Discussion Examples Of Regional Dialects During The Civil War?

Si Klegg

Corporal
Joined
Jul 13, 2018
Location
Bedford UK
It's difficult to say because obviously, we've no sound recordings from that era. Only way we can give an example is by how Diarists or Novelists of the time wrote down dialects in their works. Best example I can give is from 'Si Klegg and His Pard.'

Now, being English, I've no idea how someone born in the Wabash Valley in Indiana's accent would sound today, never mind someone living there 170 years ago, but the author, Wilbur Hinman, who served with the 65th Ohio Vol. Infantry throughout the war, did his best to replicate the average mid-westerner's accent in his work, for example, on the subject of body lice, Si's 'pard' Shorty holds forth thus:

"I reck'n that's so," replied Shorty; "but they likes other people jest as well - even a skinny feller like me. They lunches off'n privits, 'n' corp'rils, 'n' kurnals, 'n' gin'rals, all the same. They ain't satisfied with three square meals a day, nuther; they jest eats right along all the time 'tween reg'lar meals. They allus gets hungry in the night too, and chaws a feller up while he's asleep. They don't give ye no show at all. I rayther think the graybacks likes the ossifers best if they could have their ch'ice, 'cause they's fatter 'n the privits; they gits better grub."

Hinman also attempted to reproduce a Tennessean/Georgian accent in Si's dealings with the local populace whilst out foraging for corn:

"Thar's ole man Scroggs, he lives a matter o' two mile from hyar. I 'low ye'll get sum if ye go thar. He growed a power o' cawn this yeah; he sold a heap, but I reckon he's got a right smaht left."

Accents/dialects do change over time, so it's hard to be exact. For example, where I'm from - Merseyside (Birkenhead/Liverpool) - in the North-West of England, that accent has changed distinctly from even the early 20th century to become the 'Scouse' accent it is today.
 

Rhea Cole

1st Lieutenant
Joined
Nov 2, 2019
Location
Murfreesboro, Tennessee
Because the spelling of many soldier letters is phonetic, they are often very hard to read & understand. I have found that even some of the most difficult to decipher come to life when you read them out loud. Accents & pronunciation reveal themselves.

Gullah & Geechee are still living languages on the Barrier Islands. They are an amalgam of West African dialects & English.

A chance encounter with the actor Michael York, of all people, greatly expanded my understanding of the origins of the Appalachian Mountain accent. Folks from deep hollows & coves still speak a form of Elisabeth English. Rather than the BBC standard we hear today, Shakesphere spoke with a hillbilly accent.

A folklorist, the late Charles Wolfe, was a friend of mine. He collected I don’t recall how many Elizabethan songs & poems from a couple who were in their 80’s. They had learned them as part of a family repertory.

In the upper Midwest, there are groups of people who still speak antique forms of German & Norwegian that CW era soldiers would have spoken. The same can be said of Native American speakers.

I am familiar with Cajun accents via the late Jimmy C.Newman & a Florida Panhandle family of Cajuns who are on the Nashville music ‘binis’. I am told that amalgamation of French, African & Native American languages is a hold over.

The “Southern accent” heard in TV & Movies is analogous to American’s attempting to speak BBC English. A good friend who grew up with a Coastal Carolina socially elite accent had a career as a stage & TV actor. New York, California & English directors insisted they knew what a Southern accent was & demanded that he assume the affected pseudo-accent they were familiar with.

My brother who lives in Maine assures me that Mainers have maintained their accents from of old.

So, to directly answer your question, linguists will, if given the chance, bend your ear endlessly about present day accents & where they came from.

One thing you may not have considered is that the white women of slaveholding families spoke like the slaves did. Makes sense, given their relative isolation. Elite slaveholding men affected an English upperclass accent, whatever that was in 1860. This is way outside my patch, but I have been told that echos of that divide still exist among some Coastal Carolina families. Scarlet O’Hara speech would have been filled with Africanisms as she would have dipped snuff & spit tobacco juice instead of the pretend British Southern accent of the movie Gone With the Wind.
 

Cycom

Private
Joined
Feb 19, 2021
Location
Los Angeles, California
Because the spelling of many soldier letters is phonetic, they are often very hard to read & understand. I have found that even some of the most difficult to decipher come to life when you read them out loud. Accents & pronunciation reveal themselves.

Gullah & Geechee are still living languages on the Barrier Islands. They are an amalgam of West African dialects & English.

A chance encounter with the actor Michael York, of all people, greatly expanded my understanding of the origins of the Appalachian Mountain accent. Folks from deep hollows & coves still speak a form of Elisabeth English. Rather than the BBC standard we hear today, Shakesphere spoke with a hillbilly accent.

