pre-thesis week 5

This week, I re-organized my reading list into an AirTable following our class exercises. I chose the platform since I already use it every day, and figured it has enough flexibility to allow me to keep track of readings efficiently. I created one tab for the overarching work (most of them books), where I can organize their links (if reading online), my Google doc notes, the citation, and my reading status. This tab links up to the more detailed schedule tab, where I break down the works by chapters, noting when I’ve read them and what the main keywords or themes are. Here is a snippet of both:

In terms of readings, I was able to finish New York City English this week. Looking back at the book, the areas that interested me the most were phonetics/phonology, lexicon, and discourse factors (the “New York conversational style”). I think a combination of these could be a focus for my project — how could I display NYC shibboleths visually, in a way that captures the phonological and conversational system? One thing the book did not answer was how the accent formed; which languages contributed to which sounds. Those questions seem much harder to answer in regards to phonetics than to lexicon, but maybe the other books I’ve gathered on the subject will shed some more light. I think this coming week I can move on to You Talkin’ to Me? before circling back to the more foundational (and dense, I expect) The Social Stratification of English in New York City

I was also able to get through seven chapters of City of Dreams (about 140 pages, spanning around the 1740s until the 1860s, right before the Civil War). This time period saw immense immigration influxes to the City, with chapters focusing mostly on immigrants from Scotland, Ireland, and Germany. There were harrowing descriptions of the Great Famine, the “coffin ships” that took the poorest emigrants across the Atlantic, and the tenement buildings that housed them once they arrived. I still have a ways to go with City of Dreams, but the amount that I’m learning totally discourages me from skipping around to more modern times. It feels like I have to read the whole thing, chronologically, in order to get a full understanding of the City’s social dynamics across time. 

After thinking about possibilities for the project some more, I searched for some typography books — mainly around the question “how can type denote voice and tone?” I’m hoping to start with Thinking with Type (bought a copy since I’ve been meaning to read it for a while) and Type Tells Tales (will be borrowing from Bobst the next time I’m in Manhattan). I also found a Brazilian book on vernacular typography which I’m very excited about, and should cover any gaps in case the other two focus on highly formal type — I think the idea of an accent being visually displayed should very much be in line with imperfect, informal lettering. I would like to find more work on New York City-focused lettering and type design, too, but have been struggling with that.