steers" advertises itself as "the 1st Resterant ever

to interduce sollid Concrete windows for the Bennyfit of

folks that do Not wont there Freinds to see te Eating

in such a place instead of some fancy place like the Walled

Off Asstoria." The same restaurant serves suh itms as

"pore man's T-bone," "breckfastburgers," and "torater juice

cocktale." There are a number of quasi-phonetic spellings

mixed in with nonstandard spellings of other types in the

folksy approach taken by the "7 Steers." However, no

effort is being nade here to convey the actual epeeh of

anyone; it is instead a studied attempt to use pseudo-

unintentional nonstandard spellings for supposedly humorous


In the naming of products the use of nonstandard,

quasi-phonetic spellings is also prevalent. Such products

as Gleem, fpic 'n Span, Fish Ftix, ne Suds, and Pul are

illustrative of a tendency that is widespread, and which

probably is connected with legal difficulties involved in

obtaining copyright.

Quasi-phonetic spellings may be fo in a variety

of places including the signs advertising eating places

(Pig 'n Whistle, Bill 'n' Joe's, etc.), and in the titles
of popular songs (Alla My Love, I Wanna Thank You, It

Happens Ev'ry Time), etc. None of these uses, however, or
the use in trade names mentioned above is an attempt to

represent the distinctive speech of any character in a
literary work.
Dependence of Eve Dialect on a standard spelling.--

In order for Eye Dialect to exist in a language, that
language must have a reasonably well-standardized system

of spelling. The usefulness of the spelling enuf as an
Eye Dialect form depends upon the fact that in the English
language there is a standard spelling enough for the same

word. It is necessary also for the reader to know the
standard spelling of the word if the nonstandard spelling

is to produce the desired effect. Thus to some extent the

appreciation of Eye Dialect by the reader depends on his
ability as a speller of standard English, just as the

appreciation of Regional Dialect and Substandard Dialect

depends upon the reader's being acquainted with the standard

Since standard spellings are a prerequisite to the
use of Eye Dialect as a literary device, one would not
expect to find the device used extensively in English mch
before the nineteenth century. A degree of uniformity in

spelling was being approached by the printing houses during
the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, but it remained

for the great dictionaries of the middle and late eighteenth
centuries to give their backing and weight of authority to
this developing system.9 In the minds of most people, the
"fixing" of English spelling is associated with the diction-
ary of Samuel Johnson in 1755.

The relationship of the written language to the
spoen lanuage.--The use of Eye Dialect also depends upon

the relationship or "fit" of the written language and the

spoken language. In order for variant spellings of a word

to indicate the sae standard pronunciation, there must

be some leeway in the choice of the writing symbols used

to convey a given sound. In English, for examle, the

phonewe /e/ which occurs in the words fate and bait is

written as the letter a in the first and as the digraph ai
in the second. The /i/ of ost is represented in writing

by the letters ea, while the same phoneme in meet is
represented by the letters ee.

The fact that the same sound may be spelled more
than one way thus makes Eye Dialect possible. In languages
where the "fit" of the written and spoken forms is relatively
exact, where each sound may be expected to appear in writing

as only one letter or combination of letters, the oppor-
tuity for the use of Eye Dialect is much more limited

than it is in English.

9tuart Robertson, The development of Modern English,
rev. by Frederick G. Cassidy T2nd ed.; New York: Prentice-
Hall, Inc., 1954), pp. 334-35.


The scarcity of regional d alect differences in
the United States.--Probably the prevalence of Eye Dialect

in the works of a number of American writers depends, at

least partially, on the relative scarcity of regional

dialect differences in the speech of people in the United

States. Baugh has pointed out that by the beginning of the

nineteenth century the uniformity of American English had

been noted and commented on by a number of writers and

travelers. Speaking of American English, Baugh comments

on the fact that we now have a standard which is uniformly

followed throughout the country with some minor variations:

It is not an imposed standard or a class dialect,
except in so far as different levels of usage must
be recognized here as in other countries. Complete
uniformity cannot be claimed for this standard. In
New England and the South there are particular
differences, as of pronunciation, that are easily
recognized. . But just because they can be
perceived it is easy to exaggerate them, while losing
sight of the great majority of features which the 10
speech of all parts of the country shares in common.

The lack of a large number of distinguishing features,

particularly in pronunciation, obviously makes it difficult

for a writer to give a regional flavor to the speech of

his characters. In the case of a number of writers, it

would appear that Eye Dialect has been used in an effort

to satisfy this need. When a reader is told that a

character is from a certain region, he naturally assumes

that the nonstandard spellings which he sees in the

10Albert C. Paugh, A History of the English Lan-
guage (New York: Appleton-Century-CroEs, nc., 1957T)
p. -416.


representation of that character's speech represent genuine

regional peculiarities of pronunciation. In reality,

however, he may be encountering a good many Eye Dialect


Eye Dialect contrasted with other methods of

indicating nonstandard speech.--There are two main ways a

writer may indicate that the speech of one of his charac-

ters is other than standard. The first way involves the

use of nonstandard morphological or syntactical construc-

tions such as "I seen it" or "It don't make no difference."

These constructions are meant to convey to the reader the

impression that the character uses nonstandard prammar.

The second method involves the use of nonstandard spellings.

These spellings are meant to convey to the reader the

impression that the pronunciation of the character is in

some way nonstandard. The writer, for example, may

indicate a Negro pronunciation of never by spelling it


The quasi-phonetic spellings which constitute Eye

Dialect belong, of course, to this second method. Also

belonging to it are the nonstandard spellings which

constitute Regional Dialect and substandard Dialect. Quite

often the two methods--the use of nonstandard morphological

and syntactical constructions to represent nonstandard

grammar and the use of nonstandard spellings to indicate

nonstandard pronunciation--are used together by a writer

in portraying the speech of a dialect character. The


following passage frm the speech of Sut Lovingood, wo
speaks what is intended to be the speech of an uneducated
Tennessee mountaineer in George fashington Harris'

Sut Lovingocd Yarns, illustrates the combined use of the


":hat caused the death of '-rs. Yardley, Eut?"
"Nuffin, only her heart stop't beating' bout
losing a nine dimunt quilt. True, she got a s!:eer'd
hoss tu run over her, but she'd a-got over that ef a
quilt hadn't been mixed up in the catastrophe. Yu
see quilts wer wun ove her speshul gifts; she run
strong on the bed-kiver question."11

In this passage nonstandard morphological and syntactical

constructions are represented by she run strong and there

are a number of nonstandard spellings which appear to

represent substandard Dialect, such as nuffin, dirunt,

skeer'd, and bed-kiver. Eye Dialect is plentiful also;

the quasi-phonetic spellings stop't, Ehul, werr, ove,

and wun are Eye Dialect, and as such would immediately

strike the eye of the reader but not the ear. Catastrophy

may or may not be Eye Dialect in that this spelling is

possibly intended to show that Sut mispronounccs the word

as C'kaete9,trofl].

Role of the reader.--Actually, the value of Eye

Dialect as a literary device depends upon the reader's

tendency not to analyze the nonstandard spellings, but to

11Cecrre ':'ahington Harris, "Mrs. Yardley's
Quilting" in Richmond Groom Beatty et al., The Literature
of the South (Chicago: 'cott, Foresran and Company, 1952~,
p. W6. --


assume that they do represent some real pronunciation

difference. Forms such as sez, .wirJen, and rinit (says,

women, minute) represent the only standard pronunciations

for all of the English-speaking world. The assumption of

readers, which has become a sort of literary tradition,

that such forms represent some pronunciation peculiarity

has furnished writers with a useful and easily manipulated

literary device, which will be discussed in the following




In using nonstandard spellings to portray the

speech of a character, the literary artist is faced with

the problem of deciding how far he wishes to go in

attempting to convey the peculiarities of the speech he has

in mind. Despite the fact that regional speech differences

are not plentiful in the United States, it is still exceed-

ingly difficult to represent those differences, plus the

peculiarities of substandard speech, by means of the

conventional alphabetical symbols. Nor is it ordinarily

the writer's intention to give an exact representation of

all the peculiarities of a character's speech. Rather he

is concerned with certain artistic values--he wishes to

choose telling details of pronunciation which will give the

reader the impression that his character is an actual

person. He does not wish to clutter the reader's mind with

too many small details, nor does he wish to resort to such

complicated or unusual spellings that the reader will have

difficulty in deciphering what the character is saying.

The reader's attention should be free to appreciate the

artistic values rather than be taken up in trying to read
the words themselves.


George Philip Krapp has pointed out that "it may
be safely put down as a general rule that the more faith-

ful a dialect is to folklore, the more completely it
represents the actual speech of a group of people, the less

effective it will be from a literary point of view."1 It

is for this reason that the use of Eye Dialect is often

justified even though it actually represents nothing more

than a standard pronunciation. It is better to use Eye

Dialect than to burden the reader with outlandish forms

intended to represent all the intricacies of regional
speech or substandard speech. Eye Dialect does provide a

hint to the reader that the speech of a character in some

way differs from normal, conventional speech. At the same

time, because Eye Dialect consists of quasi-phonetic

spellings which represent what are the reader' s own
pronunciations, it may usually be deciphered by the reader

without much difficulty.

It is true that the same nonstandard spelling may

on occasion represent different pronunciations to different
readers. For example, the spelling haid for head may

appear to one reader to be intended to rhyme with aid,

in which case it would be a Substandard Dialect form

perhaps intended to represent a pronunciation heard in

some parts of the South, but recognized in all regions as

1George Philip Krapp, "The Psychology of Dialect
Writing," The Bookman, 63 (Dec., 1926), 523.


nonstandard. To another reader it may appear that haid
is intended to rhyme with said--in which case it is an

Eye Dialect form. The difficulty suggested here is discussed

in Chapter III, which deals with the problems in graphics

which Eye Dialect involves for an author. For the present
chapter it has been necessary for me to use my own judg-

ment in determining what pronunciation a certain spelling
is intended to represent.

To arrive at the status of various pronunciations

indicated by dialect forms, Kenyon and Knott's A Pro-

nouncing Dictionary of Arerican English has been used.

This dictionary has as its purpose "to give only pronun-

ciations that are in general cultivated use--to give none

that need to be avoided as incorrect or substandard."2 It

records "Cultivated Colloquial English," not the English

of "formal public address or public reading." If a non-

standard spelling appears to represent a pronunciation that

according to the dictionary is standard throughout the

United States, it is considered Eye Dialect. While it is

true that there is a theoretical difficulty involved in

using a relatively recent (1953) dictionary to determine

mid-nineteenth century standard pronunciations (as has been

necessary at times in this study), in actuality changes in

2John Samuel Kenyon and Thomas Albert Knott, A
Pronouncing Dictionary of American English (Springfield,
ass.: G. C. Merriam Company, 1953), p. xxvii.

standard pronunciations have teen so slight during the

period covered by the study that its use presents no real


In discussing the use of Eye Dialect as a literary

device by American writers it is obviously not possible to

examine all the works of every American writer and to point

out each example of its use, nor would there be any value

in doing so. Therefore a number of American authors have

been selected who have made use of Eye Dialect, and examples

from their works are given in an effort to indicate how

they have used it and for what purposes.
The first writer to be considered is the "frontier

humorist," Ceorge Washington Harris. Harris belongs to

that group of writers which includes Seba Smith (Major

Jack Downing), Johnson Jones Hooper (Simon Suggs), David

Ross Locke (Petroleum V. Nasby), H. ". Shaw (Josh Billings),

T. C. Haliburton (Sam Slick), Charles Farrar Browne

(Artemus 'ard), and others who developed humorous "dialect

characters" during the period from 1830 until the and of

the Civil "ar. Harris called his "dialect character" Sut

Lovingood. Sut is supposed to be a rough, "ornery"

Tennessee mountaineer. His idea of a good time is the

playing of crude, sometimes cruel, practical jokes. Harris,

apparently to give the reader the pleasure of being con-

tinually aware that Sut is a complete ignoramus and

buffoon, uses a nonstandard spelling for practically every
word Sut says. Sut's speech is a concentration of

Substandard Dialect, soe Regional Dialect and a great

deal of Eye Dialect. Here is a sample of Sut's way of


Well, to cum tu the serious part ove this
conversashun, that is how the old quilt-mersheen
an' coverlidloom cum tu stop operashuns on this
yeath. She had narrated hit thru the neighborhood
that nex Saterday she'd giv a quiltin--three quilts
an' one cumfurt tu tie. "Goblers, fiddils, gals an'
whiskey," were the words she sent tu the menfolk,
an' mere tetchin ur wakenia words never drap't often
an 'oman's tongue. She sed tu the gals, "Sweet
toddy, huggin, dancin, ant huggers in 'bundance."
Them words struck the gals rite in the pit ove the
stumick, an' spread a ticklin sensashun bof ways,
ontil they scratched thar heads wif one han' an'
Thar heels wif tuther.3

Probably the most noticeable aspect of this kind

of writing is the heavy concentration of nonstandard

spellings. Such writing is not easy to read. There is

too much variation from conventional spelling to allow a

reader to skim over a passage and get its meaning. There

are words which defy the reader's effort to decipher them

such as "coverlidloom" and "quilt-mersheen." (These may

stand for "coverlet loom" and "quilt-machine" but it

requires some study to arrive at even this probable

solution.) The many Eye Dialect spellings indicate that

the writer is not making a serious effort to convey any

regional or class dialect. Rather he is using an easy

method of conveying to the reader the impression that Lut

Lovingood is funny, that he is an ignorant yokel to be

3Harris, p. 400.


laughed at.

The spellings which are easily recognizable as

Eye Dialeet include tu (to), cun (come), ove (of),

conversashun (conversation), operashuns (operations),

Saturday (Saturday), cumfurt (comfort), fiddils (fiddles),

wer (were), sed (said), rite (right), sensashun (sensa-

tion), and scratched (scratched). There are other

spellings (sh as an' in an unstressed position) that

also may be considered Eye Dialect upon closer examination.

