Language Catcher in the Rye

4730 Words May 21st, 2012 19 Pages
The American Dialect Society

The Language of 'The Catcher in the Rye' Author(s): Donald P. Costello Source: American Speech, Vol. 34, No. 3 (Oct., 1959), pp. 172-181 Published by: Duke University Press Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/454038 . Accessed: 30/01/2011 11:19
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THE LANGUAGEOF 'THE CATCHERIN THE RYE'

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the language of Holden Caulfield,the book's sixteen-year-old narrator,struck the ear of the contemporaryreader as an accurate rendering of the informal speech of an intelligent, educated, Northeastern American adolescent.2 In addition to commentingon its authenticity, critics have often remarked 'daring,' 'obscene,' 'blasphemous' features of Holden's lan-uneasily-the Another commonly noted feature of the book's language has been its guage. comic effect. And yet there has never been an extensive investigation of the language itself. That is what this paper proposes to do. Even though Holden's language is authentic teenage speech, recording it was certainly not the major intention of Salinger. He was faced with the artistic task of creating an individual character, not with the linguistic task of reproducingthe exact speech of teenagers in general: Yet Holden had to speak a recognizableteenage language, and at the same time had to be identifiable as an individual.This difficult task Salinger achieved by giving Holden an extremely trite and typical teenage speech, overlaid with strong personal idiosyncrasies. There are two major speech habits which are Holden's own, which are endlessly

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