Transcribing Speech of the Oppressed

I was actually a bit creeped out by the excessively phonetic transcription in this harrowing account that was reproduced by Cheryl Brown in Quora’s ‘Black History & Politics’ section. Commenter Linda Keres Carter shared this feeling and started an interesting thread of back and forth on the issue of how much phonetic transcription is appropriate.

To me it’s not so much a matter of the ‘dem’s and ‘dere’s being obtuse as disrespectful. There is a fine line between using phonetic transcription to create genuine atmosphere and sympathy and using it for mockery (of which there has been a long tradition). In the 1930′s, even sympathetic recorders (such as the one quoted by Cheryl) often quoted with a level of attempted phonetic “realism” sufficient to raise the suspicion of condescension and at least the enablement of outright mockery.

PS Cheryl (the OP) responded quite positively to Linda’s suggestion.

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