Nebraskans/Standard English

Beverly Flanigan flanigan at OAK.CATS.OHIOU.EDU
Fri Jan 18 19:25:09 UTC 2002

At 09:42 AM 1/18/02 -0500, you wrote:
>Brokaw's from Yankton, which is spitting distance from Nebraska, but in

Yankton's not far from my home area in SW Minnesota, and Brokaw's not TOO
much younger than I; yet I don't think we sound quite the same.  The
Northern/North Midland dialect boundary swerves upward as it crosses the
Mississippi into Iowa, so that South Dakota is virtually split in
two.  Yankton is in the SE corner and essentially on the line, which is why
I've always heard South Dakotans (and I've driven all across the state) as
different from Minnesotans.  Nebraska and points west are in this fanned
out (North) Midland belt too, of course.

This would suggest that the old North Midland designation may be what
people are identifying as the "best" American English--mainly because it's
simply spread so far from East to West.  In other words, the majority speak
it now, so ergo, it's the "best." The same ridiculous but common notion
prevails in our Journalism school, where students are told that Columbus
speech represents the "ideal" speech of their profession.  (Here in SE Ohio
the natives _don't_ speak that variety, which of course is why they're
mocked, esp. by journalism and telecommunications students.)

And, since the 'cot/caught' merger is general throughout the North Midland
and all through the West, it too has become part of the "best"/"standard"
variety, except, I suppose, for the Eastern/New England diehards in these

Beverly Olson Flanigan         Department of Linguistics
Ohio University                     Athens, OH  45701
Ph.: (740) 593-4568              Fax: (740) 593-2967

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