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231 Syntax in Seattle Gülşat Aygen To introduce Frasier, it is necessary to present its predecessor, the highly successful, half-hour comedy series Cheers. Running eleven seasons, 1982– 93, Cheers was set in a bar of the same name in Boston and featured an array of regular patrons and employees, including bartender Sam, a former professional baseball player and recovering alcoholic, and barmaid Diane, a pretentious pseudo-intellectual. While the early seasons of the series focused on the sexual tension between the two, the third season of Cheers introduced a new love interest for Diane: psychiatrist Dr. Frasier Crane. The relationship between Frasier and Diane eventually ends, and ultimately Frasier meets and marries fellow psychiatrist Lilith. By the end of the series Cheers, Frasier and Lilith had divorced, and the new series Frasier continued the Frasier Crane storyline by having him move to Seattle to reconnect with his brother and ailing father. Hailed as “one of the most successful TV ideas of all time” (Waters 2003), the spin-off Frasier aired on NBC for eleven years, 1993–2004. Cheers was populated primarily by blue-collar or lower-middleclass characters: for example, bartenders, waitresses, a mailman, and an accountant-cum–house painter. Frasier Crane, on the other hand, was introduced in Cheers as a Harvard University– and Harvard Medical School–educated, multiple-degree-holding psychiatrist, granting him an upper-class, elite status that both Cheers and Frasier capitalized on for its stark contrast to the other less educated and less sophisticated characters featured in both series. Although outward appearance helped to distinguish Frasier Crane from the other characters, for example in the form of 232 | Gülşat Aygen his coiffed hair and well-fitting suits, his class, erudition, and social standing were conveyed almost entirely by linguistic means. Frasier’s enunciation , vocabulary, and even sentence structure contributed significantly to establishing his intellectually superior status. Frasier’s characteristic speech is established in Cheers and not only maintained in Frasier, but explicitly reinforced by his linguistic double in the form of his brother, Niles Crane, also an Ivy League–educated psychiatrist , who oscillates between being Frasier’s ally and his foil. Both Frasier and Niles embody linguistic identities that deviate substantially from the other decidedly less cultured main characters throughout the series’ run: their father, Martin Crane, a retired and debilitated police detective; Daphne, Martin’s Manchester-born physical therapist; Sherry, Martin’s barmaid girlfriend; and Roz, the producer of Frasier’s radio program. The different linguistic styles that can be observed in the various characters of Frasier constitute linguistic disparity. In fact, Frasier’s sophisticated and elite language use observed in both Cheers and Frasier was so salient that in linguistics it would be called ‘marked’. Markedness refers to the property of language use that stands out as different, unusual, or even deviant in comparison to more common or usual usage that would constitute the unmarked form. This term was originally coined by the Prague school structuralists Roman Jakobson and Nikolai Trubetzkoy (Andersen 1989). Frasier Crane’s speech is marked particularly because it is the language of the well-educated elite in society, as well as in the Givônian sense of cognitive complexity, that is, “in terms of attention, mental effort or processing time” (Givôn 1990, 947). The marked use of language by Frasier and his equally elitist brother Niles is notably different from the speech of many of the other characters (and perhaps of many viewers), resulting in linguistic disparities that are often mined for humor throughout the series. In this chapter, we will look beyond the character conflicts and competitive witticisms that are distinct to Frasier, in order to explore the linguistic area of syntax, that is, the branch of linguistics that concerns the structure of sentences, phrases, or clauses as well as word order. The fact that differences in social status, class, education, and even matters of taste and sophistication are reflected in and conveyed not only on the phonetic and lexical levels, but also on Syntax in Seattle | 233 the syntactic level makes Frasier particularly interesting to the study of syntax. The application of a linguistic analysis, particularly syntactic analysis, contributes to a better understanding and appreciation of Frasier , and, by extension, of television language. A familiarity with the basic syntactic properties of English exemplified by the language of Frasier will furthermore illustrate how television language and televisual characters are crafted (Bednarek 2011). This chapter will focus mainly on the episode “The Gift...

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Additional Information

ISBN
9780815653950
Related ISBN
9780815634935
MARC Record
OCLC
955275501
Pages
352
Launched on MUSE
2016-11-09
Language
English
Open Access
No
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