Heard on The Judges: localisms

Doug Harris cats22 at STNY.RR.COM
Fri Jan 23 00:02:16 UTC 2009

And not just the rural _south_: It's amazingly common in Central NY -- from the
Southern Tier (bordering PA) north toward Syracuse and Elmira and east nearly
as far as Albany. (The latter is often pronounced ALLbanny. The latter syllable
rhymes with nanny.)

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----- Original message ----------------------------------------
From: RonButters at AOL.COM
Received: 1/22/2009 9:01:19 AM
Subject: Heard on The Judges: localisms

>I'm pretty sure that this is a feature of rural speech in areas of the upper
>South among whites as well.

>In a message dated 1/22/09 1:46:53 PM, bgzimmer at BABEL.LING.UPENN.EDU

>> On Thu, Jan 22, 2009 at 12:35 PM, Wilson Gray <hwgray at gmail.com> wrote:
>> >
>> > Twenty-year-old black youth from Houston:
>> >
>> > "Yes, your honor. That's why I come out her (i.e. 'here')."
>> >
>> > ("Local" in the sense that, AFAIK, this shift of -air, -ear, -ere,
>> > etc. to [-^r] is, so far, peculiar to BE and, again, AFAIK, it began
>> > in Saint Louis about fifteen years ago and was spread around by such
>> > Saint Louis hip-hoppers as Nelly, Li'l John, Chingy, et al. One of my
>> > favorite songs has the eye-dialect title, I'm Hurr, I'm Thurr, I'm
>> > Errwhurr. I assume that initial err- is influenced by "er(r)," the
>> > standard spelling of onomatopoetic [^(r)].)
>> At the ADS annual meeting, Cara Shousterman of NYU presented a paper
>> on the 'urr' variable, suggesting a historical distribution not
>> limited to the St. Louis region (though StL has certainly become the
>> culturally salient "home" to the variable in the hiphop era). Here's
>> the abstract:
>> ---
>> http://www.americandialect.org/American-Dialect-Society-2009-Meeting-Abstract
>> s.pdf
>> Cara Shousterman (New York University)
>> Diachrony and AAE: sound change outside of the mainstream
>> This is a diachronic study of what is known as the 'urr' variable,
>> whereby in some African American communities front vowels centralize
>> when followed by /r/. For example, the words here and hair can merge
>> with her, and are spelled in popular
>> references as "hurr" or "herre". Results indicate that the 'urr'
>> variable is a fairly recent innovation in AAE spoken in DC, Maryland,
>> St. Louis, and Memphis. This shows that not only are there regional
>> differences in AAE, but also that African Americans are participating
>> in sound changes separate from those found in "mainstream" European
>> American dialects.
>> ---
>> Shousterman and some fellow NYUers also presented an LSA paper (which
>> I missed) covering more recent developments in the spread of the
>> variable to other AAE dialects via Nelly et al.:
>> ---
>> Renée Blake (New York University), Sonya Fix (New York University),
>> Cara Shousterman (New York University): Vowel centralization before
>> /r/ in two AAE dialects: A case of regional variation
>> ---
>> Not sure where Houston fits into this.
>> --Ben Zimmer
>> ------------------------------------------------------------
>> The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

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