It is not necessary, however, to consider each individual

nonstandard spelling in writing of this type to understand

what purpose the author has in mind. He is not attempting

a scientific delineation of a regional or class dialect,

but is "laying it on thick" to give the reader a laugh.

It is doubtful whether many readers today would have the

patience to wade through such a conglomeration of non-

standard spellings. They no longer seem humorous enough

to justify the deciphering effort involved.

This use of "comical" misspelling is equally

noticeable in the writing of David Ross Locke. His dialect

character, Petroleum V. Nasby, writes letters that are

full of quasi-phonetic spellings. There is little effort

made to indicate regional peculiarities. Nasby's spellings

are not actually Eye Dialect in that they would appear to

indicate not the speech of anyone, but the peer spelling

of Nasby. However, to show how the writer has used quasi-
phonetic spellings liberally to create a dialect character,


a brief passage is included here:

The sole uv Nasby's feet knoze no rest. Eternal
viggillance is the rise uv liberty, and a old Dimekrat
who hea never skratched a tikkit and who never spile
his likker by deloo-hii, kin work in these perilus
times.T aa enagd n organizin sosieties on the
basis uv the Union ez it wuz, the Constitooshn ez it
is, and the nigger wher he ought to be. This
imrployment soots me. The apossel bizness I like.4

(The spellings which to me seem to be quasi-phonetic are

The surprising thing about the letters of Nasby

is that they are fairly easy to read. Unlike the conver-

sation of Sut Lovingood, Nasby's nonstandard spellings are
almost all quasi-phonetic and easily recognizable. then

Nasby says in a typical sentence taken from another chapter,

"I maek no boasts uv what my speshel clames air, but I hav

dun the party som servis'5 about half of the words are

misspelled and yet the reader has little difficulty

recognizing them. It would appear to be the Substandard

Dialect and Regional Dialect that is mixed in with Eye

Dialect in Eut Lovingood's speech that make it difficult

reading--not the Eye Dialect itself.

Dialect writing very similar to that of Locke was

used by a more famous humorist, Charles Farrar Browne.

His dialect character, Artemus Ward, has this to say in a

4David Ross Locke, Divers Views, pinicns and
Prophecies of Yoors Trooly Petr-oleum Nasby (Cincinnati:
R. U. Carroll & Co., 1l6t), p. 119.
51bid., p. 47.

"Fourth of July Oration, Delivered July 4, at Weathersfield,

Conn., 1859":

Feller Citisens--I hain't got time to notis the
growth of Ameriky frum the time when the Mayflowers
cum over in the Pilgrim and brawt Plymsuth Rock
ith him, but every skool boy nose our kareer has
been tremenjis. You will excuse me if I don't
rase the er settlers of the Kolonies. Pele
whic hung idiotic old wimin for watches, burnt
holes in Quakers tongues and consined their feller
critters to the tredmill and pillery on the slitest
provocashun may have bin very nice folks in their
way, but I must confess I don't admire their stile,
and will pass them by.o

The many underlined quasi-phonetic spellings indicate the
extent to which Browne depended upon them in making his

character comical. It is interesting to note that Artemus

Ward misspells such simple words as come, fre, and been
while he is able to spell such words as idiotic, growth,

witches, Quakers, and tongues. There is no indication,

however, that Browne was attempting to follow any consistent

pattern of misspelling.

Writers like G. W. Harris, Locke, and Browne are

representative of a group that made use of quasi-phonetic

spellings haphazardly to indicate the lack of education of

their comic characters. In some cases--Sut Lovingood, for
example--these quasi-phonetic spellings are intended to

convey a character's speech and may properly be called
Eye Dialect, while in others--such as Petroleum V. Masby--

6Charles F. Browne, The Complete Works of Arteus
Ward (London: Chatto & Windu-, 1910), pp. 312l4.


the spellings are contained in letters and are only evidence
that the dialect characters cannot spell. In either case,
there is no careful effort to convey either substandard
speech or regional speech but only to give a crude, broad,
undifferentiated "comical" effect.
Another writer who developed well-known dialect
characters was James Russell Lowell. In considering
Lowell's use of dialect in The _il Papers, the letters

from Ezekiel Biglow and Hosea Biglow must be considered
separately froa what Lowell in the introduction calls "the

metrical portion of the book." The letters are replete
with nonstandard spellings, many of them quasi-phonetic

spellings, which indicate only that the writers of the

letters are uneducated men. These letters make frequent use

of sed for said, wuz for was, cum for come, shure enuf for
sure enough, and other similar and easily recognizable
quasi-phonetic spellings. The "metrical portions" on the
other hand are much more sparing in their use of nonstandard
spellings. In them it is apparent that Lowell has made an
effort to carry out the rules for writing the genuine Yankee
dialect which he set forth in his introduction. To quote

Lowell: "In the metrical portion of the book, I have
endeavoured to adapt the spelling as nearly as possible to
the ordinary mode of pronunciation."7

7James Russell Lowell, The Biglow Papers
(Philadelphia: Henry Altemus, 1i-9), p. 37.

The rules Lowell gives us are as follows:

1. The genuine Yankee never gives the rough
sound to the r when he can help it, and often
displays considerable ingenuity in avoiding it
even before a vowel.

2. He seldom sounds the final g, a piece of
self-denial if we consider his partiality to nasals.
The same of the final d, as han' and stan' for hand
and stand. --

3. The h in such words as while, when, where,
he omits altogether.

4. In regard to a, he shews some inconsistency,
sometimes giving a close and obscure sound, as hey
for have, hendy for hand ez for as, thet for thEt,
and again giving it the- roa3 soun-it has in father,
as handsome for handsome.

5. To the sound ou he prefixes an e (hard to
exemplify other than orally).

6. Au, in such words as daughter and slaughter
he pronounces ah.

7. To the dish thus seasoned add a drawl ad

It is not necessary here to examine the metrical
parts of The Biglow Papers to see how closely they follow

8A brief cent is perhaps in order on Lowell's
phonetics as they are somewhat amateurish. For example,
in Rule 2, Lowell is obviously referring oly to the "final
g" in present participles--not to "final g" in si thing,
dog, etc. And by "final g" he actually means the velar
nasal[rJ In the same rule he refers to the loss of the
"final d" after n, though the wording of the rule makes it
appear that he means all "final d's." Nor does he distin-
guish between sounds and letters, but speaks of the omission
of h in Rule 3 when he means the omission of the sound [h1;
in Rule 5 he refers to "the sound ou" when ou is, after all,
not a sound but a sequence of letters. His use of the term
"drawl" in connection with the "Yankee Dialect" is curious,
since that term is now popularly considered a characteristic
of Southern speech, and is seldom applied to New England


the rules given9 but it is important to note that there is
no provision here for Eye Dialect spellings. Yet in
examining ne of IIosea Biglow's peoms, "The Debate in the

Sennit," a number of such spellings are found--sennit for
nae, sez for s bisness and bisness for business,
ouphto for to, wua for was, du for do, tu for to,
factory for factory and privileges for privileges--which

represent pronunciations very commonly occurring in
Standard English. None of Lowell's rules appear to account
for these particular spellings and it would appear that,
as Krapp noted, his practice is more complicated than his
rules. It seems probable that a number of the spellings

were already established as traditional Eye Dialect forms,
and that Lowell simply made use of them as a matter of
course. It is also probable that Lowell, despite his
serious intentions, allowed some to slip in through care-
lessness--his rules, after all, indicate that he was nt
really a very keen observer of speech. Besides, it is not
difficult to write an Eye Dialect form without realizing
it. As Sumner Ives has observed: "Seme of it [Eye Dialect]

S. seems to be inevitable even in the most carefully

9Such an examination was made of Lowell's "The
Courtin" by George Philip Krapp in The English Language
in America, I, 233-236. His conclusions were that the
rules given were not particularly apt for setting forth
the Yankee dialect and that Lowell often did not follow

done literary dialect."10 Why then do these lapses from

the portrayal of "genuine Yankee" dialect traits not

disturb the reader? The answer seems to be that the

reader is willing to accept all variant spellings as

evidence that the character who uses them is the kind of

person the author has indicated he is. The author lets

the reader know that Ezekiel and Hosea Biglow are u-ndu-

cated yokels in a number of ways--the comments in the

introduction, the incorrect syntax and spelling in the

letters, the intellectual content of the letters and poems.

In the introduction he assures the reader that in the

metrical portions the spelling has been adapted to indicate

Yankee pronunciation. The reader is satisfied. He reads

the Eye Dialect forms without pondering whether they

actually do represent pronunciation differences. Only the

serious student of dialect is likely to note that Eye

Dialect is scattered throughout the metrical portions.

In 1871 Edward Eggleston wrote The Hoosier school-

master, a book which he later in a preface to the edition

of 1892 called "the file leader in the procession of

American dialect novels."11 Certainly it was a forerunner

of a number of novels and short stories which dealt with

lOSumner Ives, "A Theory of Literary Dialect,"
Tulane Studies in English, vol. II, (1950), p. 147.
lEdward Eggleston, The Hoosier Schoolmaster (New
York: Grosset and Dunlap, 1913), p. 6.


particular locations in the United States. These literary

works concentrated on depicting the actual customs, speech,

habits, and mannerisms of natives of a certain area; that

which gave rise to them is often called the "Local Color"

movement in American Literature. Among the leaders of this

movement were: Bret Harte, Mark Twain, and Joaquin Miller,

who wrote of the West; Joel Chandler Harris, Lafcadio Hearn

and George Washington Cable, who wrote of the South; Sarah

Orne Jewett and Mary Wilkins Freeman, who wrote of New

England; Edward Eggleston, Joseph Kirkland and Hamlin

Garland, who wrote of the Middle West.

,As the aim of the local colorists was to give to

the reader the full flavor of the locales they had chosen

to depict, often with an accent on what was quaint and

picturesque, it was natural that they would seek to provide

an impression of the actual sound of the speech of their

characters. Consequently they made some use of genuine

Regional Dialect. The motive of the local colorists in

writing dialect thus differed from the motive of the pre-

Civil War dialect writers such as G. W. Harris, Locke,

Browne and Lowell. While the earlier writers, for the most

part, merely wished to make their dialect characters appear

ignorant and rustic (and thus funny), the local colorists

wished to display the actual regional speech of their

characters. Thus while the earlier writers were content

to mix together Eye Dialect, Regional Dialect, and Sub-

standard Dialect at random, the local colorists were


confined to the use of Regional Dialect for depicting the

standard speech of the locale, or to Substandard Dialect

for depicting its nonstandard speech. Any Eye Dialect that

crept into the nonstandard spellings of the local colorists

would, at least in theory, constitute a mistake on the part

of the author. In actual practice, however, there is enough

Eye Dialect in the writing of som of them to indicate

either that they were often inaccurate in their attempts to

analyze the characteristics of the regional speech or sub-

standard speech they wished to portray, or else that they

recognized Eye Dialect, perhaps unconsciously, as a useful

and legitimate literary device.

A study of the works of Edward Eggleston by W. L.

McAtee reveals a number of Eye Dialeet forms. In the

section called (by Mr. McAtee) "Phonetic or Near-Phonetic

Spellings" we find the following forms used by Eggleston:

akordin' for according, apposil for apostle, father for

feather, giv for Live, ov for of, penitenshry for peniten-

tiary, rite for rht, and tho' for thoue .12 All of these,

save possibly the first, appear to be Eye Dialect and there

are in addition a number of other spellings listed by Fr.

McAtee in other sections of his study which may be classified

as such, either wholly or in part. For example, there are

the spellings liker for liquor, and wuz for was, both of

12W. L. McAtee, studies in the Vocabularies of
Hoosier Authors: Edward Eggleston 02 (Chapel Hill,
N. C.: Printed by the Corpiler, 1961), p. 124.


which are Eye Dialect in their entirety. Some examples
of words that are at least partially Eye Dialect are
keerlessness (carelessness) and kyard (card) in which k

has replaced c without indicating any change in the

initial sound of the words (in the case of both the k is
preferable to c also because they might be read with an

initial [s]), nuff (enough) in which the nuff has replaced

nouh with no phonetic significance, and larf (laugh) in
which f has replaced gh, also with no change in sound.

Eggleston spells creature on one occasion as creetur--

the replacing of ea by ee is certainly Eye Dialect, but
there is no way of knowing with certainty whether he

intended the t of the last syllable to represent [cj, as

it does in the standard spelling, or [t], as it does in

such nonstandard spellings as critter. He spells the

Substandard Dialect form meaning once as once, onst, and

wunst. The last of the three spellings is partially Eye

Dialect in its use of the quasi-phonetic spelling ns to
represent the usual spelling once. The addition of the t

at the end, of course, makes the word Substandard Dialect

rather than Eye Dialect, since the pronunciation indicated

is not standard in any section of the United States, or,

for that matter, the English-speaking world. Of the three
spellings used by Eggleston, however, the wunst spelling

best represents the sound of the word to the reader, and

this is an example where quasi-phonetic spelling is

actually necessary to prevent conveying the wrong sound--


the other two spellings could easily be taken to represent

[DnsEt] and [Dnst] .
There can be no doubt that Eggleston was making

a serious attempt to give a true picture of Hoosier

speech. He dedicated The Hoosier Schoolmaster to James

Russell Lowell "whose cordial encouragement to my studies

of American dialect is gratefully remembered." The same

book contains numerous footnotes in which the author

explains why he is using certain spellings and how they

represent some particular characteristic of pronunciation.

But it is difficult to understand how Eggleston could

have thrown in spellings such as rite for right or giv

for give without realizing that they do not convey any

peculiarity of Hoosier pronunciation but rather simply

standard pronunciation. It seems more likely that he

willingly used a certain amount of Eye Dialect knowing

that the reader would not hold him to strict account for

it, or perhaps he was unconscious of it.

