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
Mr. William Safire, The New York Times