Date: Sat, 26 Feb 1994 12:00:07 -0700


Subject: Re: Something old, something new

To: David Johns

Thanks for the very interesting information. Coastal Georgia should

have a schwa-onset in write , as exemplified in one of my colleagues from

Savannah. Without a map, I'm not sure how far inland Waycross is, but it is

interesting that the distinction in the /ay/ nucleus is maintained without

the schwa-quality (i.e., before vl. consonants, vs the monophthongization

before voiced or no consonant).

On the two co-occurring varieties, I found in East Texas that there

were still echoes of the ante-bellum social separation among whites, but the

old upper-class pronunciation was being rapidly overwhelmed. What mattered

was not current wealth, but pre-war status. The South has long recognized

the condition of "genteel poverty", so current income is not what counts/ed.

It might be worth looking into this variable, but I suspect you could make

a tremendous contribution by an in-depth ethnographic study in the community,

including looking at social groupings in school. We really need some close

studies like that. Also, you might well need to look into the historical

census records to find out about the settlement history of particular

families. It sounds like a fascinating and exciting situation.

It was also interesting to get the information on /hw/:/w/. The loss

of this contrast is one of the major changes of this century, but we have

unfortunately not taken the opportunity to systematically document the spread

of the loss. This might be a worthwhile project to undertake on a national

network scale, sampling across age and social groups througout the country.

There should be good baseline information in all the regional atlases and DARE,

but a unified study or linked series of surveys is needed. In Texas in the

1960s, I found the loss of /h/ among college-age students had reached about

50%, but only about 10% of students at the U of Arizona have it (though they

are not representative of Arizona, by any means). By the time the loss is

complete, linguists in the next century will wish we had done more to catch

it and document it in progress.

Rudy Troike