Publishing Partner: Cambridge University Press CUP Extra Publisher Login

The LINGUIST List is dedicated to providing information on language and language analysis, and to providing the discipline of linguistics with the infrastructure necessary to function in the digital world. LINGUIST is a free resource, run by linguistics students and faculty, and supported by your donations. Please support LINGUIST List during the 2017 Fund Drive.

Ask-A-Linguist Message Details

Subject: Regional Accent Revival Initiatives
Question: Dear Ask-A-Linguist Panelists, A friend and I were discussing how regional accents are becoming less and less common throughout the U.S. We noticed the Tidewater Accent, once prevalent throughout coastal Maryland and Virginia, is now nearly completely extinct with the exception of older speakers. We also noticed this patter in a number of other areas such as Boston, New York, and Baltimore. Baltimore no longer feels for lack of a better term like a "southern" city. We mused over the idea of finding a way to revive such accents once more, particularly among younger generations, to continue the culture and history that goes with those dialects and accents. Do you know of any such attempts at revival? Or better yet, how would one most effectively accomplish such a task? Purely hypothetical of course. Thanks, WG
Reply: The great dialect surveys of the late 19th and earlier 20th century were in part motivated by a desire to preserve dialects that were 'disappearing' because of compulsory education. So this is not something new. The fact is that language and culture both change. They are not fixed forever. What you do find hapening, deliberately, is an antiquarian approach, which leads to people writing 'dialect poetry' and stories (often jokes) in a literary dialect that they do not naturally speak. In the UK there are many organisations that support this, with clubs, magazines, performances, and even lessons. I don't think there is as much of this in the US as there is in England, so maybe that is the way to go. You might want to have a look at the Yorkshire magazine, the Dalesman, which publishes dialect poetry. You can also google 'dialect poetry' -- this should get you some hits. In studies I have done of online communication, I found that writers from many places (such as UK, Jamaica and Singapore) will mix a little bit of dialect in with Standard English, often at the end of their postings. The effect is usually one of solidarity and jokiness. I did not find this to happen in quite the same way in the US. Do have a look at how it works in the UK and Jamaica! Anthea
Reply From: Anthea Fraser Gupta      click here to access email
Date: 15-Mar-2013
Other Replies:
  1. Re: Regional Accent Revival Initiatives    Nancy J. Frishberg     (15-Mar-2013)
  2. Re: Regional Accent Revival Initiatives    Susan D Fischer     (16-Mar-2013)
  3. Re: Regional Accent Revival Initiatives    Geoffrey Richard Sampson     (15-Mar-2013)

Back to Most Recent Questions