Study into the Health and Wellness of Appalachian English Dialect: A Portrait of an Endangered DialectMelinda L Richards*
Department of Health and Human Performance, Speech-Language Pathology and Audiology, Middle Tennessee State University, MTSU Box 364, Murfreesboro, TN, USA
- *Corresponding Author:
- Melinda Richards
Department of Health and Human Performance
Speech-Language Pathology and Audiology
Middle Tennessee State University
MTSU Box 364, Murfreesboro, TN, USA
E-mail: [email protected]
Received date: September 22, 2015; Accepted date: November 15, 2015; Published date: December 25, 2015
Citation: Richards ML (2015) Study into the Health and Wellness of Appalachian English Dialect: A Portrait of an Endangered Dialect. J Phonet and Audiol 1:104. doi: 10.4172/2471-9455.1000104
Copyright: © 2015 Richards ML. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.
Appalachian English (AppE) is one of the surviving archaic regional dialects of English still spoken in the United States. It has been associated with persons living in the southern Appalachian mountain range, especially West Virginia, eastern Kentucky, extending southward into the mountainous portions of East Tennessee . Until the period preceding the 1940s, the mountains served as an effective geographical barrier against physical mobility. The effect of this isolation, coupled with unusually high rates of illiteracy, has been to preserve the original character of the dialect of English spoken throughout the region. The 1940’s ushered in a new era for the region, in terms of economic and social development, opening up the region to outside influences. With the creation of the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA), dams were built on the Tennessee River to provide hydroelectric power to the region, and to improve river navigation. For the first time, the physical barriers to outside cultural influences were greatly minimized. In 1926, the United States government set aside approximately 700,000 acres of mountain wilderness which would become the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. The impact of visitors from many other parts of the country cannot be underestimated, in terms of influence on the language and culture of the region.
The time frame of the late 1930’s and early 1940’s was hypothesized to be a watershed event, because the creation of the Tennessee Valley Authority opened up the region to outside influences by improving navigation on the Tennessee River system, and by providing electricity which brought into the region radio, and later, television. These technological advances brought in speech patterns other than the local dialect, which may in turn have influenced the speech of southern Appalachian speakers who listened to them.
The purpose of this study was to describe to the casual reader the phonological features of selected vowels produced by three generations of present-day native Appalachian English speakers living in Del Rio, a small, relatively remote community of approximately 2400 persons (Cocke County Chamber of Commerce, personal communication, 1999) in East Tennessee, and to discuss what, if any, change has occurred over time. These speech samples have been compared perceptually cross-generationally and analyzed for presence/absence of AppE features. It was hypothesized that Appalachian English speakers who, as children, learned to talk prior to 1940, prior to any appreciable development of the region, would present with very different vowel characteristics from either their children or grandchildren, as demonstrated by perceptual analysis of their speech. It was further hypothesized that the grandparents and their adult progeny would demonstrate a lesser degree of change in their vowel characteristics than subsequent generations would reveal.