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Old 05-26-2012, 09:23 AM
supery00n supery00n is offline
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Southern Accent Hypothesis and Question

I've always wondered how the Southern accent developed and at what point in time one could identify, if we could somehow record the voices of people living in the south, an accent that we could definitively recognize as "Southern." I have an interesting theory as to why the Southern accent "evolved," so to speak.

Linguists have shown that a person who is transplanted from his or her native home and placed in an environment in which he or she must learn a language that is not his native language, and must do so at a young age, will develop a sort of proto-language called a "pidgin," which then stabilizes into a "creole" language.

A "true" creole language is derived from the mixing of two languages at a deeper level than just the borrowing of words or phrases. My hypothesis is that there are many shades and degrees of "creolization," if you will, with the equal contribution of parent languages to form a new creole synthesis being an idealization, and that the Southern accent evolved due to the subconscious influence of Afro-English pidgin languages that were spoken by recently arrived slaves prior to the slave trade having been banned (during the years between 1609-1808).

This could possibly explain why people in the Deep South have a stronger accent than people from the "border states," the reason being that the number of slaves imported and the slave population in general, which I claim is an agent for a two-way linguistical evolutionary process in which the newly arrived slaves learned a version of English that had characteristics of its native African language and through communication passed on these subtle characteristics and dialects to southern white people especially during the latter's early childhood years (when language acquisition occurs, mostly subconsciously).

Does this make any sense?
More generally, can the development of a specific accent or dialect be attributed to a specific influence or cultural interaction? I.e. Is the question of why Southerners have the specific "Southern accent" a question that can be even answered?

Last edited by supery00n; 05-26-2012 at 09:28 AM..
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Old 05-26-2012, 09:57 AM
JKellyMap JKellyMap is offline
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Interesting thought, but I'm pretty sure that, in this case, it was much more about:

1. The English pronunciation styles in the parts of England (and Scotand, and Ireland), and the time period, that most early settlement of the south happened to draw people from; and

2. Essentially random shifts that occurred during the period of relative isolation among states, and to some degree between North and South, from, say, 1650 to 1800 or so.

So, the accent as we know it today would have had some elements in place already by earliest British-Isles settlement (c. 1610 to 1650), while other elements would have developed later -- making the whole thing recognizably "southern" to us surely no later than 1750 or so, I would wager.
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Old 05-26-2012, 10:09 AM
drastic_quench drastic_quench is offline
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I've heard of the notion that it came from little colonial young'uns being cared for by slave nannies.
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Old 05-26-2012, 10:17 AM
Wendell Wagner Wendell Wagner is offline
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It's not a new theory. There have been other speculations that Southern American English retains influences from white children being raised by black nannies or playing when young with black children. I'm not sure about what the current thoughts are about such theories.
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Old 05-26-2012, 04:34 PM
BigT BigT is offline
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I do know that there is a lot of talk about how similar Southern English is to various accents of British English, with even some supposing that Southern English is closer to how the British colonists actually sounded than any other existing dialect. If so, this would seem to negate this theory.
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Old 05-26-2012, 07:29 PM
njtt njtt is online now
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I do know that there is a lot of talk about how similar Southern English is to various accents of British English, with even some supposing that Southern English is closer to how the British colonists actually sounded than any other existing dialect. If so, this would seem to negate this theory.
To my British ears, the Southern American accent is a lot more difficult to understand, and less like any sort of British accent, than other American accents.
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Old 05-26-2012, 07:52 PM
Lamia Lamia is offline
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To my British ears, the Southern American accent is a lot more difficult to understand, and less like any sort of British accent, than other American accents.
The idea is not that American Southern accents (there are more than one) resemble modern British English, but that they resemble British English as it was spoken in the 17th and 18th centuries. Whether that's actually true or not I don't know, but I've heard the theory before. And many American Southerners are descended from people who were British but not English. A lot of Scots and Scotch-Irish settled in the South, and I've also heard that some of what in the US we consider "Southern" dialect terms and pronunciations are actually of Scottish origin.

FWIW, the first time I read Terry Pratchett's Wyrd Sisters (one of the Discworld books, sort of a Macbeth parody from the perspective of the witches) I wondered why he'd chosen to set it in a fantasy version of the Appalachian region of the US. I was well into the book before I realized that of course it was meant to be a fantasy version of Scotland!

Last edited by Lamia; 05-26-2012 at 07:53 PM..
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Old 05-26-2012, 08:29 PM
Bridget Burke Bridget Burke is offline
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The Wikipedia article on Southern American English has "multiple issues" but information may be gleaned on the various Southern accents. It's worth a look!

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Few generalizations can be made about Southern pronunciation as there is great variation between the regions of the South ......, between older and younger people, and between people of different ethnic backgrounds.
Immigrants from various parts of the British Isles brought the language spoken in their day--beginning centuries ago. They taught the slaves their own versions of English. Of course, the influence went both ways--African-Americans have had a great influence on all American culture.

The Wikipedia article mentions Gullah--a creole language created by blacks living on part of the Atlantic coast. And the section on Louisiana mentions Louisiana Creole--which I remember hearing in Houston, back in the 70's; but that's French, not English!

It's an interesting, complex topic. (And it caused me to add at least one overly expensive book to my Amazon cart.)
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Old 05-26-2012, 11:30 PM
njtt njtt is online now
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Originally Posted by Lamia View Post
The idea is not that American Southern accents (there are more than one) resemble modern British English, but that they resemble British English as it was spoken in the 17th and 18th centuries. Whether that's actually true or not I don't know, but I've heard the theory before.
I thought the theory was that the American accent in general, not specifically the Southern accent, resembles British English as spoken in the 17th and 18th centuries. I personally find this a bit implausible. After all, American English has had just as long to evolve away from 17th century pronunciation as British English has, and it has probably been subject to more, and more diverse linguistic influences than British English, what with all the immigration into America from other parts of Europe, and elsewhere. But, be that as it may, even if true, this theory does not explain why Southern American seems to be further away from British English than other American accents do. The theory that it is influenced by African pronunciations seems much more plausible, to me, than the theory that it is "old-fashioned" English.

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And many American Southerners are descended from people who were British but not English. A lot of Scots and Scotch-Irish settled in the South, and I've also heard that some of what in the US we consider "Southern" dialect terms and pronunciations are actually of Scottish origin.
I would say that, if anything, Southern American English, indeed pretty much all American English, is further away from Scottish English than from English English. I have noticed that many Americans who can understand most English English accents perfectly well seem to have trouble understanding a strong Scottish accent.

Irish is another matter. To my ear, some Irish accents do resemble an American accent, but again, not specifically a Southern American accent. Anyway, I thought most Irish immigrants into the U.S. ended up in Northern cities like New York and Boston.

The one British English accent that, I think, may bear some resemblance to American Southern, is English West-Country rural. They both have that slow drawl. I have no idea why that should be, though. It may be just coincidence.

Last edited by njtt; 05-26-2012 at 11:33 PM..
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Old 05-27-2012, 12:04 AM
Pitter Patter Pitter Patter is offline
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It is an anomaly for sure, but the natives of Ocracoke Island, NC and surrounding areas speak a very strange dialect, at least to the rest of us North Carolinians. Isolation must surely play a major part in that.
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Old 05-27-2012, 12:50 AM
DSeid DSeid is online now
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Originally Posted by njtt View Post
I thought the theory was that the American accent in general, not specifically the Southern accent, resembles British English as spoken in the 17th and 18th centuries. ...
This argument is well made on Patricia O'Conner's "Origins of the Specious", with ample documentation.
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"the phonetic basis of American pronunciation rests chiefly on the speech of Englishmen of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries." And those Englishmen sounded much like the Americans of today. The "English accent" that we now associate with educated British speech is a relatively new phenomenon and didn't develop until after the American Revolution ... educated people in Britain began dropping their [i]r[/i']s in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. The American most likely to drop their [i]r[/i']s were those, like New Englanders, who had strong commercial and social ties with the mother country ...
Many additional examples of American English being more similar to the English of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries than modern British English (and some the other way around) are provided. In fact she documents that well into the eighteenth century many who visited stateside were impressed by how Americans "in general speak English better than the English do."

While New Englanders somewhat co-evolved their accent in step with the changes in England due to greater contact, the Southerners' greater isolation resulted in some older pronunciations persisting, while it also changed from the founding English accent in its own ways as well. Certainly African dialects may have had an impact in that latter regard. How much? I haven't read it, but I was able to find this book (available as an e-book for $29) that seems to address these questions somewhat comprehensively. If there is an answer it is likely in there.
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Old 05-27-2012, 03:18 AM
ruadh ruadh is offline
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Originally Posted by njtt View Post
To my ear, some Irish accents do resemble an American accent, but again, not specifically a Southern American accent.
I hear a similarity between County Donegal accents and Southern US accents. They've both got that twangy drawl thing going, for lack of a more formal linguistic description.
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Old 05-27-2012, 08:53 AM
JKellyMap JKellyMap is offline
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While New Englanders somewhat co-evolved their accent in step with the changes in England due to greater contact, the Southerners' greater isolation resulted in some older pronunciations persisting....e.
This paralleled the situation in the Spanish Americas, where coastal regions (Cuba, coastal Colombia, even Veracruz in Mexico....) maintained greater contact with colonial-era Spain, and so accents co-evolved to a greater degree than in more isolated highland areas, which were generally more conservative... And, again, people are confused about this, because they assume accents remain unchanged over recent centuries back in the European "home" country.
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Old 05-27-2012, 09:56 AM
Lamia Lamia is offline
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But, be that as it may, even if true, this theory does not explain why Southern American seems to be further away from British English than other American accents do.
I suspect that a major reason why Southern American dialects might seem more "exotic" to the British than other American dialects would be that authentic Southern American dialects are rarely featured in movies or TV shows. The accents people outside the US are going to be familiar with from American media are mostly certain West Coast, Midwestern, and New York accents. When Southern characters do appear in movies and on TV, they're frequently played by non-Southern actors who are faking the accent -- sometimes quite badly.

