Thursday, July 07, 2005

I ain't got an accent, y'all do | Sounds of the South
Southern American English (SAE) is the most widely recognized regional dialect of American English, but as most of its speakers know, widespread recognition is a mixed blessing. SAE is also the regional dialect that is most negatively evaluated. In a recent study of folk beliefs about American dialects, Dennis Preston (1996) found that 90% of his respondents from Michigan and Indiana and 96% of those from South Carolina recognized SAE as a distinct variety of American English. Both the Michigan and Indiana respondents, however, also evaluated SAE as the most “incorrect” variety of American English (New York City speech was the only serious competitor), and the South Carolina respondents were ambivalent about its correctness as well.

The widespread recognition and negative evaluation of SAE can have practical consequences for its users that in some cases include negative stereotyping and linguistic discrimination, just as with African American Vernacular English (AAVE), or Ebonics. While SAE almost never generates the extreme reactions and extensive prejudice that AAVE often does, its users can anticipate at least polite (and often not so polite) condescension to their speech by non-Southerners. In spite of its low status outside of the South and of standardizing forces such as interregional migration and universal education that threaten many minority languages and dialects, SAE continues to persist.
I shouldn't oughta say anything.

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