E9: How does language influence our identity (and vice-versa)? (w/ Barbara Johnstone)

Yinz ready for another episode of re:verb? On today’s show, we interview Dr. Barbara Johnstone, professor of English and Linguistics at Carnegie Mellon University, and one of the foremost scholars of an American English dialect known as Pittsburghese.

Our conversation touches on the history and features of Pittsburghese, how it has helped to forge various local identities in the city and beyond, and more broadly, how the ways that we talk about language influences our use of language. We discuss Professor Johnstone’s career, how she became interested in place-based registers, and to what extent her own work may have influenced public perceptions of Pittsburgh speech. Finally, we end with a light-hearted discussion of human-animal communication, and Alex develops his folk theory about regional dialects of cat-speak.


Works & Concepts Cited in this Episode:

“Bringing the Word Straight to You” Podcasts (from Dr. Johnstone’s Pittsburgh Speech and Society Project): http://pittsburghspeech.pitt.edu/PittsburghSpeech_Podcasts.html

Hawhee, Debra. "Toward a bestial rhetoric." Philosophy and Rhetoric 44.1 (2011): 81-87.

Johnstone, B. (2013). Speaking Pittsburghese: The story of a dialect. Oxford University Press.

Johnstone, B. (2018). Discourse analysis. John Wiley & Sons.

Johnstone, B., & Pollak, C. (2016). Mobilities, Materialities, and the Changing Meanings of Pittsburgh Speech. Journal of English Linguistics, 44(3), 254-275.

Johnstone, B., & Baumgardt, D. (2004). " Pittsburghese" Online: Vernacular Norming in Conversation. American speech, 79(2), 115-145.

Jim Krenn’s “Pants N’at” sketch: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sX2QQZ9ZHuY

McCool, S. (1982). Sam McCool's new Pittsburghese: How to speak like a Pittsburgher. Renaissance News Inc.

Pittsburgh Dad: Going to Gram’s

YouTube playlist of Rick Sebak documentaries based in Pittsburgh

Tribune-Review, “Hey, jagoff! Keep Pittsburghese out of politics”, 5/22/2018, Tribune-Review.

Alex Helberg