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chad
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The Adventures Of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain

[ Edited ]
I venture now from the savage wildness of the Congo river (i.e. The Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad)at the turn of the century, to the banks of the Mississippi during the the mid-1800's. More wild today, the Mississippi is still perhaps tamer than the Congo was then, as U.S. civilization sought to win the south and extend its dominion over the west. Enter now our 19th century hero Huckleberry Finn or Tom sawyer, to fight the injustices of civilization and the savages of Nature.
But when to place our heroes? In the early part of the 20th century? The 21st century? And where?  On the banks of the Thames owned by Aristocrats? Or in the heart of the African jungle? Huckleberry Finn would be little understood by the English or the savages of Africa during his own time- his dialect and grammar would make him an unlikely hero, if a hero at all, in any time period. But an American hero he still remains.
For how long? Dialect is but a product of time and place, but something that defines the character of a people. More importantly, Huck's dialect is Huckleberry Finn. So, can the character of Huck Finn remain immortal? Or will he be lost as improper dialects and words are replaced by proper English. Or as libraries ban the classic book, itself. More broadly, can our character and our country be changed by a few simple grammarians? Can we become an English Aristocracy?
Just a few questions as we begin our journey down the Mississippi,
Chad
Message Edited by chad on 08-26-2008 04:13 PM
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Timbuktu1
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Re: The Adventures Of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain

I think to a large extent the dialect has been lost.  Twain was supposed to have taken great pains to write in the correct dialect of each place Huck travels but to my reading I thought of them all as the same "southern".   We're having a similar discussion on the Shakepeare board.  Huck and Tom will live forever, but not because of their dialects!
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TiggerBear
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Re: The Adventures Of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain


Timbuktu1 wrote:
I think to a large extent the dialect has been lost.  Twain was supposed to have taken great pains to write in the correct dialect of each place Huck travels but to my reading I thought of them all as the same "southern".   We're having a similar discussion on the Shakepeare board.  Huck and Tom will live forever, but not because of their dialects!

Spoken like a yankie. All us southerners do not sound the same. Differences with each state and within some states. H Finn's dialog is noticably varried even if stuck in it's time period. When you grow up listening to it, you notice.

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Timbuktu1
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Re: The Adventures Of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain

LOL!  You're definitely right there, I'm a Yankee.  There were some people from the south in my class and they appreciated the different dialects.   Do you find that accents, in general, are less pronounced today than a few years ago?

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TiggerBear
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Re: The Adventures Of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain

Not really, I find it only varies by education level. More than 4 years of collage will alter an accent a little.
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Timbuktu1
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Re: The Adventures Of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain


TiggerBear wrote:
Not really, I find it only varies by education level. More than 4 years of collage will alter an accent a little.
That's interesting Tigger.  I thought that TV, radio and movies might be wiping away regional accents a bit.   

 

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TiggerBear
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Re: The Adventures Of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain

Yes, you would think. But I believe it's something to do with the language you hear as a baby. We'll have to see if this latest generation raised on Baby Mosart stuff is any different. I've found those parents speek far too little with their kids.(shrug)
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chad
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Dialect- thanks for responding!

[ Edited ]

Ooooo.... I can't believe I got a reaction to my strange literature series. Twain does mention more than one dialect in the beginning of his novel. That is, I think he believed that there was more than one dialect in the south, and also in "Huckleberry." I still feel, and I'm just beginning, that Twain believed that North America was becoming more "sivilized." Civilizations usually unify under one language, and, there is usually only one way to speak the language properly.

 

A few interesting questions came to mind when I began. Did you feel that the differences in language and dialects were the root causes of the civil war? In addition, children are taught to speak and spell, but seldom begin speaking perfect English. So, do we lose a part of our "younger" selves as we learn the proper way to speak? How much do we change as we begin to be speak "properly?" But the larger question might be: how much is dialect a part of the character? Would Huck Finn be more or less heroic, if spoke English properly?

 

Chad 

Message Edited by chad on 08-27-2008 03:05 PM
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Timbuktu1
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Re: Dialect- thanks for responding!

Hmmm.  I'm trying to remember what Noam Chomsky said about language acquisition.  I think basically his theory says that we are all hard-wired to acquire language in our own ways.  That is why, although a child may never hear anyone say "Me want cookie" (pre-cookie monster) he will construct this sentence.  The grammar construction is there,  in his own brain, somehow.  I have 3 kids and each learned to speak in his own peculiar way.  

 

 

 

When I think of Huck's accent I picture Mark Twain, in Hartford, Conn, where he wrote the book.  He must have been surrounded by New England snobs who saw him as a "hick".  He could have tried to impress them by aping their ways.   I imagine him feeling, like Huck, that he didn't belong.  So he wrote this story about someone who was perfectly authentic and natural and although looked down upon, was the better person.   So  American!

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chad
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Re: Dialect- thanks for responding!

Perhaps Twain spoke like Huck when he was younger, although Huck's dialect seems somewhat exaggerated.  Correct grammar and an extensive vocabulary in young children can be precocious, and, in adults, I think can proper English sometiimes can give a person an "affected" or "ingenuine" manner- perhaps someone with an alterior motive. There are still northern and southern dialects. It might be interesting to see if dialects change (or changed) radically as you crossed the old mason-dixon line, or what surrounded the line itself.

 

Chad 

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Timbuktu1
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Re: Dialect- thanks for responding!

I think to the New England (Conn) ear, Twain must have sounded something like Huck!

 Didn't he travel, putting on a show of his "character"?  I think he "owned" the persona rather than rejected it.  

 

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chad
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Re: Dialect- thanks for responding!

Probably. The 1800's was a time period when, I think, languages were being absorbed by others, dialects and whole cultures notwithstanding. I think preservation of language is still a global concern. It is important to learn English to survive in business, for example.

 

Chad 

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Timbuktu1
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Re: Dialect- thanks for responding!


chad wrote:

Probably. The 1800's was a time period when, I think, languages were being absorbed by others, dialects and whole cultures notwithstanding. I think preservation of language is still a global concern. It is important to learn English to survive in business, for example.

 

Chad 

Sooo lucky to speak English!  Languages are always changing and I think that's why English is such a rich language, we absorb from everywhere.  Others try to freeze their language and that's just plain silly!

 

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