Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Appalachian Dialect


A good friend sent me an article on "Appalachian Dialect" which really made me think!!!! SO---I did some research and alot more reading. A dialect is a variety of languages spoken by a group of people from the same regional or cultural background. Each dialect has its own pronunciations, sentence structures, and vocabulary. There are several dialects across the USA, but ours (Appalachian Dialect) is one of the most distinct. People (LIKE ME) who live/lived in the Appalachian Mountain region of the eastern United States are known for their distinct dialect and the strong accent that comes with it.

Above is a great picture looking down toward my hometown, Big Stone Gap, VA. What I love about the picture is knowing that my wonderful little hometown is down there nestled between the mountains. I always knew that I grew up in the mountains ---but I certainly took it for granted while growing up, and didn't appreciate it UNTIL after I left the area. Big Stone Gap is truly in a GAP---and is in a beautiful area of the country in the southwest corner of Virginia. I haven't gone 'home' much since 1960---but when I have gone, I am totally in 'awe' of the beauty there. That drive up in and around Powell Valley is absolutely tremendous! I have great memories of my hometown.

The early settlers to this area were mostly Scottish, Irish, German and English. The merging of all of these dialects combined with the isolation of the area has caused the Appalachian dialect to be labeled in many phonetics and language studies as "Virgin English" --a form of English that some say has changed very little since the settlers first came. Yet--if you study it, you'll find that it does change, continually!!!

SO--how do "I" feel about the 'language' in the area where I was 'raised up' (as they say)????? I guess my answer would be that I was CONFUSED!!! Here's a little background that makes a difference in my reactions and responses. I was raised in a family of school teachers. Even with our Scotch-Irish background, my family 'tried' to speak "proper" English (whatever that is!!!).. The way we talked was a 'touchy' subject--especially when 'outsiders' said something!!!! I remember when my sister-in-law first came to Big Stone Gap from her home in California, she said to me, "Betsy, you have an ACCENT." WELL----that offended me BIGTIME. ME???? An ACCENT???? NEVER!!!! ha ha

I used to think that 'outsiders' thought of us as stupid because of our accent. And I agree about some of the usage.. It's embarrassing to hear someone say "I knowed it" or "I seen it." Can't they learn the proper way to use verbs????? BUT---if you dig a little deeper and study our special language and southern drawl, you'll find some of the most interesting and vivid descriptions of any language. Our language is liberally sprinkled with such gems as: "That man is so contrary, if you throwed him in a river he'd float upstream!" OR--"She walks so slow they have to set stakes to see if she's a-movin!"

In another upcoming blog, I will be talking more about OUR language ---and many of the things we say (or the way we say them). It's amazing-- when I did research I found that even though I've been gone from southwest Virginia for 50 years, I still use much of that language... And I truly am PROUD of it now. From my upbringing, I learned so many important values: religion, families, individualism, self-reliance and pride, love of place, being oneself, sense of beauty, sense of humor, neighborliness, patriotism--and most of all, special friendships which have lasted a lifetime.

Yes, being born and raised in the small town of Big Stone Gap, Virginia --in the southwest corner, in the Appalachian Mountains, made me a BETTER person. I am proud of my heritage!!!! "Hidy, hidy, furriner! You went traveled a fur piece to get hwar, and it's rainin' like a big dog. Pull up a cheer and set a spell."
Hugs,

42 comments:

Mildred said...

Very interesting Betsy. Grandpa would use many of the sayings you mention! Hope you have a wonderful day. It's raining here.

Kallen305 said...

Very interesting information Betsy. I love the view of the mountains.

Jayne said...

The Southern drawl is certainly very distinct. I love hearing someone from "Challston" speak. It's so melodic and slow, and then when you get further South and hear someone from "Savaaanhah" speak, it's even more slowly drawn out. I try to always use proper English too Betsy, but am the world's worse at saying, "Idinit? and "Didinit?" LOLOL!

Cedar ... said...

I love it Betsy,... great post. And here in the north country of NY while we have no particular accent, we definitely have certain words that sound with an accent of our Irish/Scot/French-Canadian heritage. Northern VT/NH have another accent. And you can tell northern VT/NH from southern VT/NH. And then there is even the more distinct "down east" of Maine. I say I love it because it shows the diversity of our heritage,...and diversity is a good thing! And to Jayne,.. I also say "didinit!" I'm smiling!

A Brit in Tennessee said...

I have come to love the Southern dialect, it reminds me of the accent most Northern people in England have, especially in the farming communities.
Honest, hardworking people. I've never had a problem understanding it, (well once in awhile), 'ifin goin up wonder apiece'..
(driving a little further east ;)

A Brit in Tennessee said...

That would be "yonder"...not wonder.
Sorry, it's early ;)

Daisy said...

Fun post to read, Betsy! I have always enjoyed hearing a Southern accent. I think everyone has some kind of colorful phrases and terms that they use. They make language interesting.