One of the most accurate of the local colorists

in his efforts to convey regional (and substandard)

speech was Joel Chandler Harris, the author of the well-

known Uncle Remus stories. Harris was attempting to

convey the speech of an old-fashioned Georgia plantation

Negro in these stories. Sumner Ives, who has made a

study of the nonstandard spellings found in them, has

said that the fact "that these spellings can actually be

interpreted, that their interpretation reveals a consistent


phonology, and that this phonology is clearly based on
accurate observation of a genuine folk speech are all

matters of considerable importance to judgments of Harris

as a literary craft man."13 Ives comes to the conclusion
that "we can be reasonably sure that the folk speech of

the plantation Negro has been successfully used as a

literary medium, even though we cannot regard the result
as the equivalent of a precise phonetic transcription."14

Krapp has said, "No more skilful literary transcriptions

of Southern speech, both the speech of whites and of

negroes, have been made than those of Joel Chandler Har-

Despite the fact that Harris is recognized as

an unusually accurate observer of speech and far above

average in his ability to convey speech peculiarities on

the printed page, it is noticeable that some Eye Dialect

has found its way into his writing. The fact that there

is very little of it, considering the large number of
nonstandard spellings he uses, indicates that Harris was

making a real effort to see to it that his nonstandard
spellings actually represented pronunciation differences.

It also bears out, however, the comment of Ives mentioned

13Sumner Ives, "The Phonology of the Uncle Remus
Stories," Publications of the American Dialect Society,
XIII (November, 1954), -.
14Ibid., p. 7.

15Krapp, The English Language in America, I, 240.

earlier, that some Eye Dialect is inevitable. The following
are "nonsignificant" spellings found by Ives which may be
classified as Eye Dialect: bin (been), b'ilt (built),
bizness (business), meezles (measles), du (does), sum

(some), lim's (limbs), clime (climb), impatients (im-
patience), fassen (fasten), lissen (listen), comp'n'y

(company), squirl (squirrel), half n' our (half an hour),
shake um (shake them), youk'n (you can), wuzzent (wasn't).

The list is not complete in that Ives lists perhaps twice
its number of "non-significant" spellings during the

course of his study. However it is sufficient to indicate

how Harris seems to have slipped up on such typical Eye

Dialect spellings as bin, sum, and duz--that is, he almost

certainly unintentionally used them. Perhaps he was

merely following the tradition that often used these Eye

Dialect forms in place of the standard ones. But if such
were the case, it hardly seems that he would have gone

to such pains to indicate peculiarities of pronunciation
in other words. The list also shows a number of less

usual Eye Dialect forms such as meesles for measles. It
is my opinion that both the usual and unusual Eye Dialect

forms were used by mistake.
In the ratio of Eye Dialect forms used to total
number of nonstandard spellings, Harris is certainly more
sparing in his use of Eye Dialect than another Southern

writer, Sidney Lanier. Lanier has used nonstandard

spellings in only a few short poems and in a small portion


of his novel, Tiger Lilies. Yet it is not difficult to
find Eye Dialect forms within this relatively small body

of dialect writing. Lanier has represented the speech of

both poor whites and Negroes. There is an interesting
comment in the introduction to the first volume of The

Centennial Edition of the Works of Sidney Lanier:
Though the modern attitude favors the use of idiom
and speech tune rather than dialectal misspelling--
feeling a false exaggeration in the phonetic repre-
sentation of illiterate speech which implies that
educated speech conforms to standard spelling--
Lanier was more meticulous and accurate than most
of his contemporaries in recording the actual 16
language of the Negro, as well as of the Cracker.

This evaluation of Lanier as being "meticulous and

accurate" in "recording the actual language" seems, at

first glance, contradictory in view of his rather extensive

use of Eye Dialect. However, at least part of his use of
Eye Dialect is clever and purposeful. He appears to make

certain conscious uses of it in a number of instances
when he wishes to gain a special effect.
One of his most striking Eye Dialect spellings

is the use of cum for come. It is present in what is

probably Lanier's best-known dialect-poem, "Thars More

in the ran Than Thar Is in the Land." The poem concerns

a "cracker" who sells his farm, leaves to seek his fortune

in Texas, and returns emptyhanded five years later. The

16The Centennial Edition of the Works of Sidney
Lanier, ed. Charles R. Anderson and othe'Rrs vols.:
Daltinore: The Johns Hopkins Press, 1945), I, xlix.

stanza is as follows:

And thar was Jones, standing' out at the fence,
And he hadn't no waggin, nor mule, nor tents,
Fur he had left Texas afoot and cua
To Georgy to see if he couldn't get sum
Employment, and he was a looking' as hm-
Ble as if he had never owned any land.

The spelling of cor as cum in the third line and some

as sua in the fourth are examples of an unusual use of

Eye Dialeet. It seems probable that Lanier changed the

spelling in order that cum, sum and hum might be "perfect

rimes"--that is, that the vowels and final consonants

might be identical in appearance as well as in sound.

Cum appears again in the sixth stanza of another dialect-

poem, "Jones' Private Argument" and also in the third

stanza of "Them Ku Klux," but in four other dialect-

poems it is absent, with come being given its standard


A clever use of Eye Dialect to form "perfect

rimes" occurs in "Them Ku Klux." The lines are as


"I'll read you," says I, "but whur air my spex?
I thought that I laid em right thar, jest nex
To that newspaper: Nancy where air my spex?"

Spex is Eye Dialect for specs, a shortened form of

spectacles which is good colloquial usage. Nex, though

at first glance it does not appear to be Eye Dialect,

actually is, for the usual pronunciation of next to is

InEksta] and it can be seen that only one t is needed.

By changing the spelling of specs and by leaving the t out


of next, Lanier is able to make a "perfect rime." The
effectiveness of the device can be seen by comparison of
the difference in appearance of spex-nex and specs-next.
Sidney Lanier wrote only seven dialect-poems in
all. Five of them--"Thar's More in the Man Than Thar Is
in the Land," "Jones' Private Argument," "Civil Rights,"
"Them Ku Klux" and "9 from 8"--are attempts to represent
cracker dialect; the remaining two (which he wrote in
collaboration with his brother Clifford Lanier) are
attempts at Negro dialect. These two--"The Power of
Prayer" and "Uncle Jim's Baptist Revival Hymn" are quite
sparing in their use of Eye Dialect, particularly con-
sidering that roughly fifty per cent of the words in these
poems have nonstandard spellings. The word enough is
spelled enuff in a line from "The Power of Prayer" which
reads "De Debble's coin' round dat bend, he's coming'
shuh enuf." Lanier is only one of many writers who have
felt an urge to respell enough and have come up with an
Eye Dialect form. Probably he was only using a traditional
Eye Dialect spelling. This poea also uses the common Eye
Dialect spelling vittles for victuals. A more unusual

Eye Dialect spelling in the same poem is sence for sense.
An interesting nonstandard spelling occurs in both
"9 from 8" and "Uncle Jim's Baptist Revival Hymn." It is

the spelling fiel' lark for field lark. This appears to be
what A Pronouncing Dictionary of American English calls a
functionall, or sandhi, form" in that it represents a

pronunciation resulting from the effect of the initial
sound of a following word. The PDAE does not record the
pronunciation of field lark, but it sems likely that
the final [dj of field is lost in a way similar to the
loss of final [d] in the sand of sand pile saenpaal],

which it does record and comment on.

Kenyon's American Pronunciation has this to say
about these functionall forms":

The tendency to assimilation as a result of
the various sound junctions that are made in daily
speech is always present. . Our attitude toward
assimilations must be determined by judgment, by
observation of the actual habits of people who are
accepted as speaking well, and by a desire to speak
clearly without being artificial. Too much avoid-
ance of the common assimilations of current good
usage, such as the insistence on [mit ju], don'tt ju ,
[netjurj, [Edjukefe n, instead of normal [mitfu],
[dontJu], fnete], [cd3ukelen], is pedantic; while
too liberal surrender to the tendency results in
careless or slovenly utterance. i
Based on Kenyon's observations, the form field' lark would
appear to be in the "doubtful" category as far as being
Eye Dialect is concerned; it is obviously a representation
of a pronunciation which omits the [d] and which may or

may not be a standard pronunciation.
To mention some other Eye Dialect spellings in
the five cracker dialect-poems--and there are quite a few
of them in these poems--one may find the following in

17John Samuel Kenyon, American Pronunciation
(6th ed. rev.; Ann Arbor, George 1:ahr, publisher, 1935),
p. 75. I have indicated Kenyon's use of boldface type by
the use of square brackets.


"9 from 8": nuthin' for nothing, forrad for forehead,
werkin' for (the loss of the final & is discussed
in Chapter III of this study), giv for give, and sum for
some. In "Thars More in the Man Than Thar Is in the Land"
there is found the eemion Eye Dialect spelling wimmen for
woman. "Civil Rights" has bin for been though the same
word is given its standard spelling five lines earlier in
the poem. It appears that Lanier changes the spelling to
bin so that it will look like a (again) as well as rime
with it. In "Jones' Private Argument" the word tare in
the line, "But tare up every I 0 U" is an Eye Dialect
spelling for tear.
Turning to Lanier's prose, the novel Tiger Lii!
makes considerable use of Eye Dialect in conveying the
speech of mountaineers and negroes. Cain Smallin, a
mountaineer of the Great Smokies, comes to the rescue of
his friends during a fight and makes the following state-
ment: "I was a right smart tine a-eonir', but when I did
come, I cum, by the living Phe-e-e-w!" The italics
of cum are Lanier's and this use of Eye Dialect is one not
encountered in any of the other authors examined. The
spellings cone and cum are in the same sentence, but cum
is obviously used here as a more emphatic form of the word.
There is no indication of any pronunciation difference

18The Centennial Edition of the Works of Sidney
Lanier, V,-IT7.

represented in the two spellings, except that the Eye
Dialect form gets more emphasis. The use of Eye Dialect

here seems akin to the use of the exclamation point.

Another curious use of Eye Dialect occurs in Tiger

Lilies with the spelling of coffee as kauphy. Lanier

explains his use of kauphy in the following passage:

. we, genuine coffee being invisible as any
spirit during the war, made hideous images of it
and paid our devotion to these morn, noon, and night.
We made decoctions of pease, of potatoes, of pea-
nuts, of ea of corn, of okra . and called
them kauphy.1O

There is nothing in the nonstandard spelling of coffee

used here to indicate any change from the standard pronun-

ciation. The grapheme combination au represents [>] in
such words as fault, laud, Paul, and haul; the grapheme

combination phy represents LfIj in such words as physics,

trophy, and philosophy. Thus kauphy is a suitable spelling

to represent the standard pronunciation [k3fl The value

of the nonstandard form lies in its ability to emphasize

to the reader the artificiality of the beverage in question.

It also helps to express the contrast in the writer's

attitude toward being forced to drink kauphy and being

able to get a genuine cup of coffee.

In sunmary, it may be said that Lanier made

frequent use of Eye Dialect in five of his seven dialect

poems, and he also used it freely in Tiger Lilies. On

19Ibid., p. 149.


most occasions Eye Dialect is mixed in with Substandard

Dialect and Regional Dialect in his representation of the

speech of mountaineers, crackers, and negroes. There are

a number of cases, however, such as those mentioned above

in connection with "perfect rimes," and those connected

with cum used for emphasis and kauphy used to show lack

of genuineness, in which Lanier uses Eye Dialect cleverly

to obtain effects that would be difficult or impossible
to obtain without it.

Also belonging to the local color movement was

the "Hoosier Poet," James thitcomb Riley. Riley wrote a

very large number of short poems with midwestern settings

about farmers, children, local characters, and old-timers.

His tone was one of "folksiness." Certainly he was one

of the most prolific users of Eye Dialect among American

poets. A recent study of five of Riley's dialect-poems20

revealed no less than thirty-three separate instances of

its use with a number of the Eye Dialect spellings having

been used on two or more occasions. The spelling ust to

for used to justt] was in fact used eight times in the

five poems under consideration.

It is difficult to point to any specific purposes
in Riley's use of Eye Dialect. For the most part it appears

20Dale B. J. Randall, "Dialect in the Verse of
'The Hoosier Poet,"" American Speech, XXXV (1960), pp.


that he uses it along with Regional Dialect and Substandard
Dialect to indicate that the people the poems are about
are "Just good old folks like you and me." The dialect
of the poems is supposedly Indiana Hoosier dialect. How-
ever, Krapp has shown in an examination of one of Riley's
dialect-poems, "The Old Man and Jim" that it is "made up
of an abundance of ordinary colloquialisms, including
much eye dialect, with some archaisms of speech which
survive as low colloquialisms."1
A short passage from one of Riley's poems should
be sufficient to illustrate his inclusion of a number of
obvious Eye Dialect spellings among other nonstandard
spellings which he uses to produce his "folksy" effect.
Does the medder-lark complane, as he swims high and dry
Through the waves of the wind and the blue of the sky?
Does the quail set up and whissel in a disappointed way,
Er hang his head in silunce, and sorrow all the day?
Don't the buzzards ooze around up thare ust like
they've allus done?
Is they anything the matter with the rooster's lungs
or voice?
Ort a mortul be complaining' when dumb animals rejoice?
I have underlined the obvious cases of Eye Dialect. It is
interesting to note that complaining' and complane are both
found in the same stansa. Of course, the title of the
poem, "Discuraged," is itself Eye Dialect.
Leaving the local colorists, we now turn to the

IKrapp, The English e in America, I, 245.
22James Whitcomb Riley, When the Frost Is on the
Punkin and Other Poems (Indianapolis: e hobbs-ierrie
Co., -19M, p--. 7


use of Eye Dialect by Stephen Crane in his two well-known

naturalistic novels, Maggie, A Girl of the Streets and The

Red Badge of Courage. Maggie was Crane's first novel.

With reference to it one critic has said: "It was, I

believe, the first hint of naturalism in American letters.

It was not a best-seller; it offers no solution of life:

it is an episodic bit of slum fiction. . .,23

The dialect used in Ka.rrie is intended to represent

the nonstandard speech of a slum section of a large city.

