Date: Sat, 4 Dec 1993 20:06:10 CST
From: "Donald M. Lance" ENGDL[AT SYMBOL GOES HERE]MIZZOU1.BITNET
Subject: Re: Sounding Northern
Re Goodman's hillbilly Canadian-speaking friend and Chambers' outrageous
claim. It's not hard to fool some people. Because I grew up in an area
where there is a wide mix of dialects, I don't have a particularly strong
regional accent. This was in the southern tip of Texas. In junior high and
high school I had friends who had moved down there from Iowa, New York, Ohio,
and other non-Texas places, so I sort of struck a compromise in my vowels.
The base is Arkansas-North Texas but without as much di- and triphthongization
as is heard elsewhere in Texas. Sort of like Rudy Troike's speech, developed
60 miles down-river from mine in Brownsville.
Here in Missouri I play a little game with my students. After a couple of
weeks I stop in the middle of whatever I'm talking about and tell them that
they've been listening to me long enough to figure out where I'm from. They
guess Ohio, Minnesota, or other places. Occasionally someone will guess
Texas or Arkansas and I'll ask the rest of the class if they think that could
be right. The insist it couldn't be. (Nobody with Texas or Arkansas
dialects could have PhDs, I suppose.) After they've given up, I draw an
outline of the Lower 48 and place an X where Mission, Texas would be.
I also tease that I speak standard English, never dreaming that they'll
believe me after I've told 'em I'm from Texas. But I've also told them that
I don't have a strong regional accent because I made some changes. And many
of them have tried to worsh the r out of wash without much luck, so if I've man
aged not to sound like Lyndon Johnson I must have achieved the standard. Or
something like that.
I really thought they understood that I was joking in what I said about
standard language, and didn't think Missourians would think any Texas accent
would be standard. Well, a colleague asked her class on a test where standard
English is spoken, and one of my former students dutifully wrote "Mission,
So now you have a choice: You can go Canadian and fool people, or you can
use the prestige South Texas "Valley" dialect (Rio Grande Valley, not San