CountryDreaming said...

Raised in the Buffalo, NY area, I moved to the Cleveland, OH area as an adult. A couple of unique "Northeast Ohio" phrases I noticed right away involve "bakery" which means "donuts" and "city chicken" which means "pork!"

So basically, when a Clevelander tells you he's going to bring in the bakery to work, he's really not planning on uprooting an entire brick and mortar establishment dedicated to selling breads.

And although someone may guess that "city chicken" might logically mean "pigeon," it actually refers to marinated pork served shish-kabob style. Who would have thought? Guess city folk need to spend more time down on the farm learning their barn animals. :-)

Peggy said...

I didn't realize how much I loved my mountain life until I moved away. Now I long for my beautiful mountains and the life I had there. My grandmother told me I would one day regret not accepting and loving each day the Lord gave me in those mountains... she was right.

karin said...

Having lived in several areas of the USA - that is SD, MA, CT, NY and KY - we've learned many regionalities of languages - just made that word up. I loved every one of them! In just no time I catch on to the sound and want to join in to feel a part of it. When we moved to these places with our Canadian-German background everyone said I had an accent!
Loved your post and look forward to the next one!!

Hugs,
Karin

Darla said...

I have always wanted to live in the mountains. My birth Father's family is from Stonewood, West Virginia and it's beautiful there. Oh and dialect? Girl please! I live in the South....

Pigeon said...

I found this post completely fasinating. I've always been interested in language and word origins. I learned something new today. Thanks!

~Vanessa~ said...

You know I loved this post!!! I was on a phone interview yesterday with a man in Texas. Now, last I checked Texas was in the South. He said to me: "are you from the south?", I replied "yes". He said "Well, I figured with your accent".

As my Powell Valley born and raised Grandmother would say: "It takes all kinds".

Have a great day!

Smilingsal said...

Dialect is an important part of Americana, however, standard English is our language. It's good that you make the distinction.

NCmountainwoman said...

I normally don't have much of an accent, but if I spend a few hours with some of my relatives I immediately pick up the drawl.

Tricia said...

There's a lot of dialects around here - I love to listen to people talk to see how they pronounce different words & usually I can pick out what part of the country they're from. It's fun when drivers come in where I work, I'll hear them talk & then ask if they're from here or there & I'm usually right! LoL!

Busy Bee Suz said...

I love it. So funny. If we all talked the exact same way, that would be very boring.
I grew up in Florida most of my life. We moved to TX for a few years, then to AZ. The folks in AZ told me I had a southern accent...like a TEXAN. ??? Huh, I only lived there 3 years. It was my florida accent they were referring to. ;)

Dorothy said...

Hi Betsy,
I really enjoyed this post! I've been told I have a Southern drawl.
I like all those old southern sayings and have thought about compiling all of them I could think of.

Deborah Godin said...

This really interests me, Betsy, because I kind of have a fondness for this area. I am of Scots, English and Irish heritage on my mother's side, though not from this US region. For some reason Appalachian dialects and particularly music really drawn me. There's a wonderful PBS program you might have seen about speech and dialect all over the US, it's wonderful. And I would love to read that article you mentioned. If you have a link for it, I'd love to get it from you!

Rose said...

Betsy, do you sometimes limit what you say on your blog because you look back and say they probably wouldn't know what I mean? Every so often I find myself changing my phrasing because it is so distinct to our area I don't think people will know what I mean...or else think unkind thoughts.

Now, to something I have meant to ask you for a long time...have you read the books by Adriana Trigiana--Big Stone Gap, and I think Big Cherry Holler? I had to read them cause they are from our area. I liked them, but didn't love them if you know what I mean.

now I love one called THE DOLLMAKER by Harriette Arnow. When I read it, I knew she was either born in our part of the country or had lived there a lot. Just the phrasing and the way she pronounced the words. A movie was made from the book--a pretty good one at that. But I almost always like the book better.

Pat - An Arkansas Stamper said...

Big Stone Gap is in a *beautiful* place. I've driven through SW Virginia several times on my way to the D.C. area and am always taken by the beauty of the country.

I was raised in NM and my Texas grandma used to say that I "talked like a Yankee," meaning, I guess, that I didn't sound like a Texan.:) I thought it was funny.

A lot of the good folk here in Arkensaw shore don't tok lack Yankeys and, after living here almost 60 years, I don't sound like I'm from NM anymore!

I really enjoyed this post.

Natalie said...

My mom's family is all from New England. She said when she first moved to AL she had such a hard time understanding what people were saying. The holler tree. Over yonder. Pull up a cheer. Now my Dad swears when she goes to visit her family he can't understand her for a week after she comes home. People used to tell me all the time that I did not have a southern accent, I did, just not as strongly as most people. As I have gotten older my accent has gotten worse, or better depending on how you look at it!

fishing guy said...

