Date: Sat, 5 Feb 1994 07:32:37 -0600


Subject: Re: Regional variation in BE

On Thu, 30 Dec 1993, Rudy Troike wrote:

Dear Joan, Sali, Tim, et al. ADS-Lers,

The reference to regional variation in BE/AAVE that I made was the

hardly momentous and necessarily largely anecdotal paper I published ages

ago (20 years!), in which the call for research on this topic has gone

largely unheeded. Unfortunately, valuable possibilities have disappeared

in the meantime. The reference is:

Troike, Rudolph C. "On Social, Regional, and Age Variation in Black

English," Florida FL Reporter (1973, Spring/Fall), 7-8.

One pervasive feature which seems to have a much wider occurrence

in the East is the devoicing of final -/d/, replaced with either /t/ or glotta

stop. At the time, I had not encountered this in Texas. Another items was

evidence that older speakers in Texas had the /IN/:/EN/ distinction, but that

it had been lost among younger speakers. This evidence considerably confounds

the view that the lack of the distinction is an original diagnostic of BE.

With more research, much more could be (could have been) found.

On Tim's interesting anecdote, I found differences between speakers in

Houston and Dallas, but his story calls to mind a student I had once who came

up after class and asked, in a strong "Brooklynese" pronunciation, if I though

she sounded like a Southerner. I was rather astonished by the question, and

assured her that she did not, so far as I could tell on casual hearing. Then

she explained, almost in tears, that she had lived for two years in Atlanta, G

where her husband had been stationed, and that after about a year, when she

would call home to her parents in Brooklyn, they would accuse her of "sounding

like a Southerner", evidently implying that this was somewhat treasonous to

family solidarity. As a result, she was feeling somewhat estranged from her

parents, which was very upsetting to her. The phonetic differences, whatever

they were, were clearly very subtle, but were enough to be detectable to

members of the linguistic community (her parents).

This is a common experience, of course, for all of its being little

documented. Brits are often able to detect minute differences in regional

varieties which are unidentifiable to American ears, at least on first hearing

Someone once gave me a tape of a young speaker from NYC who was "obviously"

Black, but when played for a colleague who was a native speaker, he expressed

doubt, though he could not put his finger on anything specific. He was in fact

right -- the speaker on tape was a Nuyorican -- New York Puerto Rican. But

again, the differences were so subtle that they would probably not have been

expressible even in narrow phonetic transcription.

Now, the urgent need is still to document regional differences before

they change or (pace Dennis) disappear.

Feliz Navidad, y'all,


I just had another experince last week like Rudy descirbed back in December.

A student in my grad class went to Colo. and met a Texas lady who had a

pronounced coastal southern pronunciation (Shirley does a good

imitation). But shirley's lady was told she talked like a Yankee when

she went home. This reminded me of Raven McDAvid's stories about goin

ghome to So. Car. and being told he talked like a Yankee. This always

surpirsed me becasue Raven's dialect was so different from my own that

wen he referred to the LANCS community of "Murphysboro" (IL) I would have

to get him to repeat it several times before I knew what he was talking

about. This is interesting because, as Rudy says, there are linguistic

cues that folks recognize, but they are very subtle. I hear stories like

this a lot and can never imagine what the cues might be, even though I

think I have a pretty good ear. This all sugests that even if some sort

of national levelling of extreme regional diferences ever takes place

(which I doubt anyway) there will remain significant distinctions which

many commentators will miss.

January's gone--goodbye and good riddance!

Tim Frazer