Inaugural ADS Professorship Lecture: Kirk Hazen

Event Date/Time: 
Thursday, July 20, 2017 - 7:00pm
Event Details: 

Appalachian Englishes in the 21st Century

Varieties of English in Appalachia received more public criticism than scholarly scrutiny in the twentieth century. From comic strips to popular sitcoms and eventually the world-wide web, people from Appalachia have been lampooned in public circles for their speech and other cultural traits. Early myths, such as the reference to an extant Elizabethan English in the mountains, were used as a defense for language variation; however, such myths only obscure the actual patterns of synchronic and diachronic variation in this area of the country.

Working from the foundational scholarship of Wolfram & Christian (1975, 1976), Montgomery (e.g. 1989, 2004, 2006) and others, this presentation explores a sociolinguistically empirical review of language variation patterns in speakers from Appalachia, specifically West Virginia, in order to emphasize a previously underexamined quality, namely the range of heterogeneity. Variation can be found in traditional features, both those frequently studied and socially commented on, plus those features less socially visible and shared with other dialect regions. I will lead the audience through the perceptions of Appalachian speakers, including their supposed homogeneity, low educational attainment, and Elizabethan English in order to contrast that pervasive, monolithic view with the major findings of the West Virginia Dialect Project. While some sociolinguistic variables, both morphological and phonological, are not undergoing change and others show no social marking, several demonstrate divisions between rural and non-rural speakers. Along with geographic region, orientation to higher-education, and social class, rurality guides speakers’ language variation choices and will help to determine the future of Appalachian Englishes.

By examining the full scope of language variation in Appalachia, a greater understanding of the range of vernacularity can be established. Within this continuum of Appalachian Englishes, there are no dialect features that are unique to the Appalachian region, belying the common belief that Appalachia exists in isolation from the rest of the US dialect landscape. Because there is such a contrast between the quotidian language in Appalachia and the dialect in the American imagination, outreach with communities regarding language variation is paramount for education in local schools and linguistic social justice.

Location : 
Jacob Science Building, Room 121