Pete, the hero of the novel, if it can be said to have

one, has this to say on one occasion, "Dere was a mug

come in d'place d'odder day wid an idear he was going' town

placee."4 Most of the dialect is of this type--Eye

Dialect is used sparingly and most of the spellings appear

to represent Substandard Dialect. Eye Dialect does

occur it is largely found in such spellings as town in

the quotation given above, which may be considered an Eye

Dialect spelling of to own [teonj in which the unstressed

to [LtJ is represented by t'. However, even in the repre-
sentation of prepositions, pronouns, and conjunctions in

unstressed positions, Eye Dialect is used very little in

this first novel.

The same is not true, however, of The Red Badge of

23Vincent Starrett, Introduction to Magpie, A Girl
of the Streets, and Other Stories (New York: The Modern
LibraIryT 1933, p. 15.
24Ibid., p. 271.


Courage. Crane is net concerned here with showing class
differences, nor is there any effort to show that his
soldiers come from a particular region of the United
States and speak the dialect of that region. The dialect-
spellings Crane uses appear to be, for the most part, an
attempt to convey the rough informality of the soldiers
in eamp and in battle. There is no appreciable difference
in the speech of the generals and colonels and that of the
privates. In both cases Crane makes heavy use of Eye
Dialect to give the impression of informality. The
following passage is a typical one and may be used as an
example to show how he goes about creating the effect he
Th' lieutenant, he ses: 'He's a jianickey,' an'
th' colonel, he ses: 'Ahem! he is, indeed a very
good man t'have, aheml ge kep' th' flag 'way t'
th' front. I saw 'ia.*2
This quotation is supposed to represent the speech of one
of the soldiers, who is telling Henry Fleming of a
conversation he has overheard between the lieutenant and
the colonel. The most noticeable thing about the non-
standard spellings used is the replacing of various
vowels in unstressed positions with apostrophes. The in
unstressed position [8 is spelled th' four times, while
unstressed to t91 is spelled t- twice. Also and and

25Stephen Crane, The Red Badge of Courage, ed.
Max J. Herzberg (Ned York: D. Appleton-Century Co., 1926),
p. 207.


him are spelled an' and lim, spellings that reflect a
standard pronunciation of these two words in unstressed
position-- (an] and [Im]. It can be seen that Crane
relies most heavily on Eye Dialect forms which indicate
the effects of lack of stress on the pronunciation of
certain words in a sentence. The effect on the reader
is an impression of informality, without the definite
feeling of ignorance and crudity that the dialect in
Maggi produces. The soldiers and officers are, after
all, not being portrayed as slum characters but as men
in surroundings and under conditions that make more formal
language inappropriate.
Not all of Crane's Eye Dialect in The Red Badge
of Courage, however, is of the type just discussed. A
somewhat different type may be noted in the spelling kep'
for kept in the passage quoted. Here lack of stress is
not the factor involved. Instead it is the loss of the

final [t] due to the initial []J of the following word.
This is a loss that normally occurs in the standard
pronunciation of kept when certain consonants follow ([J
being one of them). Also Crane uses a number of coon

Eye Dialect spellings such as licker for liquor, sed
for said,27 and minnit for minute.2_ The nonstandard

26Ibid., p. 9.
27bid., p. 48.
28bid., p. 137.


spelling ses for says is used frequently throughout the

book wherever speech is being depicted. It is obviously

Eye Dialect, though the more usual Eye Dialect spelling

is sea.

Crane allows a number of inconsistencies to creep

into his use of Eye Dialect. Henry Fleming uses both

yesterday and yesterday on the same page.29 And there

would appear to be an unnecessary apostrophe or else an

unnecessary letter in the spelling gota 'nough for got

enough [gatenAf].

The fact that some errors manage to creep in does

not, however, make the dialect of The Red Badge of Courage

difficult reading. Since the book relies heavily on one

particular kind of Eye Dialect--the substitution of

alternate spellings in places where the standard spelling

doesn't take into account the effect of lack of stress--

and uses relatively little Substandard Dialect, the reader

soon becomes adjusted to nonstandard spellings and has

little trouble deciphering them. They prove to be quite

effective in conveying the impression of informality.

Leaving Crane, we now turn to some American

novelists of the twentieth century. The use of Eye Dialect

in the works of these writers cannot be classified under

any single purpose, motive, or reason. Unlike its use by

the frontier humorists and the local colorists, its use

291bid., p. 158.


by more recent novelists cannot be as easily categorized.
The purpose varies from writer to writer. In novels which

may be nearly devoid of any variety of dialect spellings,

Eye Dialect sometimes appears in a few places where least

expected and for any of a variety of reasons, for example

the use of lissen for listen used by Sinclair Lewis to

represent the speech of the booster poet-laureate, Chum

Frink, in the novel, Babbitt.30 Frink has spoken standard

English throughout the novel. But toward the last Babbitt

happens upon Frink when the poet is drunk (for the first

time in the novel). The lissen tells the reader nothing

new about Frink's pronunciation, since it apparently
represents [lisnj, the standard and only pronunciation of

listen. But the Eye Dialect spelling indicates to the

reader that something is out of the ordinary, and he takes

the author's word for it that Frink is drunk--the Eye
Dialect form then helps reinforce the impression of awkward

or sloppy speech brought about by intoxication.

In Kingsblood Royal, another of Lewis' novels,
Dr. Kenneth Kingsblood, a speaker of standard English,

muses about the possibility that the Kingsblood family is

descended from royalty (a speculation that leads to the

discovery of the Negro blood in the family). He tells his

son Neil, "Maybe we're kings. No Joke. And not any of

30Sinclair Lewis, Babbitt (New York: Harcourt,
Brace and Co., 1922), p. 272.-


these French or German rulers either--Looeys and Ferdinands
and that lot, but real royal British kings."31 The use of

the spelling Looeys for the plural of the French name

Louis appears to be Eye Dialect in that it represents the

usual English pronunciation of the name with the addition

of the regular a ending for the plural. Despite this fact,
however, the impression is given the reader through the

"incorrect" appearance of the Eye Dialect spelling that

Dr. Kenneth is a Midwestern hick incapable of the intri-

cacies of spelling or pronouncing French. This is, of

course, what Lewis wishes to indicate as the substance

of the passage eloquently attests.

On another occasion in the same novel, Lewis

writes of a group of small children at a birthday party.

The five-year-olds cluster around Neil Kingsblood and

chant, "Oh, Mister Capten Kingsblood--Oh, Mister Capten

KingsbloodI"32 The only explanation for the use of

capten for captain would seem to be that it is intended

to represent the speech of children who wouldn't know how

to spell a "big word" like captain. Actually the form

is simply Eye Dialect since it tells nothing about the

speech of the children that is in any way nonstandard.

Lewis on several occasions leaves out the spaces

31Sinclair Lewis, Kinsblood Royal (New York:
Random House, 1947), p. 38.
321bid., p. 83.


between words when he wishes to indicate generally sloppy
pronunciation, or when the words are closely related in

some common phrase. He has the "horrible daughter" of

Mr. Blingham, the assistant treasurer of the Flaver-Saver

Company, comment on the town of Grand Republic with "what

a silly name Sounds like Fourthajuly. 0, God, these

hicks!,33 Now the point is that the daughter is a New

Yorker gazing in disdain at a map of the Middle West, but

the spelling Fourthajuly indicates nothing peculiar to

New York in her speech. It is an Eye Dialect form which

recognizes that in actual speech words aren't neatly

separated and that of in unstressed position is often 3al

--a sound which may be better represented in conventional

spelling by the letter a than by any other letter except,

in a closed syllable, u. It is difficult to see why Lewis

would pick out this particular expression to misspell,

unless the fact that the three words taken together form

a frequently-used expression made him subconsciously feel

that they could be written together to indicate careless


Babbitt seems to have some such idea when he uses

the expression whaleuva for whale of a in one of his

promotional letters. The passage is as follows:

I just want to know can I do you a whaleuva
favor? Honest! No kidding! I know you're

33Ibid., p. 5.


interested in . a love-nest for the wife and
kiddies. .34

The choice of the particular spelling used is quite

likely due to analogy with a more common Eye Dialect form

helluva for hell of a. In fact, whale of a may have

originated as a minced form of hell of a.

Another twentieth-century American novelist who

has made sparing but sometimes interesting use of Eye

Dialect is William Faulkner. Considering the large number

of characters in his novels who speak either Substandard

Dialect or Regional Dialect, it is surprising that so

little Eye Dialect occurs. Faulkner's nonstandard spell-

ings nearly always are representative of nonstandard

pronunciations. It is true that he uses quasi-phonetic

spellings frequently in The Bear to represent the poor

spelling of Isaac McCaslin's ancestors as they occur in

the old ledger of their commissary store. But these spell-

ings are not intended to represent the speech of anyone.

A true example of Eye Dialect does occur in Faulkner's

short story "Wash." Wash, a "poor white" who has served

Colonel Sutpen for many years, always addresses the colonel

as "Kernel." The following is a sample of Wash's speech:

"Hyer I am, Kernel. You go back to sleep. We ain't whupped

yit, air we? Me and you kin do hit."35 Most of the non-

34Lewis, Babbitt, p. 36.

5The Portable Faulkner, ed. Malcolm Cowley (New
York: The-Viking Press, 1951), p. 175.

standard spellings in the quotation are Substandard
Dialect, but Kernel is Eye Dialect (as is kin if it is
intended to represent [kan] or[knj which are standard

pronunciations of can in unstressed position). The Ne-
groes in the story say Cunnel when speaking or referring
to Sutpen. Faulkner, the narrator, uses the standard spell-
ing colonel in telling the story. It is interesting to

conjecture why Faulkner uses the Eye Dialect spelling. It
does help differentiate Wash from the Negroes and from
Sutpen himself. Though it is impossible to say for sure

what Faulkner had in mind, it seems likely that he expects
the reader to associate the spelling with the fact that
Wash is a "poor white." Having been told that Wash is a

member of that social class, the reader is ready to believe
that the Eye Dialect form is suitable for portraying the

speech of that class, whereas, in actuality it indicates

nothing phonetically except the standard pronunciation of

the word colonel--and does that better than the conventional

Other examples of Eye Dialect in Faulkner are few
and far between. In "Ad Astra" he uses the spelling
lootenant for lieutenant, and if there is anything signifi-
cant about its use it would appear to be the fact that the
character using it is drunk.36 In "Wash" he uses dawf for

36Ibid., p. 473.

dog37 and in "Delta Autumn" coffee is spelled coffey.38
A somewhat more frequent use of Eye dialect occurs
in John Steinbeck's The Grapes of Wrath, but all of it is
used in conjunction with Regional and Substandard Dialect
in depicting the speech of the "Okies." The dropping of
the final d in words like sounds [saunsz and has [hasnz
occurs often in the novel resulting in Eye Dialect spellings
such as soun's39 and han's.40 The word Just is usually
spelled jus' throughout the novel. Sometimes this spelling
results in Eye Dialect when the word which follows begins
with [t] or [ When Ma Joad says, "Jus' try to live the
day, jus' the day," the loss of the t in just in both
places is actually a more accurate phonetic transcription
of the sounds as they would occur in colloquial speech on
all levels than the retention of it would be, since a
standard pronunciation of ust try is [Jstral] and of
ust the is [As e]. Another spelling change used by
Steinbeck which results in a number of Eye Dialect spell-
ings is the substitution of some other letter for the
letter representing a Piano, for example, is spelled
piana;41 the final o in the standard spelling represents

37Ibid., p. 178.
38Ibid., p. 725.
39John Steinbeck The Grapes of Wrath (New York:
The Modern Library, 1939), p. 194.
40Ibid., p. 348.
41Ibid., p. 39.


[,] in a standard pronunciation of the word. Substitution
of final a does not appear to change the pronunciation.

Similarly the spelling of Christmas as Christmus42 substi-

tutes u for a in depicting the [a] of the unstressed second

syllable, but the Eye Dialect spelling still indicates the

standard pronunciation [krrsmas].

A peculiar aspect of the use of Eye Dialect occurs

in its use in the drama. Since Eye Dialect forms represent

standard pronunciations, it would appear that they would

have no effect when heard rather than read. The sound

that comes from the actor's mouth is not affected by the

fact that his script may be full of Eye Dialect spellings.

The audience hears [sea] whether the script spells it sea

or says.

The fact remains, however, that a number of

American playwrights of note do make use of Eye Dialect--

Eugene O'Neill, Tennessee Williams, and Arthur Miller, to

name three of the best known. Actually there are several

possible explanations for its use by dramatists. First,

the dramatists using Eye Dialect are probably anticipating

that their plays will be published in book form for readers.

second, the Eye Dialect spellings tell the actors and

actresses something about what kind of character is

intended by the playwright. Third, it is probably easier

when conveying substandard speech or regional speech to

421bid., p. 41.


let Eye Dialect forms slip in by accident than it is to

examine each nonstandard spelling to see if it represents

a real departure from standard pronunciation. Whatever

the reason, the drama is by no means lacking in Eye Dialect.

Eugene O'Neill, for example uses it in The Emperor

Jones--the play, in fact, is entirely made up of dialect

speakers of one sort or another. The two central figures

are Brutus Jones, a colored ex-convict now acting as

"Emperor" on a small West-Indian island, and Smithers, a

cockney trader. O'Neill makes an effort to differentiate

between the Negro dialect spoken by Jones and the Cockney

dialect spoken by Smithers. The following is from one of

Jones' speeches:

It's playing' out my bluff. I has de silver bullet
moulded and I tells 'em when de time comes I kills
myself wid it. I tells 'em dates 'cause I'm de on'y
man in de world big enuff to git me. (Scene I, p.

It can be seen that this dialect is a combination of a

number of elements--errors in syntax such as "I has" and

Substandard Dialect such as de for the and wid for with

are prominent. Mixed in with these types we find some

Eye Dialect. The use of enuff for enough is an obvious

example. O'Neill uses this form repeatedly throughout the

play, and is apparently unconscious that it is Eye Dialect.

43Eugene O'Neill, Nine Plays (New York: The Modern
Library, 1932), p. 9. Scenes and page numbers refer to
this volume throughout the discussion of O'Neill's use of
Eye Dialect.


