Mountain Man Linguistics

A recent appeal from grad student Paul Reed:

I am a PhD candidate at the University of South Carolina. I am a sociophonetician, and my research focuses on varieties of American English in the Southern United States. My dissertation investigates the vowel and intonation systems of Appalachian English.

… I am working on a project with Dr. Stan Dubinsky and I am writing to see if you would be willing to take a few minutes to take some surveys to help facilitate our research (the links for which are included at the bottom of this post in no particular order). [details on Reed’s Blogspot site, link above] The experiments that we’re asking you to participate in are part of a project aimed at finding out more about how the English language works, (in particular) examining how Modern American English is perceived. Each survey involves rating sound clips based on the acceptability of various sentences and should only take about 15 minutes to do.

I’m happy to pass this request on, but my main interest here is in the label Appalachian English.

I start with the geographical designation Appalachia. A map:


But geography and cultural zones don’t necessarily coincide. Linguistically, some of this area falls within Southern, and on the North, within Midland. And within the central part of the area, the cultural and linguistic boundaries aren’t crisp. This is always the way: the names we use in talking about cultural and linguistic zones are only rough pointers, not definitions.

2 Responses to “Mountain Man Linguistics”

  1. Bob Richmond Says:

    I live in east Tennessee but am not native. I don’t think “Appalachian English” is an appellation controlée.

  2. Walt Says:

    Strange that any one would think the parts of Ohio, Pennsylvania, and New York along Lake Erie are “appalachian.” They are hundreds of miles from the mountains and historically and economically just as far. (I grew up in Erie, and while there is sort of “Erie talk” it has no resemblance to mountain talk.)

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: