18 May 2013

Southern Drawls & Dialect

I've been wanting to post something on this topic for some time. Today, I came across a piece in the Los Angelas Times which was about Southern drawls in film:
Accents, and specifically Southern ones, are an art form, yet sorely overlooked. Alabama is different from Georgia; North Florida distinct from South.
Virginia has a number of different dialects within its borders. A college my youngest daughter attended in Florida a few years ago actually had a class students could take in which they could "unlearn" their Southern dialect. Regular readers here can probably imagine the conversation I had with a school official over that. Suffice it to say my daughter did not take that class.

Here's one example demonstrating one strain of accent in Southern Appalachia:

Do I talk like this? In some aspects, yes. Oddly enough, more so as I get older. My wife's dialect is even more pronounced. (I love it, by the way.) My children's dialect was actually more pronounced when they were younger. I attribute that to the impact of modern media, but I'm working on the next generation. My grandchildren are forbidden to use the term "gize" (guys) in my home and must use "y'all" frequently. I reward them for it.☺ Though recent "come heres" - along with mass media - have had an impact on "softening" Southern accents in many regions, it still thrives in certain areas of the South, including the area of the Shenandoah Valley in which I reside. Thank God for that.

Beyond the dialect, our family uses many of these old terms and phrases as well i.e., "yonder", "fetch" and "y'all." Below is a video I may have posted before but it illustrates the very unique dialect (influenced by Elizabethan English) of the inhabitants of Tangier Island, Virginia:

Below is yet another dialect that was heavily influenced by Elizabethan English and is unique to the "Gullah." As Wikipedia notes:
The Gullah are the descendants of slaves who live in the Lowcountry region of South Carolina and Georgia, which includes both the coastal plain and the Sea Islands.

I find all these different Southern dialects - and the history behind them - quite fascinating and something which contributes to the richness of Southern culture. I hope to post more on this topic at some point in the future.


EJ DAgrosa (HBG) said...

Interesting. I to have a special place in my heart for the way I talk. I think that dialects are part of a culture that should never go away. It's funny too, because I am originally from New York, but I live in Texas now, so you can imagine I stick out like a sore thumb down here, especially with words like "water", the fact that I don't use "ya'll" in my speech, and words like "pecan" (which I do pronounce "pee-CAN"). But, then I often hear the way the NY accent is portrayed on T.V. and ask myself, "do I really sound like that?"

Richard G. Williams, Jr. said...

Hello EJ - Hang in, you'll be sounding like Ross Perot before you know it. ☺

Arlee Bird said...

Just finished watching the documentary Still Standing and thought I find out more about you. I was delighted to find your blog through a Google search. This post mentioning the L.A.Times immediately caught my eye as I live in L.A.

I saw reference to this article on dialect the other day. I missed the article but that's not unusual since the Times tends to mostly annoy me and I usually don't read it. It's an interesting topic.

I become so frustrated with radio talk show hosts out here always denigrating the South and making fun of the dialects. Like California is the epitome of intellect. Yeah, right!

I moved here from Tennessee over 20 years ago. I've since lost most of my Tennessee twang (I'm not sure that's the best description for it). But I still say y'all.

Dialect is fascinating stuff. I miss hearing the folks back in East TN but at least get to drop in now and then for a dose of the old talk.

You've got some good content here and I'll have to check back to see what you've got here.

By the way, I'm vice president of the Jackson Brigade, which is an organization I would imagine you're familiar with. Though I blog under the pen name Arlee Bird, my real name is Robert Lee Jackson.

Good finding you here.

Tossing It Out

Richard G. Williams, Jr. said...

Hello Lee. Thanks for a great comment and for reading. No, actually, I was not familiar with the Jackson brigade, but I found the website, so I'll check it out. Hang in there y'all.☺


ropelight said...

The waterman's rich round melodious brogue, indigenous to the Carolina Sounds and along the broad rivers of the lower Chesapeake Bay, Tidewater, developed early from a natural mix of Elizabethan vernacular, polyglot patois, and negro dialects.

It's a second language, although we approximated standard English at home, successful communication outside required a familiarity with a more dexterous and rhythmic tongue especially when the topic was fishing, boats, or the weather.

Michael Confoy said...

I remember moving to Fairfax when I was 12 in 1971 and the kids laughing at my Florida accent. I was determined to shed it and with no real conscious effort it was gone by the end of the school year. If you listen carefully, you might say it is mid-atlantic now or even more carefully that there is a tiny bit of Florida in it (that would be central Florida). However, I can still revert to it if I try but it is not natural.

Richard G. Williams, Jr. said...

Michael - as my Grandfather used to tell me, "Never be ashamed of where ya come from boy."

If I were you, I would now do my best to shed the mid-Atlantic accent and embrace your old Florida twang. That is your true natural.

Thanks for the comment!

Meade Skelton Haufe said...

I recorded my grandmother talking to a family friend and put it on yotube. Its called "A Very Richmond Phone Call". She was born in 1918. Its an example of the Richmond, Virginia accent- which is distinctively Richmond and apart from Tidewater. Richmond was always more "Southern" sounding than its nearby environs for whatever reason. Its a shame but most people do not have any Richmond accent anymore. Its very unique.

Meade Skelton Haufe said...

Also in response to Michael, Virginia accent is not part of "Mid-Atlantic" dialect. Which is mainly a specific area between Southern NJ, Philadelphia, and Baltimore. Northern Virginia was always a Southern region. Even Fairfax back then would be Southern, but the accent in Northern Virginia would be different than Florida. but Florida is much less Southern than Virginia. Its probably the least "Southern" state, even if located in the South.

Richard G. Williams, Jr. said...

Meade - thanks for the comment. You're so right. I cringe when I hear of colleges and universities that actually offer classes on how to "lose" one's Southern accent. How sad!

I offer my grandchildren rewards at my home when they say "y'all" instead of "guyeez."

Richard G. Williams, Jr. said...

Meade - yes, as you know, Virginia - like so many other Southern states - has within its borders several diverse Southern dialects. My home area of the Shenandoah Valley is unique and there are even diverse (native) dialects within its borders. Same for Southside, "Tuckahoe" accent of Albemarle County, etc, etc.

Unknown said...

I'm from Virginia born and raise me and my family have country accent I mean very bad you would think that we are from Alabama or Mississippi There from Suffolk and Franklin where the cotton fields are in corn fields and also to Tobacco and peanut feels in more There's a lot of stuff that people don't know about Virginia or how country it is and I can be the first to say Virginia is very southern my family eating deer opossum deer burgers pig ears collard greens anything you can think of also go deer hunting and make moonshine and whiskey

Richard G. Williams, Jr. said...

Thanks Unknown. I'm good w/everything on the menu except the possum. I saw one crawl out of the back end of a rotting horse carcass one time. And moonshine and whiskey are two liquids I avoid at all costs. I like them TOO much.