The passage quoted also has 'en in two places representing
them in unstressed positions. This is Eye Dialect also,
since a standard pronunciation of them in unstressed
position is [a a].
Also found in Jones' speech are a number of non-
standard spellings representing combinations of words.
A typical example occurs when Jones says "gimme my shovel"
(Scene 4, p. 25). The spelling irmme for give me repre-
sents a pronunciation the PDAE calls a "Junctional, or
sandhi, form." The status of such forms has been discussed
earlier (page 35), and the PDAE does not give a standard
pronunciation for gve me. This would appear to be one
of those forms, however, that it is pedantic to avoid in
normal educated conversation. Gimme accurately represents

a frequent pronunciation in unstudied speech on all levels.
In conveying the dialect of his Cockney character,
O'Neill uses a number of expressions like bloomin', bleeding ,
and bloody as well as dropping the initial h on most
occasions. Here is one of Smithers' speeches (Scene 1, p.

'E's got 'is bloomin' nerve with 'im, s'elp me!
Ho--the bleeding' nigger--puttin' on 'is bloody airs!
I hopess they nabs 'im an' gives 'im what's what!
In this quotation the dropping of the h from his and him
is an attempt to give the impression of nonstandard speech.
Actually 'is and 'im as used above represent standard
pronunciations of his and hi when they occur in unstressed


position in a sentence--that is, [I ] and [im]. Through-

out the play O'Neill drops h's when the only effect is the

production of Eye Dialect.

On the whole O'Neill appears to have taken consider-

able care to see that his nonstandard spellings in The

Emperor Jones are indicative of nonstandard speech. Except

for the examples already mentioned, only one instance of

Eye Dialect was found in the play, and that occurs when

Jones says, "De moon's risen" for"the moon's risen," in

which the spelling risen for risen is quite obviously Eye


Turning to another of O'Neill's plays, Desire
Under the Elms, in which the characters are New England

farm people, we find that he no longer spells enough as

enuff. Instead he has dropped the final f and spells it

O'Neill also makes extensive use of three favorites

of Eye Dialect writers--likker for liquor, minit for minute,

and vittles for victuals. One of the characters in the

play, Cabot, says, "Ye've swilled my likker an' guzzled my
vittles like hogs, haint ye?" (Part III, Scene I, p. 185)

Another character, Peter, has the line, "Likker don't pear

t'sot right." (Part II, Scene IV, p. 151) The Eye Dialect
spelling likker is used by O'Neill even in one of his

stage directions (Part III, -eene I, p. 184) when he writes,

"Abbie turns to her left to a big stoutish middle-aged man
whose flushed face and starting eyes show the amount of

'likker' he has consumed." It is difficult to say why
O'Neill would use the Eye Dialect spelling in a stage
direction, and enclose it in quotation marks, since there
is no indication that the liquor being served is not the
genuine article. Minute appears as minit in several
places--for example, when the character Eben says, "I
wish he'd die this minit." (Part III, Scene I, p. 185.)
Another interesting spelling which may be properly
classified as Eye Dialect is that used by Abbie for the
word friends. fhe says, "I want t' be frens with ye."
(Part I, Scene IV, p. 159) The PDAE does not list the
plural form friends, but it does comment on the fact that
it is not unusual in standard speech for [d] to be omitted
between [n] and[j]. Thus friends frenzy ] may be appro-
priately represented in Eye Dialect by Abbie's frens.
Mention should also be made of the frequent
spelling of forgive as fergive in the play. In one scene
the following dialogue occurs:
Eben. I love ye! Fergive me!
Abbie. I'd forgive ye all the sins in hell . .
(Part III, Scene IV, p. 202)
Since the standard pronunciation of forgive is given by
the PDAE as [f9gvj it would appear that the letter e
is at least as indicative of the "r-colored" vowel [l as
is the letter o of the standard spelling, and forgive

therefore may be considered Eye Dialect.
Actually O'Neill's nost frequent use of Eye Dialect
occurs in his nonstandard spellings of certain short words


in unstressed positions in sentences. The following is

a speech of Eben's which illustrates this use: "I got

to pay fur my part o' the sin! An' I'd suffer wuss leaving'
ye . thinking' of ye day an' night, bein' out when yew
was in--'r bein' alive when yew was dead." (Part III,

Scene IV, p. 203) Among the nonstandard spellings which,

as far as anyone can tell, represent nothing more than

standard pronunciation of words in unstressed positions
are o' for of [ja an for and [aen], ye for you [je] and

'r for or [aJ. The use of yew for you is particularly
interesting because it contrasts with the other spelling

ye in the same quotation. It appears that yew is also
Eye Dialect in that it is used when O'Neill intends a

stressed pronunciation of you--the context of the quotation

would appear to bear this out. Yew, if associated by the
reader with few, hew, etc., seems to represent [juj, the

standard pronunciation of you when stressed.

In commenting on O'Neill's use of Eye Dialect,
it may be pointed out that he has favorite forms which

he uses often--minit, likker, enuf, and enuff are among
them. With the exception of these, and his use of Eye

Dialect spellings of prepositions, conjunctions, and
articles in unstressed position, there are probably less
than a dozen Eye Dialect spellings in the two plays examined.
In regard to certain favorite forms, it is notable that he
uses them regardless of whether he is depicting the lan-
guage of a Cockney, a Negro, or a New England farmer.


Tennessee Williams makes considerable use of Eye

Dialect in his plays. It is often found mixed in with

Regional Dialect and Substandard Dialect, all three types

being used either to convey Southern speech or to indicate
the class and culture of the speaker. In Orpheus Descend-

ing Williams describes two of his characters, Dolly Hamma

and Beulah Binnings, as "wives of small planters . .

tastefully overdressed in a somewhat bizarre fashion."44

The setting of the play is a small Southern town--from

the use of the place name Moon Lake, it is apparently a

town in the Mississippi delta. Beulah and Dolly's speech

is represented by nonstandard spellings such as wint for

went and nawth for north. These two spellings are genuine

Regional Dialect in that they represent pronunciation

peculiarities found in that section of the South. They

also use much Substandard Dialect. In addition, Williams

also sprinkles their speech with a number of Eye Dialect
spellings--facks for facts and dawg for dog, for example.

The PDAE records as an alternative standard pronunciation

[faeks], which is what the spelling facks indicates.

Williams seems to be under the impression that dawg is a

particularly apt spelling for indicating Southern speech

because it appears in a number of his plays, for example

Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, Sweet Bird of Youth and Baby Doll.

4Tennessee Williams, Orpheus Descending with
Battle of Angels (New York: New Directions Books, 1958),
p. 4.


Actually the substitution of aw for o does not necessarily
indicate anything unusual in the pronunciation of the
word, for aw represents [3] in such words as law, saw,
aw, raw, and others. The pronunciation [dog] is standard
throughout the United Ltates, and Villiams merely is using
an alternative Eye Dialect spelling which has not affected
the pronunciation.4
Williams often has his characters use Goddam for
God Damn. In fact, Lady, the principal female character
of Orpheus Descending, uses both. Though it could be
argued that the spelling Goddam stands for [gadam] (since
in many English words a double letter represents a single
phoneae) while the standard spelling represents [gad daem],
there is no accounting for the dropping of the final
"silent n" in the spelling except to say that in this
respect Williams' form is Eye Dialect. Taboo may be
involved in connection with this word--it is possible that
to Williams Goddam looks less profane.
Some of the Eye Dialect in Orpheus Descending
consists of quasi-phonetic spellings representing standard
pronunciations of words in unstressed positions. Dolly
Hamma asks, "Who's the young man with yuh?"6 The yuh
appears to stand for [ja] which is the standard pronun-

45For another possible interpretation of dawg
see the footnote on page 82.
46Williams, p. 18.

citation of you in unstressed position. Sheriff Talbott in
the same play says, "Git on down off th' counter, I ain't
gonna touch y'r guitar."47 The apostrophes in th' and
y'r apparently represent the [j] of [6J and the aj of

[jj respectively, and both [ea] and [Jij are standard
pronunciations of the and your in unstressed position
throughout the United States. For Sheriff Talbott to have
given the and your the pronunciations OLi] and [jurj in
unstressed position would have indeed been nonstandard
and could only have indicated a misguided attempt at
correctness on the part of the character. The Sheriff is
not concerned with correctness and the forms th' and y'r
are simply Eye Dialect. By an appeal to the eye only,
Williams has made most readers think that the Sheriff
speaks in a careless way.
It is interesting to note that only for the lower
class characters in Orpheus Descending does Williams use
Eye Dialect. The representatives of the old family of the
town, Carol Cutrere and her brother, use no dialect of
any sort. The same is generally true in A Streetcar Named
Desire. Stanley Kowalski and his friends use all three
types of dialect--their speech is represented by non-
standard spellings that are representative of regional
pronunciations, substandard pronunciations, and standard
pronunciations. The Dubois sisters, Blanche and Stella,

47Ibid., p. 96.


probably because of their more genteel backgroe d and

upbringing are represented as speakers of Standard English.

There are a few nonstandard spellings used in depicting

their speech, but these are the exception. Blanche, for

example, says awf'ly good and awf'ly scared--Williams

replacing the u and one of the 1's with an apostrophe.

This is perhaps intended to represent a peculiarity of

"genteel" Southern speech, but, in reality, it represents

only what is a standard pronunciation of awfully in all

parts of the country, namely [Dfll].

Of Williams' plays, one of the most prolific in

Eye Dialect is Baby Doll. Baby Doll herself is a South-

erner, and though she is of somewhat limited education,

she is not without a good deal of native intelligence.

She speaks the regional dialect of the South, or at least

it appears that Williams seeks to give that impression.

She talks about wearing closee skintight" and on one

occasion tells Vaccaro, the man she is interested in,

"You're natcherally dark." Also to Vaccaro she says, "Oh,

you're playing showfer! Showfers sit in the front seat."

Baby Doll's husband, Archie, talks about "long-standing

business associates" and the Negro Morse addresses Archie

as "Capt'n." The point is that such quasi-phonetic spellings

as close for clothes, natcherally for naturally, showfer

for chauffeur, business for business and Capt'n for captain

are actually Eye Dialect and show nothing distinctively

Southern in the speech of the characters. In addition to


the exalea given, Filliams often makes use of the
apostrophe to represent the [a] that ocu s in many wrds
in unstressed position. He has Baby Loll say Xj'kow for

yu know, and, in the lines "reep y'r hand- off me! Will
yuh?" she uses yr for your and yh for you. kner
yXr, and y3y are all Eye Dialect forms. (YTh doernt
make use of the apostrophe, but it gives the impression
of the pronunciation [9].)
In The Rose Tattoo "illiazs is dealing with a
group of Sicilian-Americans. ferafina Telle Rose, the
central character in the play, often tixes Italian with
her English as in the following passage'
Teacher! Teacher! sent I 'hat you think you
want to do at this high school? 'entitel per
favor! You give this dance Tat kind of a
spring dance is it? Answer this question, please,
for me . She reet thing boy there who don't
even go to no high school.48
1illiams rixes English and Italian extensively to depict
the speech of the ficilian-Americans as well as making
some changes in the syntax of the sentences spoken. There

are only a few instances of Eye Dialect. However, one
instance is particularly notable. Lerafina on several
occasions in normal conversation uses the word woren. Then
she is angry or disgusted on the other hand, she uses the
word win en as in the following passages:

T8nnessee Williams, The Rose Tattoo in Best
Arerican Playu, Fourth Series,tj .-y Jon~Giaoaner (fow
Yor-troiwn Publishers, Inc.,' 1958), p. 101.


I told you wimen that you was not in a honky-
tonk! Now take your blouse and git out! Get put
on the streets where you kind a wimmen belong.49
that all of tem are hunting? To have a good tie,
and the Devil cares who pays for it? I'm sick of
men, I'm almost as sick of men as I am of wilmn.50
Williams is using a very conamon Eye Dialect spelling in

substituting irrn.en for women. Although it is impossible

to be sure of his reason for making the substitution, it
does seem significant that wimnen is only used in a

derogatory context, while women is used in other contexts.

To summarize i'lliams' use of Eye Dialect it may
be said that it appears for the most part mixed in with

Regional Dialect and Substandard Dialect. Characters of

the lower-middle and lower classes use most of it; the

well-educated or gently-bred Southerners use very little,

though these do not use very much Regional Dialect or
Substandard Dialect either. Quite a bit of Williams'

Eye Dialect may well occur by accident, for often the

quasi-phonetic spellings serve no special purpose not

served by spellings which represent actual pronunciation

In Arthur Miller's Death of a Salesman most of
the nonstandard spellings are either Eye Dialect or Non-

standard Dialect. There has been no effort, apparently,

to give a regional flavor to the speech of the characters.

49Ibid., p. 103.

50Ibid., p. 108.


Woolcott Gibbs has said of Miller, "No writer in the

theatre understands better how to combine the poverty-

stricken imagery, the broken rhythms and mindless repeti-

tions, and the interminable cliches of illiterate speech

into something that has a certain harsh and grotesque

eloquence."51 4any of the nonstandard spellings undoubt-

edly represent "illiterate speech" and may be classified

as Substandard Dialect, but it is often difficult to

separate these spellings from Eye Dialect spellings in

Miller's writing. He uses, on occasion, lence for let me,

gonna for going to, whatta ya for what have you, and wanna

for want to. Such spellings indicate how words in prox-

imity to each other may affect each other through

assimilation of sounds, reduction of consonant clusters,

syncopation, etc. The fact is that we do not, in normal

connected speech, give each word the pronunciation that

we would give it if it were encountered alone instead of

in the vicinity of other words. When we speak we do not

say a series of discrete words--there is no artificial

break between words. Instead we speak in a continuous

stream and the sounds of one word often affect the sounds

of the word which precedes it or the word which follows it.

Actually there is no dictionary we may consult on

the status as standard or nonstandard of the many

51yoolcott Gibbs, Review of A View From the Bridge,
by Arthur Miller, New Yorker (October 8, 9-55- p. -88.


pronunciations often heard in ordinary speech which reflect
this effect of words on each other. The quotation previously

given (page 35) from Kenyon's Artrican Pronunciation in

regard to the status of these pronunciations is applicable

also to the pronunciations represented by the nonstandard

spellings of Miller's given above.

