Date: Fri, 13 Sep 1996 09:42:09 -0500

From: "Salikoko S. Mufwene" s-mufwene[AT SYMBOL GOES HERE]UCHICAGO.EDU

Subject: Re: Southern accent -

Dale writes:

I neglected to mention that I was referring to Princeton freshmen who were

fresh from the South-- in their first week here, so adaptation to the college

environment played no role. These are people who grew up in the South and

went to school there. Perhaps some Southerners could comment on the situation

in their communities- especially high schools. Aren't there some students/

adults who sound northern? Is it occurring more often in private schools? In

urban areas?

I taught in the South in the 1980s (for ten years). I didn't really

start paying attention to features of Southern English other than the

stereotypical drawl until I read a couple of articles in the SECOL Review

([AT SYMBOL GOES HERE] 1984) that referred to the pronunciation of words such as "ring" and

"business" (and one case in which a UGA's Vice President said "libary" for

"library"). I started using some of these examples in class and even asked

undergraduate students (after persuading them that Southern English was as

good as any other variety, especially in the South itself) to transcribe

their most familiar pronunciations of such words and added some like

"hand", "fire", "floor", and "clothes". I was struck by the extent of

variation. (Surely, after noticing this in the classroom, I perceived more

variation outside the classroom as I interacted with nonacademics.) It all

seemed random to me. Impressionistically I could not establish, for

instance, whether the person that lowered the vowel of "ring" would

diphthongize that of "hand", vice versa, etc. I left the South with a

stronger sense of inter-individual variation (even if only in small ways),

and more convinced that a speech community and the dialect associated with

it are useful constructs to which there are plenty of exceptions, just like

social and psychological stereotypes for that matter. So, Dale, I am not so

surprised by your observation. On the other hand, Southerners who come to

study at Princeton and Yale may not be typical Southerners in their speech

either. They may fall in the category of exceptions to these dialect

stereotypes that make our study more manageable, I would think--which

justifies your query. They may also have been motivated from the start not

to want to sound Southern as they moved out of the South. Still, their

speech may also indicate that Southern English is not as universally spoken

by Southerners as our typical linguistic stereotypes may lead us to

believe. Sorry I misunderstood you.



Salikoko S. Mufwene s-mufwene[AT SYMBOL GOES HERE]

University of Chicago 312-702-8531; FAX 312-702-9861

Department of Linguistics

1010 East 59th Street

Chicago, IL 60637