Gertrude Elizabeth Johnson.

Dialects for oral interpretation, selections and discussion online

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Assistant Professor in the Department of Speech in the University

of Wisconsin. Author of "Modern Literature for Oral

Interpretation," and "Choosing a Play"







whose leadership has made

constructi\t: work



I "WISH to express my appreciation of the kind words as
well as permissions which have been accorded me by
several authors, and my thanks to the editors and publishers
who have granted me the use of material.

To Bobbs-Merrill & Co. for selections by Wallace Bruce Amsbary
taken from ' ' Ballads of the Bourbonnais. ' '

To Century Co. for selections by Joel Chandler Harris, Ruth
McEnery Stuart, Ellis Parker Butler, Irwin Russell, and Ruth Com-
fort Mitchell.

To Geo. H, Doran & Co. for "The Fair" by Theodosia Garrison,
from ' ' The Dreamers and Other Poems. ' '

To Dodd, Mead & Co. for two poems by Paul Laurence Dunbar,
taken from ' ' Selected Readings ' ' compiled by Anna F. Morgan.
(All Dunbar's material is copyrighted by Dodd, Mead & Co.)

To Forbes & Co. for selections from ' ' Ben King 's Verse, ' ' and
from "Old Ace and Other Poems," "Pickett's Charge and Other
Poems, ' ' by Fred Emerson Brooks.

To Harcourt, Brace & Co. for selections by T. A. Daly taken
from "Canzoni, " "Carmina, " and "McAroni Ballads."

To David McKay Co. for selections by W, M. Letts.

To G. P. Putnam 's Sons for selections by W. H. Drummond.

To Small, Maynard & Co. for selections by F. P. Dunne.

To the following authors and owners of copyrights:

To Mrs. Alice Chapin for the use of her son's play, "The Phi-
losopher of Butterbiggens. ' '

To Mrs. W. H. Drummond for the use of poems by Dr. W. H.

To Bertha N. Graham for the use of her play, "Spoiling the
Broth. ' '

To William F. Kirk, Arthur Stringer, and Ruth Comfort Mitchell
for their generous permissions to use their work.

viii Acknowledgments

To Hi.ljjoU'V Torronco for permission to uso "The Rider of
Dreams. ' '

To Mra Clmrios Unttoil Loomis for permission to use Mr, Loomis'

To the K.lit^r of "Country Life" for the use of the poem "The
Twa Weclunia" by Mrs. Violet Jacobs.


AS in an earlier book, "Modern Literature for Oral
Interpretation," the author has been handicapped in
the selection of material for this book by refusals and
prohibitive costs. Much, therefore, that should have been
included does not appear. It is hoped, however, that the
book as a whole may be of service in a field constantly in
need of material of every sort. Certainly, there is need
of a collection solely of dialect forms, since in the whole
range of research but one such book was found.

It has been the intention in the discussion to offer as
concrete suggestions as possible on matters which have had
little direct explanation in any of our texts. The book is
not meant to be a research treatise on dialect, but a usable
text and source of material in dialect form ; suitable both
for study for the sake of the dialect, and also to use as good
program numbers. Dialect study should receive more
attention as a desirable medium in training students in
expression as well as for use upon programs.

It will be found that all selections of what is sometimes
termed "colloquial dialect" (Riley, Foss, Field, etc.) have
been omitted; also all "child dialect" (Cooke, Riley, Field,
etc.). These are not clearly "dialect," at least, not in the
sense in which it is considered in this book. Such selections
do not call for so complete change in vocal elements, such
as pitch, quality, and rhythm, or have as great variety in
corresponding bodily changes as the types of selections
herein included. They are, however, often excellent ma-
terial for interpretation, either as studies or as program

Z Vrefacc

nunibors, niul tliey are comparatively numerous and easy
to locate.

Ill elioosiiig the selections, those which include a great
many strange or obsolete words have been purposely
onjittcd; since it is not the intention that the selections
should prove of use for such study of words in dialect.
The material is confined for the most part to the attempt
of those who are native to another country to use the
Knglish language. They are in the form, not too difficult,
of "The foreigner speaking English and including two
factors, his own language and the language of his adop-

"Whereas the effort has been made to make the selections
fairly inclusive of as many types of dialect as possible,
many have perforce been omitted. For instance, no
cockney dialect is included. Kipling has much that is
excellent but not obtainable. It will be noted that the
selections are written entirely in dialect. Complete dialect
being the only form desirable for the aims of this book, it
will be seen at once that the selection was much more

The inclusion of an extensive bibliography, found at the
end of the book, should prove of great assistance to teachers
and others in locating selections desired. For much of the
work of this bibliography, I am indebted to Frances Ellen
Tucker of Dodgeville, Wis., High School, Department of

Having felt the need of some such compilation as this
present one through a long period of years, it is offered
in the hope that it will prove helpful to a large number
who have been handicapped in the use of Dialect mainly
because it has been so hard to find.




