Date: Sat, 26 Feb 1994 09:04:00 EDT
From: "David A. Johns" DJOHNS[AT SYMBOL GOES HERE]UFPINE.BITNET
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
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
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?