LINGUIST List 14.3405

Tue Dec 9 2003

Disc: Re: Media: Texas Accent

Editor for this issue: Sarah Murray <>


  1. Rebecca Larche Moreton, Re: 14.3368, RE: Media: NYT: Texas Accent

Message 1: Re: 14.3368, RE: Media: NYT: Texas Accent

Date: Sun, 7 Dec 2003 07:28:05 -0600
From: Rebecca Larche Moreton <>
Subject: Re: 14.3368, RE: Media: NYT: Texas Accent

Yes, you are right, that vowel is popularly represented as 'ah', and
this spelling grates on many of us for whom the vowel in question is
native. It is a low, front, open, tense vowel, frequently
non-distinctively nasal. I think that it is written in the press as
"ah" because it is similar to the front, low, open, tense vowel heard
in the first syllable of "Harvard" when that word is spoken by people
from the Boston area. I myself use a Greek alpha (can't write in on
my email) to represent this sound phonetically. I think the use of
this symbol was first suggested to me by Corky Feagin. (As far as the
ordinary spelling is concerned, I would advocate using a plain 'I' for
this sound just as we do now, and making everybody else in the country
change to the spelling 'ay' for their way of writing it: Ay am fayne,
may friend. Wouldn't inconvenience me none.)

Jack Hall's description of the distribution of this alpha-sound is
only one of at least three kinds of distribution for the alpha vowel.
Distribution of this alpha-sound in Southern States English differs
within regional, social, ethnic, age, and possibly other sorts of
groups. Hall's description fits my own speech (I am 66, born and
raised in Jackson, Mississippi, in a white, middle-class setting) but
there are other configurations. In some geographical and/or social
varieties, alpha occurs in all positions; 'nice white rice' with all
alpha-vowels is the shibboleth phrase for this kind of
distribution. Younger (and younger) people from my area use the alpha
in fewer positions and I am not surprised now to hear diphthongs
before voiced final consonants from them, though they do maintain the
alpha in vowel-final stressed syllables for the most part.

(Rebecca Larche Moreton)
301 S. Ninth St.
Oxford, MS 38655
Mail to author|Respond to list|Read more issues|LINGUIST home page|Top of issue