Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘regional’

Though I can’t say I’m crazy about the Philadelphia accent — or, for that matter, the accents of other places I’ve lived, like Boston’s, Minnesota’s, and Rochester’s — I really would hate to see it go.

I do like trying to identify where new acquaintances might be from. And the homogenization of regional accents just seems a loss. Maybe not a loss on the scale of endangered languages, but a part of a regional culture we’re likely to miss once it’s extinct like the heath hen.

This was in the NY Times recently: “The Philadelphia regional accent remains arguably the most distinctive, and least imitable, accent in North America. Let’s not argue about this. Ask anyone to do a Lawn Guyland accent or a charming Southern drawl and that person will approximate it. Same goes for a Texas twang or New Orleans yat, a Valley Girl totally omigod.

“Philly-South Jersey patois is a bit harder: No vowel escapes diphthongery, no hard consonant is safe from a mid-palate dent. Extra syllables pile up so as to avoid inconvenient tongue contact or mouth closure. If you forget to listen closely, the Philadelphia, or Filelfia, accent may sound like mumbled Mandarin without the tonal shifts.

“Some dialects can be transcribed onto the page, but the Philadelphia accent really has to be heard to be believed. And when an accent goes silent, so do its speakers. A recent study out of the University of Pennsylvania reported that, like many regional phenomena, the Philly sound is conforming more and more with the mainstream of Northern accents. And that’s a shame.

“The beauty of the Philly accent, and I should point out it’s mostly to whites that these sweeping statements apply, is its mashing-up of the Northern and Southern. Nowhere but in the Delaware Valley can you hear those rounded vowels — soda is sewda, house is hay-ouse — a clear influence from Baltimore and points south.”

More at the NY Times, here. The article is by Daniel Nester. (Nester? Not related to I.H. Nester, my Philadelphia father-in-law’s long ago employer? Now, that would be a small world.)

By the way, if you are interested in the Penn study, check out the National Public Radio interview: “Students of Penn linguistics professor Bill Labov have been walking around some 89 Philadelphia neighborhoods for four decades. At the school’s linguistics lab, they have shelves and shelves of recorded conversations from Philadelphians born in 1888 all the way to 1992.” More here.

Graphic: Jennifer Daniel
Can you identify the sawf pressel, the wooder, torsts (as in ” ‘Lannic city is too torsty ennymore”), a samalem, arnj juyce, a sennid cannle, a miskeeda, and the tayyin rowll (Italian roll)?

Read Full Post »

I’ve written several posts on the threat to languages that have few speakers — and on the linguistic preservationists racing against time. (Here, for example.)

Why does language extinction matter, you ask? Because language embodies so much about culture. We are poorer in being ignorant of how different people live and in having a chance to learn taken away from us.

Now the last speaker of a rare Scots dialect is gone. Writes the Associated Press, “In a remote fishing town on the tip of Scotland’s Black Isle, the last native speaker of the Cromarty dialect has passed away, taking with him a little fragment of the English linguistic mosaic.

“Academics said [October 3] that Bobby Hogg, who was 92 when he died … was the last person fluent in the dialect once common to the seaside town of Cromarty, 175 miles (280 kilometers) north of Edinburgh.

“ ‘I think that’s a terrible thing,’ said Robert Millar, a linguist at the University of Aberdeen in northern Scotland. ‘The more diversity in terms of nature we have, the healthier we are. It’s the same with language.’ …

“It’s part of a relentless trend toward standardization which has driven many regional dialects and local languages into oblivion. Linguists often debate how to define and differentiate the world’s many dialects, but most agree that urbanization, compulsory education and mass media have conspired to iron out many of the kinks that make rural speech unique.” More.

Photograph: Am Baile-High Life Highland/Associated Press.
Bobby Hogg, who recently passed away aged 92.

Read Full Post »

%d bloggers like this: