Representations of the Appalachian region since the Civil War have cast its people in a uniformly negative light, a perception extended to the region’s speech, generally regarded as Southern. Determining the geographic borders of the “true” Appalachia may be a futile quest, but an empirical assessment of the “Southernness” of Appalachian Englishes is an accomplishable goal. Traditional representations of Appalachia speech, often propagated by outsiders to disenfranchise its speakers, need to be reconciled with the divergent language patterns actually found in the region. This article first discusses some of the dialect research on English varieties in Appalachia to provide context for the reconciling of dialectological maps with sociolinguistic evaluations of language variation patterns. Second, the article provides a quantitative exploration of morphological and phonological sociolinguistic variation in West Virginia, the one state that falls squarely within Appalachia and contains many of its dialectological transition zones. Overall, the article explores the sociolinguistic patterns swirling within Appalachia around “Southernness” and reveals the actual diversity of Appalachians and the wide range of variation in their speech across both Southern and Northern patterns.
The Contested Southernness of Appalachia
Kirk Hazen is professor of linguistics in the Department of English at West Virginia University, where he is the founding director of the West Virginia Dialect Project and a Benedum Distinguished Scholar in the Humanities. His research, teaching, and linguistic service are all centered on social and linguistic patterns of language variation. His most recent book is An Introduction to Language (Wiley Blackwell, 2015), and he is coeditor (with Janet Holmes) of Research Methods in Sociolinguistics: A Practical Guide (Wiley Blackwell, 2014). E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Kirk Hazen; The Contested Southernness of Appalachia. American Speech 1 August 2018; 93 (3-4): 374–408. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/00031283-7271239
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