I am not a linguist and couldn't tell you whether American Southern dialects share more specific features with modern English dialects than do other American dialects, but I do know that non-rhotic accents -- which are common in England -- are not found in most of the US...except in New England and parts of the South. African-American dialects are also mostly non-rhotic, but it seems more likely to me than their ancestors picked this up from white Southerners of English descent than the other way around.

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I would say that, if anything, Southern American English, indeed pretty much all American English, is further away from Scottish English than from English English. I have noticed that many Americans who can understand most English English accents perfectly well seem to have trouble understanding a strong Scottish accent.
Americans have a lot of exposure to "BBC English" through the media, and almost none to authentic Scottish dialects. I also have no idea how similar the original dialect of the Scotch-Irish (Wikipedia tells me they're known as Ulster Scots in the UK) was to that of people in, say, Glasgow even before they came over, much less how close it would be now. The Scotch-Irish have been in the US for a long time, since before it was the US, so there's been plenty of time for accents to diverge. The Appalachian dialect does have a number of features that are known to be due to Scotch-Irish influence, though.

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Irish is another matter. To my ear, some Irish accents do resemble an American accent, but again, not specifically a Southern American accent. Anyway, I thought most Irish immigrants into the U.S. ended up in Northern cities like New York and Boston.
Those are the people who came over in the mid to late 19th century, during/after the Great Famine. There were Irish and Scotch-Irish here long before that.
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Old 05-27-2012, 12:32 PM
al27052 al27052 is offline
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Originally Posted by Pitter Patter View Post
It is an anomaly for sure, but the natives of Ocracoke Island, NC and surrounding areas speak a very strange dialect, at least to the rest of us North Carolinians. Isolation must surely play a major part in that.
I think it's odd that people often think that the British accent doesn't survive unchanged in the Americas. Around Ocracoke, it pretty much does.

I think that's due to the fact that the whites in that area had so little contact with non-white people for so long.

But yes, I think the fact that the Ocracoke Island area (including Scotland Neck and surrounding areas) has an almost pure British accent is extremely strong evidence that the Southern Accent is actually different from British English largely because of African and Native American influences. Extremely strong, bordering on absolute proof, absent careful linguistic analysis.
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Old 05-27-2012, 01:13 PM
Indistinguishable Indistinguishable is offline
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I think it's odd that people often think that the British accent doesn't survive unchanged in the Americas. Around Ocracoke, it pretty much does.
No, it doesn't. See here for a discussion of this sort of myth (albeit not about Ocracoke specifically); I doubt you will find any linguist who would endorse such a claim.

Last edited by Indistinguishable; 05-27-2012 at 01:14 PM..
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Old 05-27-2012, 03:20 PM
Capt Kirk Capt Kirk is offline
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I don't have an accent, "youse Guys" do and you talk too fast as well

the odd thing I have observed in myself is that my Texas Drawl changes depending on where I am. In NYC none at all, in Brimingham AL, quite a bit. I don't do this intentionally it just happens. I didn't know this until the English guys I tour with pointed it out, they found this extremely funny.

Capt Kirk Texan
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Old 05-27-2012, 07:01 PM
Bijou Drains Bijou Drains is offline
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I have lived in NC for 40 years and I've never heard anyone say the mountain areas of NC have a British type accent. Those people sound like most other southern accents.

I have heard that about Ocracoke and I have been there and heard that accent for myself in person. It is sort of British to me, but I don't know what it sounded like 50 or 100 years ago.
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Old 05-28-2012, 12:36 AM
al27052 al27052 is offline
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Originally Posted by Bijou Drains View Post

I have heard that about Ocracoke and I have been there and heard that accent for myself in person. It is sort of British to me, but I don't know what it sounded like 50 or 100 years ago.
It sounds pretty British to me. Granted, I've not been to England, but I had to listen VERY closely, for several minutes, before I felt fairly sure that it might conceivably be something other than a pure British Isles accent of some type.

