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Thread: Can someone please explain the Southern Drawl to me?

  1. #1
    Stay chooned in for more! Clint's Avatar
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    Can someone please explain the Southern Drawl to me?

    It's sad that I live in the deep south, but don't understand what this means. I was reading about Southern American English and I don't comprehend what the following means:

    * The Southern Drawl, or the diphthongization or triphthongization of the traditional short front vowels as in the words pat, pet, and pit: these develop a glide up from their original starting position to [j], and then in some cases back down to schwa.

    // → [jə]
    /ɛ/ → [ɛjə]
    /ɪ/ → [ɪjə]

    Particularly since I've met a lot of hillbillies and rednecks with deplorable English skills and accents so thick that you can't understand them (Just last night there was a kid talking about something, but all I could get was a tree fell on his house or something like that) and I've NEVER heard anyone pronounce pat, pet, and pit as anything other than pat, pet, or pit, unless I'm not understanding what Wikipedia is saying.

    And what is the difference between a "Drawl" and an accent? Can you have one without the other?

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    rattler's Avatar
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    im not a linguist so cant help you with the Wiki definition but in this case drawl = accent more or less.......drawl is just a method of speaking......the way i think of it a drawl is more fluid than regular structured speech......fewer words are spoken in away that they do have a sharp clear ending, they sorta trail off more than ending........

    i have lil rouble understanding most accents.......dealt with Saudi's when i was in college, deal with French Canadian types every so ofter, dealt with southerners with a thick accent and drawl, generally have no problem even know a scotish guy. my wife has a hell of a time with them cause prolly like you she listens to the individual words and not the context as i seem to do. however as good as i am at understanding most heavy accents, even though im half Norwegian, when the old Norwegian farmers come to the paper that came from Norway to the US and i cant understand a word they are saying
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    SirKristoff is a poopiehead Ozzy's Avatar
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    I've lived in the south almost my whole life and I can't figure out what you're talking about.

    LOL

    Every part of the country has a little different way to talk. Most of the time I can tell you where somebody is from just by hearing them talk. Sometimes I can even tell you what part to the state they live in. I can tell the difference from somebody from northern ohio and southern ohio.

    I guess it's like Darwinism, you isolate a group of people and their speech evolves to fit their needs.
    Accents are not as dramatic as they use to be, I guess because of TV.

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    Is ready to take this hobby to a whole new level DavyJones's Avatar
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    I am actually taking a course on American varieties of speech right now, and this is something that we have discussed. It is actually a very complex subject, and I could talk to you about it more if you want, but as of right now I'll just give a very simple explanation...

    What you are meaning by a 'drawl' and an 'accent' is actually one in the same. In the United States, there is no actual 'proper' form of English, rather, we have developed an accepted 'standard' English. In some foreign countries, there are actually academies which debate what should be allowed in a language, whats changes should be made, standard pronunciation, etc. (France to name one) I digress. There are two types of sounds the mouth can make, consonants, and vowels. In consonants, air flow is slowed or stopped. Try it, make the "t" noise or the "f" noise. Vowels, on the other hand, are formed by the shape of the mouth. Please see the following diagram...



    This diagram represents the mouth, and where each vowel is formed. using international phonetic symbols. What you were mentioning above is called 'vowel shifting' and it actually occurs frequently, but is a very slow process. It is the main reason that English spelling and pronunciation are different. A long time ago, after the invent of the printing press, there was a vowel shift which changed our pronunciation, but left spelling the same.

    Anyways, a vowel shift starts when one sound begins to move to another portion of the mouth. This can be illustrated from the word 'bit' as with the southern accent it sounds more like, 'beet.' Try and say it. "The dog bit him." So when one sound shifts, it takes the place of another, which then must shift over and take another's place, and so on. That is essentially how that form of the southern dialect formed. There's a bunch of other stuff relating to it, such as differences in grammar, but the vowel shift is what people recognize when they hear southern speech.
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    Stay chooned in for more! Clint's Avatar
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    I don't know what you're talking about, I've never heard anyone say "bit" as "beet" either. I've heard people say "biting" as "biding" (as in "I'm biding my time" ) but never "bit" and "beet" I've heard something like "The dog bid em" but never "beet". Intervocalic alveolar flapping. Is there a place online that has these examples I can listen to?

    If you pronounce your words perfectly, or rather standardly, is it possible to have an accent? Consider someone very proper, and speaks perfectly (or rather standardly), yet still has a British or Australian accent; can this happen with southern accents?

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    SirKristoff is a poopiehead Ozzy's Avatar
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    lol, Like I said I lived in the south almost my whole life and I have never heard anybody say "The dog beet him"


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    Stay chooned in for more! Clint's Avatar
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    I know, It's like the people making up these rules have never heard a heavy southern accent.


    Basically, I'm trying to dissect my voice. I don't have much of an accent according to what other people have told me (Of course someone who's from somewhere else would probably say I have a noticeable accent) but I'm really trying to standardize my speech and eliminate any trace of an accent I do have. I know that I flap, but some pronunciations are so similar (like morning and mourning) that I'm not sure if I pronounce those properly or not!

    Maybe I'm a sell out. I just don't want people to think I'm uneducated and ignorant at first impressions. I don't say things like 'Ain't" and "Y'all" (or worse), but I don't like the stereotypes of southern people, and would like to standardize my speech. Without going to a speech therapist, that is.

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    I don't think it's being a sell out, there are mannerisms in all types of speech that can become distracting and unprofessional. Correcting those things, from it being a location based tone, to a habitual phrase will only help you.

    Personally I always catch myself ending phrases with "you know?" or adding "like" all over the place. The you know? part is probably from that awesome upper Wisconsin (fargo) tone, that I almost wish I did have. "Oh golly, those folks up there are just somethin don't-cha know?" My relatives crack me up when I get to visit them.

    Thank goodness I never picked up the Chicago accent and can still say wolf correctly.

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