Miller, like many other writers, uses some non-

standard spellings to indicate the pronunciation of certain

words in unstressed position in the sentence. He often

writes yL for you in such expressions as y'understand,

y'know and y'see. The same word is spelled ya at other

times as, for example, in "I wanna see ya" or "Vhatta ya

got, Dad?" Both the y' and the ya appear to be attempts

to represent [je], the standard pronunciation of you
unstressed, and may be considered Eye Dialect. Interestingly

enough, there is little consistency in the substitution of

ya or yL for you, except that ya naturally is used where
the last word in the sentence is being represented. Often

the standard spelling you is used in unstressed position

within a few lines of a place where the Eye Dialect spell-

ing is used.

Not all the characters in Death of a Salesman have

speeches which contain nonstandard spellings. The lines

spoken by Linda, T'illie Loman's wife, are free of nonstand-

ard spellings as are those spoken by Ben, Willie's older

brother. "illie and his two sons, Biff and Happy, are
credited with most of the supposed but not actually


nonstandard pronunciations represented by the Eye Dialect

spellings previously mentioned. The effect of using le~-re,

gotta, gonna and similar spellings, along with the Eye

Dialect spellings of certain words in unstressed position,

is to give an air of Informality bordering on sloppiness

to the speech of the three. 'illie and his boys want to

be informal. They want to be "good guys" and Willie is

continually pointing out the value of being "well liked."

The use of Eye Dialect helps create an impression of a way

of speaking that seems appropriate to this outlook. It is

an impression of informality and ease with an absence of

such qualities as artificiality, dignity or intellect.

In the presence of Ben--who is a symbol of success

to him--Willie uses no Eye Dialect and very little Sub-

standard Dialect. Willie admires Ben and is careful and

serious in the things he says to him. Ben is a stiff

person and Willie can't be really easy with him. The

sloppy familiarity of his conversations with Biff and

Happy is missing when he talks to Ben, and so is the Eye



The production of Eye Dialect forms poses a

problem in graphics. Certain of the symbols available in

our writing system must be selected and arranged in a

particular order to produce the desired effect on both

eye and ear. However, it should be understood here that

many writers of Eye Dialect are not aware of the problem

at all. They are often under the impression that they are

actually indicating nonstandard pronunciations when in

reality the spellings they use are Eye Dialect.

Some writers probably use distorted spellings

without regard to the pronunciations they represent simply

because such spellings are a traditional way of portraying

the speech of a dialect character. This haphazard use of

distorted spellings inevitably produces some Eye Dialect

forms. 'till others may intend to convey the impression

that "This is the way the speaker would spell the word if

he had to write it." In the discussion which follows it

has been assumed, for convenience, that the writer is

consciously and purposely using Eye Dialect. However,

whether or not he is aware that he is using it, the same

considerations involving the arranging of graphic symbols



to indicate a standard or exclusive pronunciation--that

is, the problem in graphics--still exist.

The problem in graphics is the same for the

writer of Eye Dialect as it is for the writer of Sub-

standard Dialect or Regional Dialect except for one

important point. The writer of Eye Dialect combines

graphemes to indicate a standard or exclusive pronunciation,

while the other combines graphemes to indicate an actual,

existing, nonstandard pronunciation. The writer of Eye

Dialect need not have made a study of peculiarities of

regional (or national) nonstandard speech. He merely uses

an alternative nonstandard spelling of a word that will

yet indicate its standard pronunciation. (He is not,

however, looking for alternative standard spellings that

exist in English in a few cases, such as catalog and


The inexact "fit" of English makes this task

possible, and in many cases relatively easy. There is an

exceedingly inexact correspondence between the phonemes

and graphemes of English. Before discussing our writing

system, however, let us first consider an important

requirement which would complicate the deliberate writing

of Eye Dialect (or of any other kind of dialect, for that

matter). The requirement is that the reader must be able

to associate the unfamiliar Eye Dialect spelling with the

standard spelling. The Eye Dialect spelling means nothing

to him unless he can recognize what word or words it is


intended to represent.

In the process of associating a dialect form with

its standard form (and thus understanding its meaningg,

three factors are involved: (1) context, (2) similarity

of appearance, and (3) similarity of pronunciation. Let

us consider each of these factors using the nonstandard

spelling wuz for the word was. This nonstandard spelling

is Eye Dialect since it may represent the pronunciation of

was which all speakers use in unstressed position--that is,

[wez]--and it also say represent the pronunciation which
a gocd many speakers of standard English use in stressed

position--that is, [wAs].

The first of the three factors, context, refers to

the fact that the reader has been led to expect a certain

word by the written matter which preceded and followed

it. It may be that in the context of the matter being

read, the word was "makes sense" at the particular point

where the nonstandard written form wuz occurs. This in

itself would provide a hint to the reader as to what

standard spelling the nonstandard forn. was intended to


However, context is only one of the considerations

involved. It can easily be seen that the similarity of

appearance of the two words on the printed page has sore-

thing to do with the matter of association--that is, wuz

and was look very such alike. For one thing they have the

same number of letters, and perhaps equally important they

both begin with the letter w. If similarity of appearance

were not of importance, and context alone provided a

sufficient hint to the reader, then some such combination

of letters as jrstvx might just as well be used to represent

was as the combination _usz. In actuality, however, the

sudden appearance of jrstv would be highly confusing to

the reader, and it is thus evident that similarity of

appearance is another important consideration in the

association of a dialect spelling with its standard


There is a third important consideration, moreover,

that .iust be added to context and similarity of appearance.

If these two were the sole determining factors of w-hether

the reader could decipher the nonstandard spelling, the

author might as well represent was by the spelling wkz as

the spelling wuz. From the standpoint of context and

similarity of appearance there is no apparent advantage

in the use of one over the other. There is an advantage

in using wus from the standpoint of pronunciation, however.

In the English writing system, the letter u frequently

represents the sound [] The letter k on the other hand,

never represents this sound. Since [a] is the vowel sound

in a standard pronunciation of was, the use of u is pref-

erable to the use of k on phonological grounds.

In the writing of Eye Dialect, therefore, the

writer is concerned with the factors mentioned above. There

is very little he needs to worry about in connection with


context. Ordinarily, regardless of which word or words

he chooses to spell in a nonstandard manner, the sentence

structure and the "sense" of the words preceding and

following the chosen words will give the reader soe hint

as to what standard spellings will "make sense" when

substituted for the nonstandard ones. However, in many

cases, the hint received from context is not enough for

the reader. Often there are points in a literary passage

where more than one word will "make sense."

Similarity of appearance is probably as important

as context. As G. B. Shaw is supposed to have pointed out,

the word fish may be represented by ghoti if one interprets

the gh as representing the final sound of tough, the o as

the stressed vowel of women, and the ti as the medial

consonant of nation. But the use of ghoti for fish would

be quite misleading to the reader because of its lack of

similarity of appearance.

Something similar may be said of the importance of

similarity of pronunciation. In Eye Dialect, by definition,

the pronunciation of the standard and the nonstandard

written forms must be the same. But in the many cases

where a large number of variant spellings represent the

same phoneme in English, how does the dialect writer choose

the most appropriate spelling?

Now returning to the writing system of English, it

is necessary to consider the correspondence between the

phonemes of the English phonological system and the


graphemes of the English writing system. According to one
analysis, there are thirty-eight segmental phoees in

English consisting of twenty-four consonants and fourteen

vowels.1 In addition there are four stress phonees, four
pitch phonemes and four juncture phonemes. Thus the total

number of phonemes, segmental and suprasegmental, adds up

to fifty.
In order for there to be a true one-to-one relation-

ship between phonemes and graphemes there must be a separate

grapheme to represent each phoneme. Each grapheme must
always represent only one and the same phoneme, and
conversely, each phoneme must always be represented by

only one and the same grapheme. But there are fifty phonemes

and only forty-one graphemes.2 Obviously there cannot be a

one-to-one relationship between phoneme and grapheme.

After examining the correspondence between phoneme and

iThis analysis of the segmental phonemes of English
is based on Robertson and Cassidy, The Development of
Modern Englis, pp. 58-75. oome of the symbols used to
represent phonemes have been changed, however. The complete
list of segirental phonemes is as follows:
stops /b d p t k/
spirants /v z f e s h/
nasals / m n y /
lateral /l/
glides /r j w
affricates /5 c/
Sae e iO-ouIE CT a D 3/

2The graphemic analysis is that of pp. 436-437 of
W. Nelson Francis, The Structure of American English.
According to this analysis the graphemes of English are:
Segmentals: (1) Twenty-six letters of the


grapheme in each individual case, W. Nelson Francis con-

cludes, ". .. there is not even one single example of a
one-to-one correspondence between phoneme and grapheme in

the whole system."3

The writer of Eye Dialect is able to use this

lack of one-to-one correspondence between phoneme and

grapheme to find the alternative spellings he needs. His

task actually is twofold: (1) recognizing those places

at which the "fit" is inexact, and (2) manufacturing an

alternative spelling which will be satisfactory from the

standpoint of context, similarity of appearance, and

similarity of pronunciation. The remainder of this chapter

will be devoted to showing various ways in which Eye

Dialect writers have attempted to accomplish these two


Recognition of inexact "fit".--As has previously

been pointed out, there are many ways in which the "fit"

of the written and spoken languages is inexact--that is,

places where discrepancies exist in the ideal one-to-one

relationship of phoneme and grapheme. The following is a

alphabet: a b c . z
(2) Eleven marks of punctuation:

(3) Space
(1) capitalization
(2) italics
(3) small caps
(4) lower case
3Ibid., p. 449.


list of eight of the discrepancies which appear to have

been most productive of Eye Dialect--in fact, it may be

that the list covers all of the discrepancies which have

been used by writers of Eye Dialect. It covers all cases

found in the present study, but it would be presuming too

much to assume that there are not others, considering

that it has only been possible to examine a relatively

small portion of all the mass of written matter in which

Eye Dialect might be found. The list is as follows:

1. Single graphemes are used to represent com-

binations of phonemes.

2. Combinations of graphemes are used to represent

single phonemes.

3. Doubled consonantal graphemes are used to
represent not two phonemes but one.

4. Single phonemes are represented by several
different graphemes or combinations of graphemes.

5. Graphemic combinations from writing systems
other than English have been taken into the language


6. Graphemic combinations do not take into

account change of pronunciation due to change in stress.

7. Graphemic combinations do not allow for the
effect of adjacent words on pronunciation.

8. Graphemic combinations do not take into account

the fact that speech is a continuous stream.

The first of these discrepancies, single graphemes


being used to represent combinations of phonemes, may be

illustrated by the spelling once for /wAns/. The phone

combination /wA/ at the beginning of the word is repre-

sented by the single grapheme 9. Edward Eggleston replaces

the single grapheme o by the double grapheme wu in his

spelling wunst.4 This spelling cannot be regarded as

wholly Eye Dialect since the t on the end of the word

indicates a nonstandard pronunciation. However, the use

of wu at the start of the word illustrates the way in

which a writer of dialect may sense the lack of a one-to-

one relationship between phoneme and grapheme and make use

of this lack. An Eye Dialect form which makes use of the

same discrepancy is G. W. Harris' wun for one.

The number of words in English in which a phonemic
sequence is represented by a single grapheme appears to

be somewhat limited. In addition to once, others in which

this discrepancy appears are words like six in which the

phoneme combination /ks/ is represented by the single

grapheme x, and words like exist in which the phoneme

combination /gz/ is represented by the single grapheme x.

No examples, however, were found in this study of Eye
Dialect spellings for exist, six, or words similar to them.

4Because of the large number of Eye Dialect
spellings it has been necessary to cite as examples in the
remainder of this chapter, it has not seemed feasible to
footnote each form. Instead a list of all forms used,
arranged alphabetically and giving source, has been
appended to the end of the chapter.

The Eye Dialect forms based on one and once were the only

representatives found which take advantage of the first
The second of the discrepancies listed above, the

use of combinations of graphemes to represent single

phonemes, has been more productive of Eye Dialect forms
than the first. A good example of this discrepancy is

in the spelling clothes to represent the alternative
standard pronunciation /kloz/.5 George Washington Harris
and Charles F. Browne use close as an alternate spelling

and Lowell in The Biglow Papers spells it closes. Tennessee

Williams' Baby Doll has the spelling close.
The basic discrepancy noted by the various writers,

either consciously or unconsciously, is the fact that in

this particular word the graphemic sequence these represents

only one phoneme, /z/. The alternate spellings take

advantage of the lack of a one-to-one relationship between

the graphemes and phoneme to offer other ways of repre-
senting the phoneme /z/.
A common use of more than one grapheme to represent

a single phoneme occurs in the spelling of certain vowel

phonemes. One of the spellings of /e/ is ea as in great
and break. In words like feather and death the grapheme

combination ea represents the single phoneme /E/. In

5/kloiz/ is also frequently heard in Standard


another case ea stands for /a/ as in heart. Writers of

Eye Dialect have often produced alternate spellings which

use only one grapheme. Such a spelling is the use of

grate for great.6 This is a reduction in the number of
graphemes used to represent /e/, not counting the final

"silent e." Other similar spellings found in this study

are deth for death, fether for feather, and harts for

There are many examples of other vowel phonemes
which are represented by more than one grapheme. In the

word said, for example, the phoneme // is represented by

the grapheme combination ai. This is a relatively rare

way of representing this phoneme, and writers of Eye

Dialect have often substituted another spelling. Stephen

Crane in The Red Badge of Courage uses sed, for example.

The word says /SEs/ is another example of the use of a

relatively unusual graphemic combination to represent a

single phoneme. The ay stands for the phoneme /E/. 1any

writers of Eye Dialect have seen fit to change the spell-

ing to sea, while others achieve the same reduction in

graphemes when they represent says by the form ses.