As to what it sounded like 50 or 100 years ago, probably just a more extreme version of what it is now. I notice that older generations tend to have heavier regional accents, and I imagine that's been true pretty much everywhere in the US for several generations now.
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Old 05-28-2012, 12:47 AM
al27052 al27052 is offline
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No, it doesn't. See here for a discussion of this sort of myth (albeit not about Ocracoke specifically); I doubt you will find any linguist who would endorse such a claim.
Have you been there? No? Are you a degreed linguist? No?

Like I said in the above post, I had to listen for several minutes VERY carefully before I felt reasonably sure that it wasn't an EXACT copy of some British Isles accent. I'm from North Carolina, am familiar with quite a few of its regional and class-based subdialects, and I've watched more than enough British TV and movies to have heard quite a few different regional accents from there as well.

I listen carefully to accents, can imitate them quite well, and also have worked for years in call centers. I talk to people from all over the world and the US, and using their accent, I can identify someone's location to a specific region of their state, quite often.

Using accents, I can hear the difference between Minnesota and Wisconsin, the difference between eastern and western Oregon/Washington, and the difference between east and west Texas. I can pin down someone's location by COUNTY in my part of North Carolina, quite often, and I can pin down someone's social class in North Carolina within 3-5 words, 80% of the time.

Identifying regional US accents is a hobby of mine, because call center work is generally not mentally stimulating, and it helps pass the time at work.

So please feel free to dispute me using your lack of degree, lack of experience with this particular regional accent of a specific part of coastal NC, and lack of expertise with accents, mmkay?
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Old 05-28-2012, 12:57 AM
John Mace John Mace is online now
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Have you been there? No? Are you a degreed linguist? No?

Like I said in the above post, I had to listen for several minutes VERY carefully before I felt reasonably sure that it wasn't an EXACT copy of some British Isles accent. I'm from North Carolina, am familiar with quite a few of its regional and class-based subdialects, and I've watched more than enough British TV and movies to have heard quite a few different regional accents from there as well.

I listen carefully to accents, can imitate them quite well, and also have worked for years in call centers. I talk to people from all over the world and the US, and using their accent, I can identify someone's location to a specific region of their state, quite often.

Using accents, I can hear the difference between Minnesota and Wisconsin, the difference between eastern and western Oregon/Washington, and the difference between east and west Texas. I can pin down someone's location by COUNTY in my part of North Carolina, quite often, and I can pin down someone's social class in North Carolina within 3-5 words, 80% of the time.

Identifying regional US accents is a hobby of mine, because call center work is generally not mentally stimulating, and it helps pass the time at work.

So please feel free to dispute me using your lack of degree, lack of experience with this particular regional accent of a specific part of coastal NC, and lack of expertise with accents, mmkay?
Well, rather than offering us your personal anecdotes. give us a cite. We have these threads every few months, and someone always comes along with this folk-knowledge either about those folks or the people on Tangier Island in Virginia. I've never heard an actual linguist agree with this folk knowledge.
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Old 05-28-2012, 01:10 AM
al27052 al27052 is offline
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Fair enough. Truthfully, here's what I found so far--

I thought all those coastal North Carolinians had pretty similar accents, but they don't. Ocracokers sound pretty Southern, but Outer Banks people sound much more British. here's a youtube video, try to listen to the whole thing, there's some variation among these speakers:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jgi9w...feature=relmfu

But neither the Ocracokers nor the Outer Banks people sound like this one old carpenter I saw on PBS one time, on the local UNC-TV affiliate. I literally thought he was British for about 90 seconds, until I heard a word or two that didn't sound quite British.

My guess is that the younger generation in some of these remote areas has picked up the semi-generic "North Carolina redneck accent" through tourism and travel to other parts of NC, as well as simple intermarriage. However, there are definitely some members of the older generation still left who really sound almost perfectly British, I guarantee it.
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Old 05-28-2012, 01:16 AM
al27052 al27052 is offline
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http://www.youtube.com/watch?NR=1&fe...&v=jXs9cf2YWwg

That's a much better example of what I'm talking about. I couldn't tell you WHERE in the British Isles that accent's from, but, by gosh, it's extremely similar to the accent of somewhere there.

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Old 05-28-2012, 01:29 AM
al27052 al27052 is offline
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And not all North Carolinians, or all Southerners, are stupid. I was a National Merit Scholar, and I can hold my own in most hard science discussions with doctoral candidates in the hard sciences.

The sneaky subtext here is that Southerners-are-just-stupid-and-the-way-they-talk-is-perfectly-correlated-with-their-stupidity.

I don't appreciate the implied insult.

In point of fact, the differences between British accents and Southern accent(s) are easily attributable to African influences.

So no, not all Southerners are slack-jawed morons. We didn't somehow pervert the British accents of our ancestors through simple stupidity, or any other type of personal or character flaws.

I am up against ignorance here.

