Research Paper

Topics: English language, American English, Southern United States Pages: 8 (1573 words) Published: April 16, 2013
North American English Dialects
Major dialect groups:
General American: Central Eastern
Midland Northern Western


New York City New England


Inland Lower


General Canadian Maritime Newfoundland

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North American English Dialects
• the historical South consists of two main dialectal areas: – Coastal or Lower Southern (southern east coast, Gulf coast into Texas) • formed in the time of plantation and ranch agriculture • for close to 300 years enslaved West Africans provide the main labor force – African American English (also Black English or Ebonics) is based on southern accents, its influence on white southerners’ speech is debated

– Inland/Upper Southern (mountainous back country)
• largely made up of small towns with farming often just above subsistence level

• lots of different dialectal subdivisions depending on authors (Plains Southern, Gulf Southern, Mid Southern, Coastal Southern) overlapping with Midwest GA • some areas in the south have rather different accents: – – – – Gullah: African Creole around Charleston French-influenced Cajun English around New Orleans Spanish influence in Texas (“Spanglish” also in California, Florida, New York) Southern Florida settled very late by English speakers, thus no southern accent, but GA and lots of Spanish influence

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North American English Dialects
• “Southern Drawl”:
– “easy to recognize, but difficult to describe satisfyingly” (Wells) – relatively greater length in stressed accented syllables as compared to unstressed – lots of diphthongizations

• lax vowels
– Southern Breaking: strong Breaking effect for / æ/ esp. in stressed monosyllables: “hill” as [hi ] or even [hij ], “bed” [bej d], “bad” [bæ j d] • if the following consonant is / [sp ], “egg” [ g] g ŋ/ the offglide may be / / such that “special” is

– Umlaut Effect: kind of vowel harmony in which a stressed vowel is influenced by a following unstressed vowel in a weak syllable in the same morpheme: fronted by / / in “picket”, neutral in “pick”, retracted by / / in “picker” – Shading: all lax vowels, but especially / / are retracted before labials and liquids. They are not retracting before velars and variable before other consonants – distinction / /- / / neutralized before /n/: “pin”, “pen” as [ph n] – distinction between / / and / / as weak vowels is retained – / / often as / /; e.g., “love” [l v] (perceived by English listeners as “lerve”)

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North American English Dialects
• diphthongs
/a / becomes /a:/: “time” /ta:m/ (very characteristic southern feature) – /a / becomes /æ /: “down” /dæ n/ – / / with a slightly higher starting point as /o / – word-final / / is pronounced [ ], e.g., “boy” [b ] –

• vowels in general
– /u/ generally slightly fronted and diphthongal as [ u] – nasalization of vowels before nasals: “camp” [khæ mp], “find” [fãn] • nasal consonant can be elided: “glance” as [glæ s], “gonna” as [gõ], “don’t” as [dõ]

– tense vowel before prevocalic / /, e.g., “dairy” [de ] vs. “dare” [dæ ] / [dæ ] (generally a lot of regional variations of the different vowels in that position)

• consonants
– – – – /l/ may be elided before a labial, labiodental or velar: “help” [h p], “golf” [go f] cluster reduction of final [st d nd]: “just” as “jus’” (not with morpheme boundary) widespead use of retroflex [ ] for / / before / /: “shrink” as [ ŋk] /z/ often as /d/ before /n/: “business” [b dn s], “isn’t” [ dnt]

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North American English Dialects
• eastern Virginia, South Carolina, northern Florida,...
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