Heard on The Judges: interesting (only to me?) dialect

Laurence Horn laurence.horn at YALE.EDU
Sat May 17 23:40:18 UTC 2008

At 4:22 PM -0400 5/16/08, Wilson Gray wrote:
>A late-thirty-ish, white, male speaker from North Carolina who spoke
>with an almost-stereotypical, rale slow, Deep-Southern drawl, with
>[daUg] for "dog," [hi at l] for "hill," etc., except that it was fully
>r-ful. (By "Deep-Southern," I mean basically that part of the old
>"Black Belt" South from South Carolina through East Texas.) The
>speaker also used "woif (wife)  "roight" (right) "boik" (bike), etc.,
>a feature so striking that it even drew my wife's attention, and
>pronounced "I, my, lie," etc. so that they really did sound like "ah,
>mah, lah."
>It was only the second time that I had heard that type of
>pronunciation used in real life. The only other person that I've ever
>met who used "ah," etc., was from Georgia. Oddly, I was never able to
>determine whether she was black or white. Back in the day, asking a
>person who thought himself white whether he was black or white would
>have been a serious insult and posing that question to someone who
>thought himself black would have been incredibly lame. As the Russians
>say, _Rybak rybaka izdaleko vidit_. "Fisherman recognizes (literally,
>"sees") fisherman, [even] from a distance." I.e., members of the same
>social congeries easily recognize each other / one another.
The pronunciation of "wife", "right", and "bike" you mention in the
place(s) you mention it remind me of Walt Wolfram and Natalie
Schilling-Estes's descriptions of the "brogue" spoken on Okracoke
Island (off the coast of N.C.) by the (self-described) "hoi-toiders",
which of course illustrates the point at hand (representating the
local  rendering of "high-tiders").  There's a very nice video they
(or Schilling-Estes solo?  Someone here will know) made exploring the
dialect in all its sociolinguistic as well as phonological and
lexical glory.  The Okracoke "brogue" is also featured in "Do you
speak American?"


The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

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