Date: Sat, 26 Feb 1994 09:04:00 EDT


Subject: Something old, something new

First some comments on old threads:

On [kupan] vs [kjupan]: I missed the beginning of this thread, but

various people have been referring to it as a case of j-dropping (or

cluster simplification). Did I miss an explanation for considering

[kjupan] the older form? In any case, I remember being told in my

teenage years, in the '50s, that [kupan] was the "correct" alternate,

with [kjupan] a vulgar hypercorrection. My 1957 Webster's New World

Dictionary lists both pronunciations, with [kupan] first.

On place names: Illinois is truly a gold mine for mispronounced

foreign names, not all of which are French. Chicago has a Goethe

Street pronounced ['gothi] and a Mozart Street pronounced ['mozart].

Even better, when I was a cab driver there 20 years ago, the

dispatchers routinely referred to Buena Street as [bu'wana] (accent on

the second syllable) -- although since the dispatchers were all black,

this may have been an in-joke. Devon Avenue is normally pronounced

with the accent on the second syllable, and Chicago gets its weather

from a radar station in [mar'selz] (Marseilles). There are also two

pronunciations that might serve as local shibboleths: Loyola

University is [la'yol[AT SYMBOL GOES HERE]], not [lo'yol[AT SYMBOL GOES HERE]] (someone also mentioned Joliet

[jali'et]), and, of course, Chicago is [SI'kOgo] or [SI'kOg[AT SYMBOL GOES HERE]] instead

of [SI'kago].

On various regional pronunciations: It's interesting that northern

Georgia keeps [hw] and [w] apart, because where I am, in southeast

Georgia (Waycross), they are completely merged. I get spelling errors

in student compositions like weather for whether and even where for

were. Locals insist that they have different vowels in news and noose,

although both are so fronted that I have trouble hearing the

difference. I suspect that noose is [nyws], with a front rounded

nucleus, and news is [niwz], with a less rounded vowel, but I'm not

sure. Also, I get due to spelled do to, but it could be that due to

is a foreign import, heard mainly from TV announcers with Midwestern

accents. Along this line also, I get whether spelled as rather! Both

of these words may also be foreign to the area.

And now for something somewhat different.

I've noticed that both in North Florida (Gainesville area) and in this

part of Georgia there seem to be two distinct accents among life-long

white natives.

The first accent is distinctly Southern. Stressed vowels are

lengthened, but the stress itself is not very strong, yielding the

typical Southern drawl. The tense vowels /i/, /e/, /o/, and /u/ are

all strongly diphthongized, producing something like [Ej], [Aj], [Ew],

and [iw], where [A] is aesc. The lax vowels /I/ and /E/ are often

diphthongized into [i[AT SYMBOL GOES HERE]] and [e[AT SYMBOL GOES HERE]]. The vowels in ride and write are

[A:] and [A:j] in Georgia, but generally a little further back, [a:]

and [a:j] in Florida. Most speakers tend to speak toward the low end

of their vocal range, although women seem to have two registers: a low

tone for normal conversations, and a much higher tone for certain

formal situations, like asking directions, speaking on the phone to

strangers, etc. Voice quality seems to be nasal to neutral in men,

neutral to husky in women.

The second accent sounds much more Southern Midland. Word stress is

very strong, resulting in a pogo-stick rhythm to the speech. Vowels

are short and crisp, with only mild fronting of /u/ and /o/ and no

diphthongization of /i/ and /e/, or of the lax vowels. Ride and write

both have [A], with no noticeable lengthening other than what is

normal before a voiced consonant, and I'm not sure they are

consistently distinct from rad and rat. Both men and women tend to

speak in a fairly high, nasal tone of voice.

The existence of these two accents suggests that people from Appalachia

moved into this area at some time and maintained their accents. But I

haven't been able to confirm this from any speakers of the second

accent; no one that I've asked knew anything about having ancestors

from North Georgia or Tennessee or anywhere else up there. Even

stranger, there seems to be no consistent social stratification

between the two accents, and speakers of both accents seem to be

completely unaware of the presence of the other.

So how are the accents maintained? Who do children identify with to

learn them? Why aren't they leveled out among children from both

groups growing up together?

Can anyone here give me a clue?

David Johns

Waycross College

Waycross, GA