Minstrel's Dialect

Beverly Flanigan flanigan at OHIOU.EDU
Tue Nov 11 20:36:52 UTC 2003

This, of course, is what I meant when I referred to the cultural divide; if
whites didn't talk to blacks, they'd assume a spelling pronunciation.  But
I suspect the origin of 'yeller' and 'feller' and 'holler' is more
complicated than assuming a British spelling for r-lessness (as in the
ubiquitous 'er' in British fiction for what we would spell as 'uh' or
'eh').  This would imply that Appalachian English speakers, many of whom
have the -er pron., have the underlying form "yella" (a variant in other
areas) and then add -er to approximate what they think is the "proper"
spelling, regardless of whether or not they ever see "yellow" in
print?  I'll defer to a dialectologist of early regional sound changes on
that one--Michael? Dennis?  (BTW, I recommend Don Lance's last article, in
Am Spch, on similar theories of hypercorrection in the
'sody/Marthy/Missouri' change to final schwa.)

At 02:12 PM 11/11/2003 -0500, you wrote:
>At 1:05 PM -0500 11/11/03, Mark A Mandel wrote:
>>On Tue, 11 Nov 2003, Beverly Flanigan wrote:
>>#Interesting that this Southern town (in Kentucky?) would use a long 'e' in
>>#"de," so close to presumably NS schwa-using people when Foster wrote the
>>#song and Duane saw the show--but the cultural divide would have been great
>>#by the '50s, of course.
>>I would guess it was a spelling pronunciation based on the written
>>lyric, used by people not accustomed to hearing, or at least to writing,
>>the stop pronunciation of "the", much like our questioner.
>>-- Mark A. Mandel
>>    Linguistic Data Consortium, University of Pennsylvania
>That's my guess too--much like the pronunciation of "Ye olde sweete
>shoppe" with the determiner pronounced as if it were the second
>person pronoun, although in that case it's because of unfamiliarity
>with the archaic spelling of the dental fricative, or (I assume) the
>r-ful pronunciation of "yeller" (for the color), "feller", etc.,
>which (as I understand, although I could be wrong) were originally
>designed to represent a schwa here for r-less dialects but now are
>widely pronounced like the agentive ending (= 'one who yells', etc.)

More information about the Ads-l mailing list