I A General Stjrvey 3

IJ The Meaning and Significance of Dialect .... 11

III How TO Study a Dialect 19

,W Advantages in the Interpretative Use of Dialect . 31

V The Monologue and Its Interpretation ..... 39


Material for Interpretation

VI Scotch 45

VII Italian 75

VIII Negro 89

IX French and French Canadian . 125

X Scandinavian 145

XI Irish 157

XII Miscellaneous 203

XIII One-Act Plats in Dialect 219



XIV General References 281

XV Detailed List of Selections 286

Index 305





WHEN one interested in the field of interpretation
is convinced of the benefits to be derived from the
use of Dialect for the interpreter, both in vocal and bodily
reaction and development, his first thought is to survey
the field; to determine, if possible, why others interested
in the subject have not investigated its resources. As a
possible clue to this last, it is necessary, first of all, to
discover the sources of the material.

Setting about in such a survey, the first step was to
locate Dialect selections, and for this purpose volumes of
selected readings compiled for use in interpretation were
examined. Out of a total of one hundred books, only one
was found that listed Dialect in its table of contents, nor
was there any mention of Dialect material in the indexes or
appendixes of the other ninety-nine.^ In this survey it
was necessary to go over these books page by page in order
to determine whether or not Dialect selections were in-
cluded, and if so what particular kind of dialect was rep-
resented (Irish, French, Chinese, etc.) ; also, the form in
which they were written, whether prose or poetry, for this

* A bibliography of these selections, with a chart of detailed find-
ings, appears on pages 281-303.


4 Dialects for Oral Iittrrprctation

was inilii'iited in the iiulox in only one instance. In the
one hundred hooks a total of 6200 selections were reviewed,
430 of which were Dialect. It should be noted here that
more than half of the latter, or 215, were repeated two or
three times. Of course there were some duplications in
the other selections, but it would not lower the total more
than 2000, so that the actual amount of material in dialect
form is in the proportion of 215 to 4200. One volume that
purported to be wholly Dialect contained 118 selections,
50 of which were usable. The other 68 selections were
either three- and four-line jokes, or not real Dialects. It
can readily be seen that there is an apparently appalling
lack of Dialect material. Furthermore, it is little wonder
that an instructor would not be enthusiastic in the use of
material that has to be literally dragged from its hiding-
place, examined, and diagnosed. The use of Dialect selec-
tions, therefore, is likely to be greatly retarded by this one
element alone, the finding of material.

A glance over the Dialects included in this volume will
perhaps reveal that the so-called Yankee, Hoosier, Child,
and varioiLs other Dialects do not appear. These, it seems,
are only variations within our own language, sometimes
termed Dialect, it is true. They would seem to be, in a
truer sense, colloquialisms, vernaculars, or provincialisms.
Pitch, accent, emphasis, even pronunciation, as well as
certain idiomatic expressions, may differ in different lo-
calities throughout our country, as they do in other coun-
tries as well ; but this is only a matter of degree, and not
one of radical change such as will be found when the
foreigner attempts to adopt our language.

Mr. E. S. Sheldon has the following to say upon this
point in his article "What Is a Dialect," found in the
Dialect Notes of the American Dialect Society, Vol. 1. I

Discussion 5

quote at some length, as it may serve to clarify our dis-
cussion to a great extent. Mr. Sheldon says: "Language
we consider primarily as spoken by the various individuals
who use it. No two individuals use exactly the same
language. All language is constantly changing and the
gradual changes in different localities produce in time, in
the lack of conservative or unifying forces, forms markedly
different, even though the source of all of these may have
been the same, that is, with only slight and unnoticed
individual variations. These different local forms of speech
we may pro-visionaUy call dialects, but it is evident that a
sharp line between dialects and language can only be
drawn after adopting strict definitions of both words, also
that no slight line can be drawn between the slight, and
for the most part unnoticed, differences among individuals
speaking the same dialect or language and the more notice-
able ones which we call differences of dialect. Dialects,
thus understood, can not be assigned in general to definite
regions with sharply drawn geographical limits. ..." and
later he terms the changes that occur "Local Dialects."
The entire article should be carefully read by all who have
to teach in this field.

