Brett, David Finbar (2009) Eye dialect: translating the untranslatable. Annali della Facoltà di Lingue e Letterature Straniere di Sassari, Vol. 6 , p. 49-62. ISSN 1828-5384. Article.
The term ‘eye dialect’ was first coined in 1925 by George P. Krapp in The English Language in America (McArthur 1998). The term was used to describe the phenomenon of unconventional spelling used to reproduce colloquial usage. When one encounters such spellings “the convention violated is one of the eyes, and not of the ear”. Furthermore, eye dialect would be used by writers “not to indicate a genuine difference in pronunciation, but the spelling is 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”. While the phrase “the humble speaker of dialect” may smack of prescriptivism to the modern reader, this passage is important, as it finally gives a term for a device that has been used in literature for centuries. Krapp was referring to spellings like enuff for ‘enough’, wimmin for ‘women’, animulz for ‘animals’ and numerous other examples in which the standard spelling of the word belies in some way its pronunciation. One may envisage these spellings as a sort of insinuation on the part of the author that the character whose speech is depicted so would spell these words in this way, hence demonstrating a level of education and literacy substantially lower than the average.
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