Thursday, June 5, 2008

Languages, Oh Languages!

If you were born in the Southern United States, (why Oklahoma, New Mexico and Arizona aren't considered "southern" states, I don't know), chances are you have spoken with the Southern accent or if you have visited other parts of the country or another nation, you might have been knocked for your accent or attracted curious on-lookers. The funny thing about me is that I've been confused by native southerners as sounding British even though I've never been to the island nation. In actuality, the English language is Germanic in origin.

For general overview of Linguistics, click here.

I've studied the English language on and off for over a decade especially since my interest was piqued after taking a public speaking course during the summer of 1997. Officially, Southern American English is a group of dialects of the English language spoken throughout the Southern region of the United States, from Southern and Eastern Maryland, West Virginia and Kentucky to the Gulf Coast, and from the Atlantic coast to throughout most of Texas.

There are also small and/or isolated places in Kansas, Nebraska, New Mexico, Colorado, Arizona, Wyoming, Montana, and the San Joaquin Valley of California where the prevailing dialect is Southern in character or heavily Southern-influenced, due to historical settlement by Southerners particularly from Oklahoma. Also, the speech patterns of most of the southernmost counties of Ohio, Indiana, and Illinois – settled by Southerners and Southern Appalachians - have a predominately Southern influence rather than Midwestern.

Southern dialects substantially originated from immigrants from the British Isles in the 17th and 18th centuries.

Settlement also included large numbers of Protestants from Ulster, Ireland, and from Scotland
. During the migration south and west, the settlers encountered the French immigrants of New France (from which Kentucky, Arkansas, Louisiana, Missouri, Mississippi and western Tennessee originated), and the French accent itself fused into the British and Irish accents. The modern Southern dialects were born. William Shakespeare himself was said to have originated as many as 20,000 new words.

The Virginia Piedmont dialect is possibly the most famous of Southern dialects because of its strong influence on the South's speech patterns. Because the dialect has long been associated with the upper or aristocratic plantation class in the Old South, many of the most important figures in Southern history spoke with a Virginia Piedmont accent including a former Queen of England. Other dialects include Coastal Southern, South Midland or Highland Southern, Southern Appalachian, Ozark, Cajun, and Creole with a variety of derivatives. There is also Gullah and African American Vernacular English. So what is the official language of the United States? After reading this, you will wonder too.

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