I mean, sure, I also have the tendency assumptions about someone's intelligence based on their accent, and all kinds of other assumptions about their character, too. I, however, am AWARE that I tend to do this, and keep a sharp eye on myself, for fear I'll assume the wrong thing. Emphasis on the "ASS" in assume.

Yes, even I tend to assume people with Southern accents are stupid, even as I have one myself. I'm aware of the assumption, though, and I know it doesn't always hold true.

Last edited by al27052; 05-28-2012 at 01:32 AM..
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Old 05-28-2012, 01:35 AM
al27052 al27052 is offline
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I'm roughly as touchy about this as an African-American who deals with people that assume he and all his race are hubcap-stealing, jive-talking, cop-hating, baggy-panted welfare recipients and prison inmates.

And I'm sure some of you who've lived in all-white towns and neighborhoods assume exactly that. It doesn't make it true.
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Old 05-28-2012, 07:44 AM
JKellyMap JKellyMap is offline
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I'm roughly as touchy about this....
I'll say! There's nothing in this thread about "stupid", or anything like that. Please correct me if I'm wrong.

You're simply incorrect about your "point of fact". (THere is likely some African influence, but how much is debated, and it's certainly much less influential than certain 17th-18th-century regional British Isles accents, plus random drift since then.)

I think you might be conflusing "language change" with something bad (you used the word "perversion".) No person educated in basic lingusitics thinks that way, so you needn't worry. The "posh" British accent of the mid-20th-to-early-21st century is just one accent, as subject to change as any other.

Last edited by JKellyMap; 05-28-2012 at 07:48 AM..
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Old 05-28-2012, 08:17 AM
al27052 al27052 is offline
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I'll say! There's nothing in this thread about "stupid", or anything like that. Please correct me if I'm wrong.

You're simply incorrect about your "point of fact". (THere is likely some African influence, but how much is debated, and it's certainly much less influential than certain 17th-18th-century regional British Isles accents, plus random drift since then.)

I think you might be conflusing "language change" with something bad (you used the word "perversion".) No person educated in basic lingusitics thinks that way, so you needn't worry. The "posh" British accent of the mid-20th-to-early-21st century is just one accent, as subject to change as any other.
No person educated in basic linguistics thinks that way? Fine, I concede the possibility. However, I really wonder what percentage of Dopers even had 1 class in linguistics, or have read even one scholarly book about it.

And I'm not calling Dopers "stupid", either. I'm just saying that the prevailing baseline automatic assumption about Southern accents is that they are proof of all sorts of bad qualities including stupidity, lack of education, racism, etc.. I'm also saying it can be tough to combat these assumptions sometimes.

I'm ALSO saying that, absent basic linguistic knowledge, such assumptions as I mentioned, specifically that Southern accents are 100% correlated with character flaws, stupidity, etc., might obscure the facts here. I'm not saying they ARE obscuring at the moment; I'm making a point, generally speaking, that they MIGHT.
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Old 05-28-2012, 08:35 AM
JKellyMap JKellyMap is offline
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Originally Posted by al27052 View Post
No person educated in basic linguistics thinks that way? Fine, I concede the possibility. However, I really wonder what percentage of Dopers even had 1 class in linguistics, or have read even one scholarly book about it.

And I'm not calling Dopers "stupid", either. I'm just saying that the prevailing baseline automatic assumption about Southern accents is that they are proof of all sorts of bad qualities including stupidity, lack of education, racism, etc.. I'm also saying it can be tough to combat these assumptions sometimes.

I'm ALSO saying that, absent basic linguistic knowledge, such assumptions as I mentioned, specifically that Southern accents are 100% correlated with character flaws, stupidity, etc., might obscure the facts here. I'm not saying they ARE obscuring at the moment; I'm making a point, generally speaking, that they MIGHT.
Okay, point taken. You're right that all of us, no matter how well trained in linguistcs, can't help but associate certain accents with certain socioeconomic/cultural traits, and that many of us then associate those traits with levels of "intelligence" (whatever that means.)

And, it's true that a lot of media and entertainment will use a rural southern/Appalachian accents to evoke the lack of education/worldly exposure, which is correlated with (though not 100% so) rural upbringing in general.

And, so, urban/suburban (and therefore, more likely to be highly educated and worldly) Southerners, whose accent shares many traits with the rural Southern/Appalachian one, will -- by indirect association -- be thought of as "stupid" by some percentage of people.

