March 04, 2003

PeeKahns. PeeCans. Y'uns is all Nuts

We had us a little go-round a few months back here at Fragments about accents and dialects. 'member? I was pointed toward this interesting piece from Harvard Magazine by the folks over at recently. Your accent and the regionalisms in your speech may be more indelible than you think, even if you can switch into your 'college register' on command, when your crowd of listeners changes.

Vaux's survey results reveal that even widespread pronunciations or words are in fact strikingly distinctive to particular regions. The word "pecan," for example, is pronounced "pee-can" primarily in the northeast. In the rest of the country, "pee-kahn" and "pick-Ahn" prevail. Northerners from Minnesota to Maine say "crayfish"; Southerners along the coast say "crawfish"; and those in the middle call it a "crawdad." With no stigma or obvious geographic affiliation attached, these words are likely to remain part of a person's vocabulary, Vaux says: "We are not consciously aware of many features of our own speech."

Along similar lines, if your family hails from the Original 13 here, your particular dialect may have its roots going back to pre-colonial days, depending on who settled where. I ran across this interesting linguistic map of Pennsylvania in my class research. There are still discernable traces of language differences that are heavily influenced by the Pennsylvania Dutch (which of course is German ... Deutsch, not having to do with Holland as many think) as well as the Scots-Irish.
The dialect's lexicon owes a great deal to the Scotch-Irish frontiersmen who settled Western Pennsylvania and subsequently migrated southward down the Appalachian chain, mixing with Southern settlers from the Piedmont. The common Scotch-Irish base explains why the Midland dialect of the Pittsburgh area shares many similarities with the Southern dialects of the Appalachians such as the distinctive second person plural pronoun y'uns.

I had never heard "y'uns" until we moved north to southwest Virginia. They don't say it thata way in 'bama, y'all.

Posted by fred1st at March 4, 2003 04:55 AM | TrackBack

Ah, now you've hit one of my favorite subjects. And this guy's too. Other Languages:

is a so-so blog, but the links he's got on there that take you into the thought processes of all the other languages out there are fantastic.

Another site that really blew my mind was this one:

We know Europe is a crazy quilt of different nationalities, but we really have NO IDEA how many different little language groups they have.


Posted by: travelertrish at March 4, 2003 09:39 PM

Hmmm....Gran was from Missouri and called them syllabic accent...all one sound.

Posted by: feste at March 6, 2003 05:25 PM

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