Matters of Child Dialect offer another problem, and
should not properly be termed Dialect, it seems. This
speech belongs to a different world, the world of Baby-
land. This speech can not be compared with the grown-up
world, nor with the speech of the foreigner attempting
to accommodate his native language to ours. The latter
has some years of experience, while the child is just learn-
ing. The child's speech is surely but a variation within
our own forms, and will have but little variation in melodic
rhythm at least. The melodic rhythm in a given language,
together with the quality conditions, are, it seems, the final

(J Didliits for Oral I iitcrpritation

(lotcriiiiiiiii^ factors ol' difTercntiation for the interpreter

III the si-arch tlirouj^li many volumes for material, ona
is struck l)y the fact that by far the greatest number ot
sekH'tious is in verse form. Comparatively few writers
have used Dialect entirely in prose form. A possible ex-
planation for this preponderance of the poetic form mifjlit
be that Dialect is a medium of expression for a distinct
character situation, taken more frequently than otherwise
from the lower walks of life. Poetry idealizes, and many
of these selections if written in prose might call forth a
mere crude enjoyment instead of the appreciation that the
author desired. Considerable prose in Scotch may be
found, and a great deal in Irish. This latter Dialect Mr.
"William H. Carpenter of Columbia College thinks should
not come under the same sort of Dialect consideration as
the Dialect of other foreigners in this country ; indeed, he
seems not to consider the Irishman as a "foreigner." In
his article "The Philosophy of Dialect" in "Modern Lan-
guage Notes," Vol. 1, he says:

' ' The Irishman, whom we have always with us, does not
come properly into consideration here. His language is,
from the very start, an English patois entitled to its
vagaries of expression by lawful transmission from a long
line of preceding generations."

I encountered by far the greatest difficulty in finding
anything like good Dialect, either in prose or poetry, in
the German, and am not at all satisfied with what is in-
cluded. In this connection I wish to quote again from
Mr. Carpenter, since what he has to say is very illuminat-
ing in this connection. In the same article referred to
above he says:

"The German divides with the Irishman the honor of
constituting a weighty part of our foreign element — a part

Discussion 7

which, from its size and importance, is quite assertive,
and we are accustomed to read and hear frequently that
form of English which arises from the imitation of a Ger-
man original. To understand this international hodge-
podge is, in some parts of the country, a linguistic problem
that must be solved by every one, for its every-day re-
currence is assured. In spite, however, of this widespread
familiarity with this alien pronunciation of English it is
curious to observe the clumsiness with which American
writers use it. This is apt to be the case wherever it is
emploj^ed, not only in the hastily written 'news item,' but
may also be discovered in the last new novel."

This, at least, is interesting in the light of my difficulty
in finding Dialect in this fonn.

The attitude of the "special schools" of expression in
this matter is worth consideration, since they occupy an
important position in the field of interpretation, for they
supply very largely the teachers in this field. What the
teacher in training learns of methods, materials, etc., she
carries into her own work. I have wondered sometimes
whether these schools place sufficient emphasis upon the
study of Dialect. As far as I have been able to discover
through evidence obtained from graduates of these schools,
and I know it was the case in my own training. Dialect is
not generally employed as a means or method for benefiting
the individual in vocal and bodily reactions, nor is much
time devoted to a study of its philosophy and possible
advantages. What is done depends too much upon students
who are "apt" imitators, or upon instructors who have a
special "gift" or knowledge of some particular Dialect.
Often, then, it may happen that only one or two Dialects
are touched upon in an entire course, and Dialect may
come to be considered more or less of a trick performance,

8 Dial tits for Oral Interpretation

rathor ihan a fundamental study of importance to any
toacher or interpreter. Surely, if authors of note and
authority find the use of Dialect fundamental to the de-
lineation of a c-haracter or situation, we should give it some
general and serious consideration before we may hope to
approximate the author's intention, or do justice to the
people we are attem|)tiiig to portray. There must be some
basic truths concerning its value and use.