I really think that the percentage of people who think this is small. Most of us feel reassured when we hear the pilot come on the intercom with a gentle drawl. But maybe I'm too optimistic. After all, it's easy for ME to say -- I can't put myself totally in your shoes -- though I'm sure my New Yawk pronunciation of the word "coffee" has made some folks assume I'm "pushy", or whatever it is they associate New Yorkers with these days.
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Old 05-28-2012, 08:39 AM
Beware of Doug Beware of Doug is offline
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Personally, I associate the New York accent with someone who is intelligent, maybe even discerning and sophisticated, but who never bothered to class it up. Now imagine that person replicated into a 2nd, or 3rd, or nth generation. New Yawk is the only speech in the US which is associated with intelligence and upward mobility that doesn't sound like it.

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Old 05-28-2012, 09:01 AM
John Mace John Mace is online now
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Originally Posted by al27052 View Post
No person educated in basic linguistics thinks that way? Fine, I concede the possibility. However, I really wonder what percentage of Dopers even had 1 class in linguistics, or have read even one scholarly book about it.
We have several posters here who have degrees in linguistics. And many of us have taken courses and/or read scholarly books on the subject.

As for the southern accent = stupid meme, I don't see anyone ( other than you) discussing it in this thread.

All accents change over time, and while it's a quaint notion that there is some relic of 17th century English hidden away in the US, it simply doesn't stand up to scholarly scrutiny.
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  #31  
Old 05-28-2012, 09:54 AM
al27052 al27052 is offline
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Originally Posted by John Mace View Post
We have several posters here who have degrees in linguistics. And many of us have taken courses and/or read scholarly books on the subject.

As for the southern accent = stupid meme, I don't see anyone ( other than you) discussing it in this thread.

All accents change over time, and while it's a quaint notion that there is some relic of 17th century English hidden away in the US, it simply doesn't stand up to scholarly scrutiny.
All 3 claims are obvious BS.

1. Where are the linguists? Show me them. They certainly are nowhere near this thread.

2. I might have been the first person talking about it, but your implication that no one else here has thought what I was saying is silly.

3. Did you even click on my youtube links? Especially the second one. They both include a lot of the same people, but the first speaker on the second link is pretty close to what I'm talking about. Granted, if you listen for a minute or so, you can tell he's not British/Irish, but there are a LOT of words he says that are pretty indistinguishable from...well, SOMEwhere in the British Isles.
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Old 05-28-2012, 10:19 AM
TATG TATG is offline
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Originally Posted by John Mace View Post
All accents change over time, and while it's a quaint notion that there is some relic of 17th century English hidden away in the US, it simply doesn't stand up to scholarly scrutiny.
Quote:
Originally Posted by al27052 View Post
3. Did you even click on my youtube links? Especially the second one. They both include a lot of the same people, but the first speaker on the second link is pretty close to what I'm talking about. Granted, if you listen for a minute or so, you can tell he's not British/Irish, but there are a LOT of words he says that are pretty indistinguishable from...well, SOMEwhere in the British Isles.
For this to be a rebuttal you would at least need to show that such a British Isles accent is the same as some 17th century accent.
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Old 05-28-2012, 10:39 AM
Attack from the 3rd dimension Attack from the 3rd dimension is offline
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I'm roughly as touchy about this as an African-American who deals with people that assume he and all his race are hubcap-stealing, jive-talking, cop-hating, baggy-panted welfare recipients and prison inmates.

And I'm sure some of you who've lived in all-white towns and neighborhoods assume exactly that. It doesn't make it true.
As someone from North Carolina, I can say with authority that I think you should have a little lie-down. This isn't worth going nuclear.

Last edited by Attack from the 3rd dimension; 05-28-2012 at 10:39 AM.. Reason: You never did the Kenosha, Kid.
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  #34  
Old 05-28-2012, 11:36 AM
Wendell Wagner Wendell Wagner is offline
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You want to know where the linguists are? Well, I have a master's degree in linguistics. (Yeah, I also have a master's degree in math. I was never very good at sticking to just one subject.) I'm not an expert in historical linguistics though, let alone in the history of the Southern American dialect. If you want the current, detailed history of that dialect, you're going to have to talk to someone in a linguistics department who specializes in that.

In any case, what anyone with some knowledge of linguistics can tell you is that there aren't really cases of dialects which don't change over hundreds of years. They may change a little more slowly perhaps, but they do change. So there isn't any current dialect that sounds just like any British accent from just before they started settling what's now the U.S. What caused the various accents in the U.S. to change from whatever British settlers ended up in their area is hard to tell. Some of it depends on what part of the U.K. those settlers came from. Some of it depends on what other places there were settlers from (including those brought as slaves). Some of it was just spontaneous change in the U.S. that wasn't particularly influenced by other things.

It's much harder than you might think to listen to a strange dialect and tell where it comes from. People do sometimes misidentify a dialect as British even though it's from somewhere else. Identifying dialects is hard work.

No linguist would ever assume that the speakers of a dialect are ignorant because they talk that way.
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  #35  
Old 05-28-2012, 11:38 AM
John Mace John Mace is online now
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All 3 claims are obvious BS.

