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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,