Date: Sat, 14 Sep 1996 15:33:42 -0400

From: Elizabeth Gibbens gibbens[AT SYMBOL GOES HERE]NYTIMES.COM

Subject: Re: Questions from inside: Southern accents

Dear Mr. Metcalf:

As a transplanted Southerner, I have some comments to add to your

discussion on the possible decline of the Southern accent.

First, my mother is a native Californian, and my father is a

fifth-generation Louisianian. Although my father does not pronounce the

letter "r" distinctly, my mother does. Growing up in Southwestern

Louisiana, but emulating my mother, probably because I spent more time with

her, I pronounce my r's. I've often reflected that my accent sounds closer

to a Texan or upland Southern accent. I've been told that I sound as though

I was raised in the mountains of the Carolinas.

Second, I am a graduate of Louisiana State University, a good,

middle-class institution. Nevertheless, I have many friends who are

Southerners and went to private colleges such as Tulane, Duke, and

Georgetown. I've noticed that my upper-class friends, whose parents often

have the strongest of Southern and Gulf Coast accents, often sound like

suburban Northerners. I find this a curious phenomenon, but I know that it

exists. The loss of accent, I believe, is stronger in the upper classes of


At 05:56 PM 9/10/96 -0400, you wrote:

An inmate at Alabama State Prison sends a note with these questions:

"I have a question concerning dialects in the U.S. In the last few years

I've noticed a change in the speech of students in suburban schools. There is

not a 'Southern' accent anymore at these schools. It sounds as if it were

homogenized with other dialects around the country. Do you have any

information on this phenomenon?

"Another question I would like to ask. What happened to the old Aristocrat

Southern accent? Thank you for your time."

These seem reasonable questions to raise on ADS-L. If anyone has good

answers, I'll send them on to the questioner. - Allan Metcalf

Elizabeth Gibbens

Research Assistant

Mr. William Safire, The New York Times