1. Where are the linguists? Show me them. They certainly are nowhere near this thread.
Cool your jets, dude. Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence. It is a fact that there are people on this MB with degrees in linguistics. The only BS I'm seeing right now is coming from you:

Quote:
Originally Posted by al27052
I think it's odd that people often think that the British accent doesn't survive unchanged in the Americas. Around Ocracoke, it pretty much does.
Give it up. We're in GQ, not IMHO. That is factually incorrect, even if we grant you the license of the weasel words "pretty much".

Quote:
2. I might have been the first person talking about it, but your implication that no one else here has thought what I was saying is silly.
I didn't imply any such thing, and I don't see the merit of discussing what people might be thinking.

Quote:
3. Did you even click on my youtube links? Especially the second one. They both include a lot of the same people, but the first speaker on the second link is pretty close to what I'm talking about. Granted, if you listen for a minute or so, you can tell he's not British/Irish, but there are a LOT of words he says that are pretty indistinguishable from...well, SOMEwhere in the British Isles.
Yes, I did, and they don't sound remotely British to me. They sound southern, with a few odd (for southerners) pronunciations thrown in. In fact that very link talks about how the accent has changed over time.
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  #36  
Old 05-28-2012, 01:16 PM
DSeid DSeid is online now
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Well, I have a master's degree in linguistics. (Yeah, I also have a master's degree in math. I was never very good at sticking to just one subject.)
Hmmm.

In biology there are mathematical models of evolution that take into account genetic drift, founder effects, population bottleneck effects, selective effects, interbreeding rates, and so on. Often a particular allele can be track over time and its frequency over or below what would be expected within a range allowed for by genetic drift used as evidence that some other of those factors is at play. As someone well trained in both mathematics and linguistics, are you are of similar sorts of models being applied to dialect characteristics? (Not necessarily specific to Southern American English and Modern British English both evolving from a common set of dialects in Britain in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, although obviously such a model could have applicability there.)
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  #37  
Old 05-28-2012, 01:56 PM
Wendell Wagner Wendell Wagner is offline
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No, sorry, I don't know of any such models.
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Old 05-28-2012, 02:30 PM
DSeid DSeid is online now
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Well it seems like there should be, and that someone versed in both, like you, could create it.

In your spare time, of course.

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  #39  
Old 05-28-2012, 05:01 PM
Lukeinva Lukeinva is offline
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Snip...
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Originally Posted by Lamia View Post
The idea is not that American Southern accents (there are more than one)
Indeed, and there are variations of accents within the same state.
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  #40  
Old 05-28-2012, 05:11 PM
terentii terentii is offline
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When I lived in England, I heard dialects that were very similar to Southern US, particularly south of London and in the West Country. The most distinctive feature of these was their drawl.

The more isolated a speech community, the less it will deviate from its parent variant (in theory, anyway). There are areas in the Appalachians where the people still speak a dialect almost indistinguishable from Shakespeare's English.

The English/Scottish/Irish migration and settlement patterns of the American South have been fairly well established and can be found in any good book on historical linguistics.
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  #41  
Old 05-28-2012, 05:14 PM
Wendell Wagner Wendell Wagner is offline
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terentii writes:

> There are areas in the Appalachians where the people still speak a dialect
> almost indistinguishable from Shakespeare's English.

No.
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  #42  
Old 05-28-2012, 05:18 PM
John Mace John Mace is online now
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Originally Posted by terentii View Post
When I lived in England, I heard dialects that were very similar to Southern US, particularly south of London and in the West Country. The most distinctive feature of these was their drawl.

The more isolated a speech community, the less it will deviate from its parent variant (in theory, anyway). There are areas in the Appalachians where the people still speak a dialect almost indistinguishable from Shakespeare's English.

The English/Scottish/Irish migration and settlement patterns of the American South have been fairly well established and can be found in any good book on historical linguistics.
No one is going to argue that the speech patterns are not influenced by the early settlers. Of course they are. But claims about pockets of speakers who sound like Shakespeare are right up there with reports about Bigfoot sightings being remnant populations of Gigantopithecus.

Last edited by John Mace; 05-28-2012 at 05:18 PM..
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Old 05-28-2012, 05:28 PM
terentii terentii is offline
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Under revision.

Last edited by terentii; 05-28-2012 at 05:32 PM..
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  #44  
Old 05-28-2012, 05:39 PM
terentii terentii is offline
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But claims about pockets of speakers who sound like Shakespeare are right up there with reports about Bigfoot sightings being remnant populations of Gigantopithecus.
Not quite. I remember reading a number of years ago about a team of linguists who reconstructed Shakespeare's English as it was performed in his lifetime, i.e., with correct period pronunciation and accent. It turned out the only people who could immediately understand it were from the backwoods of North Carolina.

