Thursday, October 2, 2008

VP Debate

So I hadn't really seen much of Palin until tonight. My God, it felt surreal seeing her on stage with Biden. I also hadn't seen too much of Biden before, who was remarkably sharp. She seemed completely out of place.

I'm struck that I have no idea how affected Palin's speech was. The high frequency of "-in" (in place of "iŋ") for the "-ing" ending and the phrases like "you betcha" and "gosh darnit" are the obvious things about her speech, but she also has quite a strong noticeable accent.

Thinking about the "-in" vs. "-iŋ" distribution, I realize that there's an interesting intersection of accent and formality here -- in this case, (nearly) all speakers use both endings in informal speech and avoid "-in'" in formal speech. What this meant was that Palin's constant use of "-in'" seemed not just like her accent, but like a deliberate attempt to seem folksy, or, alternatively, like a failure to take the debate seriously.

This leaves me wondering about the rest of her accent — it also struck me as out of place in the debate. The question that leaves is, is that just prejudice against her accent, or am I right that her accent was not just non-standard but obnoxiously informal.

Regarding the content of the debate... I'm a bit shocked now to be watching the PBS talking heads suggesting that the debate was a wash... granted, expectations for Palin were low, but she looked rather incredibly outclassed, outsmarted, and outspoken to me.

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