In the word been a combination of graphemes ee
represents the single phoneme //. The Eye Dialect

spelling bin is frequently encountered--a spelling which

6E.g. by Lowell and Browne among others.


reduces the number of graphemes by one. In a less usual
case the ee grapheme combination is reduced to the
grapheme y in the spelling coffy for coffee, a spelling
used by William Faulkner in his short story, "Delta Autumn."

James khitcomb Riley recognizes the lack of one-to-one

relationship between phoneme and grapheme in the last

syllable of Sunday /sAndi/ and changes the spelling to

Cund'y in his poem, "Wet weatherr Folks." (Here, in a

sense, there has been no reduction in the number of

graphemes, since the apostrophe itself is a grapheme.)

The /u/ of boots is spelled with a single grapheme, u

(with "silent e"), by Bret Harte when he uses the form

butes in his short story, "How Santa Claus Came to

Simpson's Bar." This spelling is, however, an unfortunate

one if intended as Eye Dialect, for it suggests, instead

of butss/, the /bjuts/ of attributes.
In English orthography single consonant phonemes

are often represented by grapheme combinations also. In
the word enough the phoneme /f/ is represented by the

grapheme combination gh. Eugene O'Neill, as we have seen,

replaces the gh by f (and also replaces the grapheme

combination ou representing /A/ by u) in his spelling

enuf, which is found in Desire Under the Elms. Robert
Penn Warren in "Billie Potts" spells laugh with the form

laff, which though a simplification still uses two
graphemes for a single consonant phoneme. In numb /nAm/
the final phoneme is represented by mb in the standard


spelling. G. i. Harris uses the Eye Dialect spelling num.
The word handsome /haensem/ is spelled han'some by
Edward Eggleston, thus getting rid of the d which is not

normally pronounced in either standard or nonstandard
natural speech. Booth Tarkington writes dam' for damn
/daem/ to eliminate the "silent n."7 Other Eye Dialect
spellings which depend on the discrepancy of the single
phoneme being represented by a grapheme combination are
James Whitcomb Riley's ha'f-way for half-way /hafwe/ and
mortgage for mortgage /marglj/, in which, however, the
apostrophe--itself a grapheme--substitutes for the
grapheme felt to be unnecessary, Tennessee Villiams'
ha'f for half /haef/, and G. W. Harris' seconds for seconds
/sEkenz/ and tords for towards /tords/ (or /tards/).

A special case of the representing of a single
phoneme by a grapheme combination is that connected with
words ending with ing. One of the commonest devices of
the dialect writer is to leave off the final g or else to
replace it with an apostrophe. The question arises as to
whether these forms without the & should be considered
Eye Dialect at all. The Pronouncing Dictionary of American
English says that the pronunciation of iL as /In/, /an/
and /n/ is "occasionally heard in the informal speech of

7In the case of dam' for damn, the changed spelling
may be a concession to those readers who would look upon
the standard spelling as taboo. similarly the spelling
goddam for god damn would appear to be a concession of the
same type. Lee above, p. 57.

the cultivated in all parts of the United States and

Canada . "(p. 224). In England, the landed gentry
are sometimes called the "huntin', shooting fishing' set."

"Dropping the g" is new somewhat old-fashioned in British
English, but perfectly standard. Thus the spellings which

leave off the & are Eye Dialect in the sense defined here,
in that they represent a pronunciation that may be consid-
ered standard throughout the English-speaking world. For

those persons who normally have final /n/ in words ending
in an unstressed Mng, the standard spelling with & would

constitute another case of a single phoneme /n/ being
represented by a grapheme combination ng.
Generally speaking, final /n/ in plurisyllabic

words with final ing is associated with the Regional

Dialect of the South--though such is certainly not the

case when Arthur Miller has non-Southern characters use

tellin' for telling and knockin' for knocking in Death of
a Salesman. According to A Pronouncing Dictionary of
Amerian English the /n/ is more prevalent in the South,

but (see previous quote) that it is by no means confined
to that area.

The third discrepancy in the list is actually a
special ease of the second. Here, also, combinations of
graphemes represent single phonemes. This third discrep-
ancy, however, is distinguished by the fact that the
grapheme combinations always consist of doubled consonants.
In English it is seldom that a doubled consonant actually


represents a doubled phoneme such as the doubled /n/ in

unnamed /An+'neYd/. As a general rule the doubled consonant

represents a single phoneme as in dinner /dine/. In

addition, it may indicate something about the pronunci-

ation of a nearby grapheme as, for example, in diner,

where the i grapheme differs in pronunciation from the i

in dinner, with its doubled consonant. For the purposes

of the writer of Eye Dialect, it is of primary importance

that single consonant phonemes are often represented by

doubled consonantal graphemes. He can use this fact in

two ways: (1) he can usually double a consonant that is

single in a standard spelling without indicating a change

in the pronunciation of the word, (2) he can usually omit

one of the doubled consonants in a standard spelling

without indicating a change in the pronunciation of the


The word minute, with its Eye Dialect spellings

minnit and minit, is a good illustration of the flexibility

this discrepancy allows. One of the Eye Dialect forms has

the doubled n while the other does not, yet they indicate

the same pronunciation. The same comparison may be made

in regard to two Eye Dialect spellings of women which were

found in this study--wir.en and wimin.

stephen Crane furnishes an example of dropping one

of the doubled consonants of the standard spelling. In

writing an Eye Dialect spelling of the phrase "hell of a"

in The Red Badge of Courage, he uses heluva (with its


single 1). By comparison, to convey the same phrase
Tennessee Williams uses helluva (with its doubled conso-
nant). Eggleston in spelling apostle uses two p's--apposil.

Sinclair Lewis in his Eye Dialect spelling of society
uses the doubled s to represent a single phoneme and

produces sassiety. His spelling of listen does the same

in that it substitutes another a for the t producing
The fourth discrepancy in the representation of

phonemes by graphemes, as listed previously, is the fact

that single phonemes are represented by several different
graphemes or combinations of graphemes. This discrepancy

probably accounts for more Eye Dialect than any of the

other discrepancies, for it allows the writer to change
the spelling of a word without indicating a change in
pronunciation simply by substituting one grapheme for

another. For example, the phoneme /k/ in English is
represented by both c (cool, cut, can) and k (Kate, kite,

kit). Eye dialect writers have used this discrepancy in

producing forms which substitute k or kk where the stand-

ard spelling calls for c or cc. Hooper, for example, in

his "Captain Simon Cuggs" tales, writes kleen for clean

and tobakker for tobacco.
Among the most frequently encountered Eye Dialect

8Taboo may be involved here (cf. footnote 7).
Heluva probably looks less profane than hell of a and may
be a concession to squeamish readers.


spellings are those which take the place of the standard

spelling of women /wiKmn/ and minute /marnt/. The repre-

sentation of the first /I/ phoneme in the former by the
letter o, and the representation of the second /I/ phoneme

of the latter by the letter u, are .unuual in English, and

dialect writers have taken advantage of this fact. The

usual Eye Dialect spellings of women are wimmen, wimmin

and wimin. Minit and minnit are frequently encountered

Eye Dialect spellings of minute.

Often one combination of graphemes may be sub-

stituted for another combination without indicating a

change in pronunciation. The phoneme /s/ is represented
by a number of grapheme combinations--sh as in ship, ti as
in nation, and ci as in special are among them. In Eye

Dialect sh is sometimes substituted for ci and ti. Eugene
O'Neill in Mourning Becomes Electra uses speshully for
specially. Charles F. Browne writes conversashun for
conversation. The phoneme /C/ is also represented by

various combinations of graphemes--t as in nature and ch
as in check are two of them. We find Eye Dialect writers

substituting ch for t to make words like Tennessee Williams'

natcherally for naturally and Sidney Howard's spirichool

for spiritual. The phoneme /k/ is in a number of words

represented by the grapheme combination ct. One writer,
Tennessee Williams, has substituted the grapheme ck to form

an Eye Dialect spelling facks for facts (which has alter-
nate standard pronunciations, /faekts/ and /faeks/); a

similar substitution is noted in the Al Capp comic strip,

Li'l Abner, when the predickshuns of 01' Man Mose are
referred to.
In general it may be said that substitution of one

grapheme for another without indicating a chane in pro-
nunciation is apt to occur any time the creator of a folk
character senses that the grapheme in the standard spell-
ing is not the most common way of representing the particu-

lar phoneme. It is not difficult to see why it would occur
to Faulkner to spell Arkansas as Arkansaw considering that
it is the sole example of the use of as to represent /3/
in English. It is not as easy to see why both Faulkner

and Tennessee Williams on occasion decided to spell dog

as dawg, since the grapheme o quite often represents /o/

in English, and the pronunciation /dDg/ is the one heard

most frequently throughout the United States.9 Faulkner

also spells naked as nekkid on one occasion. This is

perhaps not Eye Dialect; however, A Pronouncing Dictionary
of American English calls the pronunciation /nEkId/--which
nekkid would appear to represent--"old fashioned," but not
necessarily nonstandard. The same writer in his short

story "Wash" uses the spelling kernel for colonel, and

90ne possible reason for this spelling is that
the writers are attempting to indicate the pronunciation
/daug/. This diphthong occurs in Southern regional speech
on occasion in words like dog, log and water. The spelling
dawg is not a very apt way of indicating ths, however,
since it suggests words like saw and law, whose usual
pronunciations are /sD/ and /177.


this too seems like a logical place to substitute graphemes,
since this representation of /ker/ by colo is unique in

the language.

Sometimes in the substitution of graphemes by
Eye Dialect writers, a combination takes the place of a

single grapheme. Such is the case when Jesse Stuart spells

neck as knoek (to conform to spellings like know and knot).
The fifth discrepancy on the list may be said to

be a special case of the fourth. Single phonemes are

often represented by different graphemes or combinations
of graphemes when graphic combinations from the spelling

systems of other languages have been taken into English

unchanged. The representation of /1/ by the grapheme
combination ch is recognizably French in such words as
champagne, chemise and chauffeur. Tennessee Williams uses

the Eye Dialect spelling show-fer for chauffeur in Baby

Doll, substituting a "native" grapheme combination sh for

the combination felt to be foreign, but not indicating a
pronunciation other than a standard one. When J. J.

Hooper spells lieutenant as lewtenant he is doing the same

thing. Zona Gale uses the spelling randevoo for rendezvous
/randuvu/, thus using the grapheme e to represent /?/ or

/I/ in place of French ez, and also replacing the French
ous for /u/ by a coamon English representation oo. Similar
substitutions of common "native" grapheme combinations for

combinations felt to be "foreign" may be seen in Eggleston's
spelling budwoir for boudoir, and James Whitcomb Riley's

spelling etikett for etiquette.
The sixth discrepancy is the fact that graphemic
combinations often do not take into account the effect of
stress on pronunciation. Quite a few words in the English
language have different pronunciations when they occur in
an unstressed position in a sentence from those they have
in a stressed position: for example, you in a stressed
position is pronounced /ju/, while in an unstressed
position you is either /ju/ or /je/; the word and is /and/
in a stressed position but has a number of pronunciations
including /en/, /n/, /and/, /l/, /End/, nd/, /En/, /n/,

and /m/ when in an unstressed position; the indefinite
article a is /e/ in a stressed position but /a/ in an
unstressed position. Articles, prepositions, conjunctions,
and pronouns are quite often found in unstressed positions
in a sentence, and for the most part they have differing
stressed and unstressed pronunciations. The writing system,
however, does not allow for these differences in pronun-
ciations due to differences in stress. Each word has only
one standard spelling regardless of stress.
Writers of Eye Dialect have made frequent use of
the fact that the standard spellings of many words do not
accurately represent the sound of the words when they occur
in unstressed positions. One group of words that has often
been represented by Eye Dialect forms when unstressed is
the personal pronouns he, her, his and him. In unstressed
positions standard pronunciations of these words are /I/


or /i/, /ar/, /rs/, and /a/ respetively--that is, with
no /h/. Sinclair Lewis in Babbitt and Tennessee Willims
in h bothaI use the lye Dialect fora !'E
to represent her in unstressed position. In The red Ba gd
of C)uraM Stephen Crane uses 'is to represent hi in the
sentence "I winner where he got 'is strength from." To
have been strictly consistent Crane should have written
'e for the hi in the sentence since it is also in an
unstressed position, and he did exactly that on other
occasions as in the sentence, "He run, didn't 'e?" Booth
Tarkington in "Mister Antonio" writes !'i for hi when
unstressed. All of these forms represent standard pronun-
ciations, and in each case the "silent h* is represented
by an apostrophe.
Much the sase situation exists in the very frequent
use of Eye Dialect foras to represent tha, or more ace
rately, hbM in unstressed positions. The unstressed pronun-
ciation /ea/ is represented by aome writers with O e and by
others with 'i, a standard pronunciation though some
people might avoid it when they think about it, unrdr the
mistaken impression that it is an abbreviation for tg.
Miller, Williams, Lewis, larte and Crane, among others,
use 'an; Crane also uses 1'i, as does Faulkner. According
to A Prnncu.ncing Dictioaary o Aaerion ~i, "when
unstressed, hes, the native Enilial word for 'thea' lost
its Lh] sound just as do bg, her, i, and g3 when

unstressed."10 It is from hem that /am/ or /m/ has
developed, not from them.
The word have is likewise pronounced differently
in stressed and unstressed positions. The stressed form
is /h ev/ while the unstressed form is /lv/. The standard
spelling of the word represents fairly well the stressed
form, but it obviously is a poor representation of the
unstressed form. A better representation of the unstressed

form is found in the many contractions such as could've
for could have, would've for would have, might've for might
have, etc. A very prevalent Eye Dialect form for have in
unstressed position is of. A typical use of of in this

way occurs in Ring Lardner's "Haircut" in the remark made

by one of the characters, "You must of been drinking, soe
of your aw de cologne." Garson Kanin in Born Yesterday
uses could of for could've. The sound is exactly the same,
though the appearance and effect are different.11
The conjunction and, which in unstressed position
has a variety of pronunciations some of which are dependent
on the phoneme coming before or after, has produced a number
of Eye Dialect spellings. The most comon ones appear to
be an', an and 'n. Faulkner has used the rather unusual
spelling en for and in unstressed position. Williams has
used 'n in "look 'n see, honey" where one would expect //

10Kenyon and Knott, p. 145, s.v. 'em.
11The apostrophe of could' y indicates /9/.

because of the phoneme /k/ preceding, and in "Some time

come back to our town 'n see us, hear?" where the pronun-
ciations /A/ or /an/ are more likely.
Another word whose unstressed pronunciation has
been productive of Eye Dialect forms is the word of. The

usual unstressed pronunciations are /ev/ and (before
consonants) /9/. Sinclair Lewis in Babbitt uses both o'
and a to render /9/ in practically the same phonemic

environment. In one case he refers to a "couple o' girls"
using o' for /1/ and in another ease he refers to a couplea

blankets" using a for /1/. Tennessee Villiams uses a to
represent /9/ in "lay offa them bananas," a bit of dialogue

in which only the grammar is nonstandard. Other Eye

Dialect spellings of of are the result of substituting the
grapheme v for the grapheme f to indicate the voiced

character of the second phoneme in /av/. Eggleston uses

ov and G. W. Harris uses ove, presumably by analogy with

love, dove, shove, but not with move or clove.
The /G/ that is most often the vowel pronunciation
in unstressed syllables in English is often represented
in Eye Dialect by an apostrophe. Examples of this are
found in Crane's "we're going' t'morrah" in which unstressed

to /ta/ is spelled t', and in Arthur Miller's y'know for
unstressed you in you know /jeno/. Unstressed you has,
for that matter, produced a variety of Eye Dialect forms:

Stephen Crane's yeh, Tennessee Williams' yuh, Arthur
Miller's ya (in addition to y' given above), and Sinclair

Lewis' juh (which appears to be a form representing you
when the word preceding it is understood to be did or do

(/ju want/ some of this coffee?).
Lack of stress is responsible for another group

of Eye Dialect spellings in connection with words in which

a vowel has been syncopated in an unstressed syllable.

