Wednesday, July 06, 2005

You Want TEN PENS DJ Skuggs?

According to this informative and well researched article from PBS, all people with Southern accents are actually stupider than they sound, contrary to popular belief that they were simply just as stupid as they sound. Now don't go gittin' all ya'll's britches in a bunch DJ Skuggs, I made that up. The article is actually a very intersting discussion about the origin and spread of SAE (Southern American English) and various reactions to it across the country. An appropriate excerpt:
The most widely recognized phonological features of SAE are the merger of the vowels in words like pen and pin or ten and tin (the vowel in both words has the sound of the second member of the pair) and the loss of the offglide of the /ai/ diphthong in words like hide (so that it sounds like hahd). SAE is also characterized by a series of vowel rotations that William Labov (1993) has called the “Southern Shift.” Describing the shift would require an extensive technical phonetic descriptions of SAE vowels, but people can hear its most important feature simply by listening to Bill Clinton’s pronunciation of the vowel in way or stayed. The beginning of the vowel (which is a diphthong in SAE) will sound something like the vowel in father. Vowel differences such as these are hard to describe in non-technical terms, but they are what makes people immediately recognizable as speakers of SAE -- long before a might could, fixin to, or yall crops up in their speech.
Anyway, its an interesting read. I'm still searching for a study on the proper pronunciation of Harrisburg by Harrisburgers. . . .

3 comments:

circe said...

Well, I don't even have a Southern accent. I must be one of those younger victims of universal education.
Everyone but the British seem to think I am from Ohio. I got heckled and followed around by a 15 year old British kid for an entire summer cackling "Ala-BAMA." He stopped doing it when I beat him upside the head and threatened to shove his tape recorder "where the sun don't shine."

dj skuggs said...

that is interesting, although i certainly already knew that having a southern accent can subject speakers to condescension (relatedly, southerners are one of few groups whom it's acceptable to stereotype. somehow it's ok to say that millions of people are stupid based on where they live.) i went to a moot court competition in white plains, ny. after each round the judges would give feedback. one of the judges said to me, "that accent might work in some parts..." he didn't finish it, but the implication was that it didn't work there. i'm not sure that the hell he wanted me to do about it, though. did he think i was faking it? or did he just think i should fix it? i might oughta slapped him.

brownbear said...

Instead of fixing the accent, perhaps you could assume affectations that will make the yank's a bit more comfortable with your southerness. Might I suggest that you wear sear sucker or white linen suits with a large brimmed white hat. Another alternative would be a more tex-mex flavor with cowboy boots and a ginormous shiny belt buckle with your name on it. Or you could buy an orange dodge charger and paint a confederate clag on the top. I think that people will accept the southern accent then. Try going barefoot and eating hay. Fucking Yanks.