Betsy: I grew up at the edge of the Appalachian in PA and still have a lot of the speech patterns that my girls tease me for using. I'm also proud of my mountain heritage.

ShabbyInTheCity said...

I been knowin' you fer awhile now...y'all live ore by that far tar rite? You know the "far tar"? Fulla water?

My grandmother said "arsh potatoes" for Irish, or white potatoes :)

Cassie said...

I'm being transparent here:When I lived in Alabama for 4 months after I first got married (1969), I thought southerners were sub cretins. There was a Northern snobbery that had been passed on to me.It's weird, because the southern accent from Texas was okay, but the southeastern southern accent:bad. I'm WAY over that now.I've found new things to be a jerk about!! Love you Betsey.

Betty said...

Ha, ha, Betsy, that was a fun read. Virginia is a beautiful State. Actually, I think Virginia is one of the prettiest State I have been in, and we have done a lot of traveling over the years.

I have a really deep Southern drawl. Some people like to hear me talk, and some people make fun of the way I talk, y'all! Whatever!!! Like you, I am proud of who I am and the part of the country from where I was born and raised - Middle Tennessee.

How is your weather? I just heard the weather, and bad storms around the Cookeville area.

Susie said...

I'm about as southern as I can be when I talk and write too. And you know what, I am very proud of it. It makes me, me! However I did have a little lady come up to me a work last year who thought I was from another country with my accent and all. If you knew how I sounded you would be laughing your head off right now!

Ruth's Photo Blog said...

Your hometown looks lovely.As for that accent,we all have one,but don't realize it.I come from mennonite family and our home language was low-german.
people who speak mainly this language have a very distinct accent.Mind you I don't have any.LOL
Blessings,Ruth

Brit' Gal Sarah said...

Very interesting post Betsy, especially coming from a land where we have numerous strong and very different accents. It looks like a beautiful area.

Shellmo said...

I learned a lot from you today Betsy! Thank you! Beautiful photo too!!

Robert V. Sobczak said...

That looks (and sounds) like a great place to be able to call your home town. Where I hail in Maryland, I also commonly hear "I seen," and I use it on occasion too just because I like hearing it.

Katie said...

Yu all come back again.

Femin Susan said...

Hi………
Absolutely fantastic post! Good job!
Great! Keep up the great posts…..
Good week………

lola said...

Betsy, I'm so glad you wrote this post. I have been made fun of the way I talk & am still being made fun of. I am proud of where I came from & my language is part of who I am. That is what helped make the person that I am today. If I were there today I sure would take more time to learn more about the area, the trees, the flowers, the people---all of it.

Bird Girl said...

Hi Betsy -
That was interesting! My father grew up in a small (what we call ) 'hick town' in PA. His family life was full of these kinds of sayings. But my dad was extremely embarrassed of it and he grew up to be a radio announcer and own a radio station. We hated bringing boys home - if they said 'ain't' or even 'ya know, ya know' - my dad would have a FIT! Haha. But I love those funny things people say - are they called colloquialisms? My favorite uncle had a ton of them! He used to say things like, "He's slicker than snot on a doorknob" - or if he was mad at my aunt he'd say - "Oh yes, Helen - KNIT ONE, PEARL TWO!" He used to just crack me up! Funny!
I enjoyed your post!

Janie said...

Dialects are a fascinating subject. Funny how it takes us awhile to find the value in our upbringing. I think it has to do with gaining enough self confidence to realize being different from the mainstream is okay.
Steve had quite the north Louisiana twang when I met him. He's lost it since we've been in Utah, but when he goes home to visit, it comes right back.

Judy said...

Kentucky has many different dialects. They change from county to county. I used to run a country store and I could tell what county a person was from by the way he talked or spoke to me when he entered my business. I find dialects such an interesting subject. I really enjoyed this post.

dot said...

Interesting post Betsy! Will enjoy hearing more on the subject. Reminds me of the lady who used to ask my aunt if she could come and set a spell.

Betsy from Tennessee said...

Wow---this was fun!!!! Thanks to all for your interesting comments. I will run Part II tomorrow --since there is so much interest in this topic. SO--come on back and tell me more of your favorite phrases and words...LOVE IT.
Hugs to all,
Betsy

Naturegirl said...

Betsy what a wonderful area you call home...the view of the mountains every day! sigh!
I'm heading for AZ on Monday and look forward to seeing mountains up close and personal...and listening to all the local dialects.
This post was interesting to read!

Janie said...

Great post, Bestsy! It's funny how each part of the country has its own dialectical idiocyncracies. Utahns also say "crick" for "creek". "Hail" sounds like "hell" and vice versa. "Trail" is pronounced "trell".

Deb Murphree/Alabama Politics said...

What beautiful pictures of Big Stone Gap...My favorite town ever. I loved living there..and the picture you posted of the mountains nestling Big Stone Gap between them, was absolutely GORGEOUS!! I lived there in the early 70s.