DIALECT is found where a branch of the parent
tongue is radically affected by the locality, time,
accident, or revolutions. When an Italian, Chinese, or
Frenchman comes to America, he comes with the language
of his native soil, but upon his arrival finds that it no
longer serves his purposes adequately. The removal from
the fatherland to a new world necessitates his changing
the parent tongue to fit new needs. Often whole words,
phrases, idioms, etc., are transferred to the new tongue.
The French-Canadian will say, "I go to fine soiree." The
first four words are distinctly American in form but not
in order to tense, and this affects the melodic rhythm.
"Soiree" is French and transferred to the new tongue.
His native language has been radically affected by en-
vironment and needs, and the result is a Dialect, or mixture
of two languages.

In this we find a possible answer to the question, **Why
do authors use Dialect?" When one reads, "I go to fine
soiree," one knows immediately that it is not just any man
talking. As far as the dialectic form is employed, it is
accidental — a means, not an end in itself. That simple
sentence is an expression of character, a foreign character.
It is a word picture. An artist would depict the man in
his native costume, posture, coloring, etc., but your author


l-i Dialtcia for Oral I iilcrpntation

breathes vory life into him through the medium of words
Immediately one senses an element of the dramatic. Whyl
Heraiiso, if one knows anything at all about the French
Canadian, tins knowledge forms a subconscious back-
ground. One is at once upon the alert, full of expectancy,
looking for something to happen. It need not be intense
or swiftly moving, but just a tinge of difference will give
it dramatic tlavor. Or, if the reader knows little or noth-
ing concerning the French Canadian, the dialectic form
ac(iuaints him with the fact that here is something different.
A Dialect situation must have this dramatic element, or
it is worth nothing. It may at times add only a grotesque
effect or color to a situation, but it must be present in some

Dialect aids the reader or hearer to picture the character
who is speaking. It establishes, to some degree, a sympa-
thetic medium of understanding. It is much more satisfy-
ing to have such a character speak in his own way, setting
forth his own experiences and his reactions in his own
Dialect, than to have some one tell about him in ordinary
language. The reader or hearer is able to appreciate more
fully the spirit, thought, and feeling of the character and
situation. Dialect points up a situation, holds the details
in focus, and gives a different mood or color to the whole.
Recently play producers have seen fit to have music ap-
propriate in movement and mood before the curtain rises,
in order to establish an atmosphere. That is what Dialect
does for fiction. As Doctor Curry ^ says, '"'Dialect is a
kind of literary or vocal stage make-up that enables the
reader or auditor to recognize the character."

Robert Burns used this "make-up" for the speaker in

*" Browning and the Dramatic Monolog," by S. S. Curry,
Chap. 13.

Discussion 13

the majority of his poems. They were in Scottish dialect,
simple and spoken from his very heart. To quote Doctor
Curry again, "It was native to his heart." He was in-
timately connected with the peculiar feelings, experiences,
and reactions of his people. In his distinctly Scottish
poems we get a sense of the dramatic spirit of the thought,
while in those that are known as his English poems we feel
the lack of this element. They are wanting in appeal;
they seem weaker, and do not stir us as do his other poems.

Dialect is the language of the heart or emotions, and we
react naturally to its appeal. One of the heroes of the
hour, and a truly great man. Sir Harry Lauder, is a living
example. He is an artist, but would his art have the same
flavor, the same appeal, if he sang the "Wee Hoose 'Mang
the Heather" or "Roamin' in the Gloamin' " without
that famous Scotch burr. Through his consummate skill
he can make an audience shout with laughter or melt with
tears. To those who know Scotland he brings the fragrance
of the heather, and the eerie call of the bag-pipe that tugs
at every Scotchman 's heart ; to those who do not know his
beloved country, he brings the vague feeling of a wonder
country yet unseen but greatly loved. Sometimes we must
know a man's character in order to appreciate why he did
a certain thing, and in just this capacity is Dialect needed
the better to suggest the experiences of a certain character
situation. This is the real meaning and justification of

Vernaculars such as the Hoosier and Yankee find justi-
fication in this way. Riley in his Hoosier poems establishes
a bond of sympathy between character and reader through
the vernacular. The stories of Alice Brown and Mary
E. W. Freeman, as well as much of the work of Robert
Frost and Percy Mackaye, would lose appeal and signifi-

1 i Diitlrcts for Oral I ttlrrpntation

caiu'o w«>r(' till' voniacular, the idioms, and the colloquial-
isms of New En

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Online LibraryGertrude Elizabeth JohnsonDialects for oral interpretation, selections and discussion → online text (page 1 of 16)