The pronunciation of such a word has lost the syllable

while the standard spelling still retains it. A standard

pronunciation of the word company, for example, is /kAmpnI/,

with loss of the unstressed second syllable, though the

standard spelling still retains the letter a which repre-

sents that syllable. But writers have recognized the

discrepancy and used such Eye Dialect spellings as eomp'ny.

Similar situations are responsible for such examples of

Eye Dialect as Williams' awf'ly for awfully /DflI/ and his

practickly for practically /praktlkll/, and Faulkner's
mystery for mystery /mlstrl/. The word business /biznis/

has been given such Eye Dialect spellings as bizness,

bisness and business by various writers. The spelling

ev'ry for every is another popular Eye Dialect form.
sinclair Lewis takes advantage of this lack of correspondence

between pronunciation and spelling when he spells opera as

op'ra in lain Street.
The phoneme /9/ occurs in a great number of un-

stressed syllables in English. As one authority puts it:

"Every Modern English vowel occurring in a syllable that
receives neither primary nor secondary stress approximates

one or the other of the relaxed vowels [e] and [LI .,12

Since there is no one standard graphemic representation

of /i/, writers of Eye Dialect have had considerable

leeway in choosing the grapheme they wish to represent it.

One of the most common choices is u--the prevalence of the

spelling wus for was /wze/ in unstressed position is a

good example of it.

A further discrepancy between the written and
spoken language is the fact that graphemic combinations
representing standard spellings do not allow for the effect

of adjacent words on pronunciation. A good example of
this effect may be seen in the frequent loss of a consonant
when the final consonant of a word is the same as the
beginning consonant of the word following it. A standard

pronunciation of "want to" is /wonta/, with only one /t/
sound. A dialect writer, recognizing that one of the t's

in the spelling is superfluous, may drop one and still

indicate the standard pronunciation of the two words taken

together. Stephen Crane, among many others, has done this

with this spelling want. The form is pure Eye Dialect.

James Vlhitcomb Riley represents the loss of one /d/ in
wild ducks /warldAks/ with his Eye Dialect form wile-ducks.

He also gets rid of one d in the spelling of good deal
/gTUdil/ by spelling good'eal, replacing the second d with
an apostrophe and creating an Eye Dialect spelling. Next

12Robertson, pp. 107-108.


to becomes nex'tu in a G. W. Harris story.
Sometimes the effect of an adjacent word is more

complicated than the simple loss of one of two identical
consonants. There may be an assimilation of the final
consonant of the first word to the initial consonant of
the second. For example, the words have /haev/ and to
/tu/ when pronounced in sequence are /hefte/. Thurber
and Nugent in The Yale Animal use an Eye Dialect spelling,
hafta, which reflects this assimilation. The same may be
said of the form usta for used to in John Steinbeck's Of
Mice and Yen. The final /d/ of used /juad/ has been
unvoiced due to assimilation with the unvoiced /t/ of to
/tu/ which follows it. (The final a of hafta and usta
represents /I/.) Sometimes it is the following sound
which is assimilated to that which precedes it. A standard
pronunciation of what do you in a sentence such as "i'hat
do you want?" is /hwataje/. The /d/ of do has been un-
voiced due to assimilation with the preceding /t/ of what.
Arthur Miller represents the pronunciation of the words
together with his spelling whatta ya--a spelling that
represents a standard pronunciation and thus must be
classified as Eye Dialect.
Another interesting example of the effect of an
adjacent word is the pronunciation of the two words don't
and know separately as compared with their pronunciation
together in normal sequence in a sentence. Individually
don't is don't / and know is /no/. But together in a


sentence such as "I don't know" they may be pronounced as
/deno/, /dono/ or /don no/--all standard pronunciations.
The /t/ of don't has been assimilated to the /n/ of know.
This simplification of the consonant cluster which results

when don't is followed by a word beginning with a conso-

nant is frequently encountered. Some other examples are

don't think /donxr k/ and don't believe /donbeliv/ or

/dombaliv/. The Eye Dialect form dunno for don't know

is used by Sidney Howard in his play, They Knew That They

Wanted. This form is a great favorite of those who attempt

to represent nonstandard speech.

The eighth discrepancy is the fact that graphemic
combinations do not take into account that speech is a

continuous stream--it is not a series of discrete, separate
sound units corresponding to words on the printed page.
It is true that we recognize slight retardations in the
flow of speech which we mark /+/ and refer to as "open
juncture," but it cannot be said that the space between
words on the written page always represents open juncture.

In many cases the space grapheme is present in standard

writing when open juncture is not present, and writers of
Eye Dialect have taken advantage of some of these cases

to produce spellings which omit the space grapheme. The
words "hell of a" have been run together in such spellings

as "helluva" and "heluva," and "whale of a" has been spelled

whaleuva, by analogy with "helluva." The elimination of

the space grapheme is evident in many of the forms mentioned


in connection with other discrepancies--it accounts for

such spellings as gotta for qot to and dunno for don't


Manufacturing alternative e llins. --Having

catalogued the various discrepancies between the written

and spoken language and how they have allowed Eye Dialect

spellings to develop, we now turn to the problems in

graphics that confront the writer of Eye Dialect in arriv-

ing at alternative spellings. It has been stated earlier

that any dialect spelling--whether it be Eye Dialect,

Regional Dialect or Substandard Dialect--should be satis-

factory from the standpoint of (1) context, (2) similarity

of appearance, and (3) similarity of pronunciation, so

that the reader will be able to recognize what word (or

words) is being represented in a nonstandard form. To

"understand" the dialect the reader must be able to

associate the nonstandard spellings with the standard

spellings. The matters of context and similarity of

appearance have been covered in sufficient detail already,

but the matter of similarity of pronunciation is complicated

and must be considered further here.

The writer of Eye Dialect knows the pronunciation

he is trying to represent with a nonstandard spelling, but

he is faced with the problem of selecting graphemes that

will convey that pronunciation to the reader. Since there

is not a one-to-one relationship between graphemes and

phonemes in English, he cannot be sure that his choice of


graphemes will necessarily convey the desired phonemes.

For example, if he wishes to replace the grapheme repre-
senting the vowel /1/ in hit, should he use the ee of
been, /brn/, the o of women /wzmin/, the u of busy /bzsr/,
the y of myth /mzO/ or the ui of build /brld/? Each
grapheme or grapheme combination represents /I/ in the
examples given. The question arises as to whether there
is a "usual" or "most common" grapheme that ordinarily

represents each phoneme and which can be counted on to

bring that particular phoneme to the reader's mind.

Robert A. Hall, Jr., believes that there is a

fairly regular graphemic representation of English phonemes

and in Sound and Spelling in English he gives a list of
phonemes and the graphemes by which they are most often

represented.13 The list was arrived at by Hall after

repeating nonsense words to his family and asking them to

spell them, and then writing nonsense words and asking
them to pronounce them. From their responses he was able
to decide what graphemic symbols were most often brought
to mind by hearing certain sounds, and also which phonemes
were suggested to the mind when certain graphemic symbols
were seen. It is not necessary to give the complete list

here; an example or two from it will suffice. Of the many
ways that /I/ may be represented graphemically, for example,

13Sound and Spelling in English (Philadelphia:
Chilton Company, 1961T, p. 25.


sh is taken to be the usual way. The usual way of repre-
senting /I/ is with i as in hit, rather than such alter-
natives as the o in women or the ee in been. Hall found
that every phoneae has a graphemic representation which
is more usual than the possible alternatives, and that,
with a few exceptions, each of these graphemic representa-
tions represented only that particular phoneme. Exceptions
were oo which represented both /U/ and /u/, th which
represented both /5/ and /g/ and z which represented both
/I/ and /I/.
In addition, it should be pointed out that some
of the "less usual" graphemic representations are limited
to certain positions in a word--gh, for example, represents
/f/ only in final position while ti represents /5/ only
before a vowel grapheme standing for weakly stressed /a/
(nation, initial, militia). It is this fact which accounts,
at least partially, for the humor in the spelling ghoti
for fish. The gh and ti are hopelessly out of position.
Such positional limitations do impose a practical restric-
tion on the writer in producing nonstandard spellings.
In view of Hall's findings, it would appear that
the writer of Eye Dialect will solve the problem of
pronunciation similarity if he uses the graphemes that are
usual or "regular" ones for representing the phonemes of
the word or words involved. Of course, in many cases
this will not be possible because the "regular" graphemic
representation will be that found in the standard spelling.


In these eases the Eye Dialect spelling should logically

use the second most "regular" graphemic representations.

If only one graphemic representation is at all "regular"--

such as p for /p/ at the beginning of a word--then no Eye

Dialect spelling is feasible for that phoneme. In fact,

those words for which Eye Dialect spellings are most often

substituted are almost invariably words which have an

unusual or "irregular" graphemic representation of one or

more phonemes. Words like liquor (with its qu represent-

ation of /k/), minute (with its u grapheme for /j/), and

woren (with its o grapheme for /I/) are good examples.

Apparently the writer of Eye Dialect unconsciously

recognizes those places where the grapheme representing

a particular phoneme is not the "regular" one.

Differences do appear in the Eye Dialect forms

arrived at by different writers as alternative spellings

for the same word. It should be of interest to take note

of several alternative spellings, and to evaluate which

form is clearest from the standpoint of the reader.

The word business has been spelled in a number of

ways that may be considered Eye Dialect. Let us compare

two of them, the bisness of Robert Penn Warren and the

business of Tennessee Williams. From the standpoint of

similarity of appearance the form used by silliams is

probably more easily recognized than that used by barren.

It changes only one letter, and the omitted i is replaced

by an apostrophe. From the standpoint of similarity of


pronunciation, however, Warren's form seems preferable.

The substitution of i for u in the first syllable is

actually a change from an infrequent way of representing

/I/ to the most usual one. The replacing of s with z is

also a change from a less frequent way of representing /s/

to a more frequent one. The complete elimination of the i

is in keeping with the fact that it is not pronounced

anyway: in current English the word is /biznis/, not

/bizinis/. The Williams' spelling, business, on the other

hand, though it has made only one small change in the

standard spelling, at first glance may appear to indicate

/bAsnes/. This is because the reader is familiar with

the word bus, and also because bus means /bIz/ to him only

in busy and business. Williams has changed the spelling

enough that the word he intends to represent may not be

immediately obvious, and the reader may be misled into

assuming /hAs/ for bus.

The word says has been given alternative spellings

by a number of writers. There would appear to be two

reasons for the notice they have paid to says: first, it

is a word that occurs quite often in dialogue, particularly

when a story is told in the historical present; second,

the grapheme combination ays is a very unusual way of

representing the phoneme combination /Ez/. Bret Harte and

G. W. Harris use the Eye Dialect spelling sez, whereas

Stephen Crane and James Russell Lowell use another Eye

Dialect spelling ses. In both cases the unusual ays is


changed--the writers agree on the usual e for //, but

they disagree on the representation of /a/. According to
Hall's list, the normal and most frequent representation

of /s/ is with z, and thus the Harte and Harris form is
to be preferred, if indeed there is any good reason for
using either.

Sometimes there is good reason why the graphemic
symbol which usually represents a voiceless phoneme is

found where a symbol for a voiced phoneme might seem

called for. Bret Harte spelled was as wus, for example.

The word was, by itself, may be represented phonemically

by /wez/ when in an unstressed position. But Harte's

was precedes the word sick, and the final /z/ of was is
unvoiced through assimilation with the unvoiced /s/ which
immediately follows. Thus Harte is phonetically accurate

in his spelling of was as wus in this particular instance.14
Another word that has been given a variety of Eye
Dialect spellings is the word clothes /kloz/.15 The
spelling close, a form used by George Vashington Harris
and Artemus W'ard, has the disadvantage of being the standard
spelling of two different words--the verb close /klos/ and

the adjective close /klos/. While it is true that within
the context of a sentence confusion is not likely in this

14Harte is not always consistent in this respect
however, since logically he should use wus when voiced
sounds follow--instead he often sticks with wus.

15See above, p. 74.

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