I forget the name of the journal, unfortunately. I am a professional linguist (and a keen student of history), but this isn't my area of expertise. (I'm a Slavicist.)
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  #45  
Old 05-28-2012, 05:43 PM
Wendell Wagner Wendell Wagner is offline
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A debunking of the myth that Shakespearean English is spoken in the Appalachians:

http://streaming.ohio.edu/cas/lingCA...g270/myth9.pdf
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  #46  
Old 05-28-2012, 05:44 PM
John Mace John Mace is online now
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Originally Posted by terentii View Post
Not quite. I remember reading a number of years ago about a team of linguists who reconstructed Shakespeare's English as it was performed in his lifetime, i.e., with correct period pronunciation and accent. It turned out the only people who could immediately understand it were from the backwoods of North Carolina.

I forget the name of the journal, unfortunately. I am a professional linguist (and a keen student of history), but this isn't my area of expertise. (I'm a Slavicist.)
I think your memory is incorrect. But you can easily clear that up by providing a cite.
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  #47  
Old 05-29-2012, 11:19 AM
MacLir MacLir is offline
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And not all North Carolinians, or all Southerners, are stupid. I was a National Merit Scholar, and I can hold my own in most hard science discussions with doctoral candidates in the hard sciences.

The sneaky subtext here is that Southerners-are-just-stupid-and-the-way-they-talk-is-perfectly-correlated-with-their-stupidity.

I don't appreciate the implied insult.

In point of fact, the differences between British accents and Southern accent(s) are easily attributable to African influences.

So no, not all Southerners are slack-jawed morons. We didn't somehow pervert the British accents of our ancestors through simple stupidity, or any other type of personal or character flaws.

I am up against ignorance here.

I mean, sure, I also have the tendency assumptions about someone's intelligence based on their accent, and all kinds of other assumptions about their character, too. I, however, am AWARE that I tend to do this, and keep a sharp eye on myself, for fear I'll assume the wrong thing. Emphasis on the "ASS" in assume.

Yes, even I tend to assume people with Southern accents are stupid, even as I have one myself. I'm aware of the assumption, though, and I know it doesn't always hold true.
Part of that is a difference in "manners." Using a customer / clerk interaction as an example, very broadly, a northern customer will initiate the transaction by stating what they want; the northern clerk will drop what they are doing to serve them. For southerners, the customer will wait to be greeted, and the clerk will finish their current action and greet the customer.

The upshot of this, if you follow the two "mixed" interactions, is that to the southerner, the northerner comes off as rude and pushy, and to the northerner, the southerner seems slow and stupid.
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  #48  
Old 05-29-2012, 11:28 AM
Chronos Chronos is online now
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It seems to me that the relevant test for someplace like Ocracoke Island isn't for an American to listen to it and say "that sounds like somewhere in the British Isles", but for someone from the appropriate spot in the British Isles to listen to it and say "that sounds normal" (or, nearly equivalently, for a native Ocracokian to listen to the appropriate British speakers and say the same thing). Can anyone pin down just what part of Britain that accent is supposed to resemble, and do we have anyone on this board from that region?

I mean, many Americans think that British accents and Australian accents sound the same, and yet Brits and Australians find that notion baffling. To some extent, we tend to file accents (and all manner of other traits) under the categories of "normal" or "like us" on the one hand, and "exotic" or "other" on the other, so a speaker of one accent listening to two random other accents, even completely unrelated, will tend to lump them together as similar to each other just because they're both "other".
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  #49  
Old 05-29-2012, 01:00 PM
Sister Vigilante Sister Vigilante is offline
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Snip...

Indeed, and there are variations of accents within the same state.
The same family, even. Fraternal twins in their 60s living within 30 minutes of each other nearly their whole lives. And me, the daughter of one, who always gets asked where I'm from because I "have no accent" and can't possibly have lived my whole life in Georgia. (Yes, indeed I do have an accent.)

Last edited by Sister Vigilante; 05-29-2012 at 01:02 PM..
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  #50  
Old 05-29-2012, 01:02 PM
John Mace John Mace is online now
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The other thing is that there probably are a few remnants of archaic speech patterns in certain populations in the US. The operative phrase being "a few". That does not make those entire accents "just like" or "almost like" accents from centuries ago in Britain.

For example, the use if "h" in front "i" in words like it (pronounced "hit" in parts of Appalachia). That's a hold-over from an earlier time, but it doesn't make Appalachian English the equivalent of Elizabethan English (in some part of England).

Rather, there are a collection of hold-overs from various parts of the UK, mixed in with any number of newer pronunciations and sound shifts that occurred after the earliest settlers arrived.
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