A folklorist, the late Charles Wolfe, was a friend of mine. He collected I don’t recall how many Elizabethan songs & poems from a couple who were in their 80’s. They had learned them as part of a family repertory.

In the upper Midwest, there are groups of people who still speak antique forms of German & Norwegian that CW era soldiers would have spoken. The same can be said of Native American speakers.

I am familiar with Cajun accents via the late Jimmy C.Newman & a Florida Panhandle family of Cajuns who are on the Nashville music ‘binis’. I am told that amalgamation of French, African & Native American languages is a hold over.

The “Southern accent” heard in TV & Movies is analogous to American’s attempting to speak BBC English. A good friend who grew up with a Coastal Carolina socially elite accent had a career as a stage & TV actor. New York, California & English directors insisted they knew what a Southern accent was & demanded that he assume the affected pseudo-accent they were familiar with.

My brother who lives in Maine assures me that Mainers have maintained their accents from of old.

So, to directly answer your question, linguists will, if given the chance, bend your ear endlessly about present day accents & where they came from.

One thing you may not have considered is that the white women of slaveholding families spoke like the slaves did. Makes sense, given their relative isolation. Elite slaveholding men affected an English upperclass accent, whatever that was in 1860. This is way outside my patch, but I have been told that echos of that divide still exist among some Coastal Carolina families. Scarlet O’Hara speech would have been filled with Africanisms as she would have dipped snuff & spit tobacco juice instead of the pretend British Southern accent of the movie Gone With the Wind.
Thank you, this was informative.
 

rebelatsea

1st Lieutenant
Joined
Mar 30, 2013
Location
Kent ,England.
I have a friend from Raleigh North Carolina who could pass as southern counties English. I worked with an Anglo Indian guy who had the most beautiful Welsh intonation , never went there in his life and no connections.
There are inhabitants of Northern Japan who can understand and be understood by older Basque people, similarly for some in Wales. Go figure. The spoken language is truly wonderful .
 

Biscoitos

Corporal
Joined
May 14, 2020
Michigan's Upper Peninsula and the Yooper dialect which is heavily influenced by the Scandinavian languages.

Thank you for reminding people in the South that there are regional dialects "up north" too.
I think that some of us are so conscious of our southern "accents" being considered a mark of ignorance, that we tend to ignore the different northern dialects.
For example, the title of this thread does not confine the discussion to southern dialects, but look at almost all the posts.
 

major bill

Brev. Brig. Gen'l
Forum Host
Joined
Aug 25, 2012
In the past couple of decades a new a accent with some new dialects have developed in the Midwest from basically Cleveland to Chicago among younger people. Modern linguists had not witnessed a new accent/dialect develop and found it interesting. It is often referred to as the Midwest vowel shift or Great Midwest vowel shift. Of course older people see it as a lack of education or laziness. If you hear some one say bus and boss the exact same way, then you are hearing it. Also some plural "s" at the end of some words are dropped.
 

Rusk County Avengers

1st Lieutenant
Forum Host
Joined
Apr 8, 2018
Location
Coffeeville, TX
I have a think Deep Southern/Texas drawl, which I've inherited from my grandparents and father and been accused of sounding like a hick and was made fun of growing up, even at reenactments I still hear outright slander from time to time. But you wouldn't know it from the way I type or write stuff, my spoken grammar is a lot less sophisticated than my written, and I've wondered if that was the case with people of the CW era.

As for if dialects from back then survived to today, I'd say it has among older generations. People from rural areas born before the year 2000 can have it, but the accents are dying out now. Technology and broader exposure is the reason, along with more than a few urban Yankees moving down here into the South.

I once met some elderly cousins that knew one of our family's Confederate ancestors, and I'm glad I asked when I had the chance this question, and they said My Dad and I with our hick accents didn't sound very different from our Confederate ancestor who was from Alabama and moved to Texas during Reconstruction.
 
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Peace Society

Corporal
Joined
Jun 25, 2019
Location
Ark Mo line
The WPA project of interviewing former slaves (done in the 1930's, so freedmen were probably at least 90) tried to keep the sound of the interviewees in the books that resulted. The books are done by different authors and have diff. titles - done state by state. A couple I remember were something like: "Weren't No Good Times" and "We Lived in a Cabin on the Lawn"
 
Don't forget the true "yankee" accent, that of New England.
There are, of course, several different dialects within New England.

Even though I nor my parents had never been to New England, I had a Bostonian accent until about the 4th grade. My English teacher would keep me after school to coach me in proper pronunciation because some kids in my class would make fun of the way I talked. When JFK was elected to the presidency, my mom and grandmother would tell me that I used to talk just like him.
 

lurid

First Sergeant
Joined
Jan 3, 2019
Even though I nor my parents had never been to New England, I had a Bostonian accent until about the 4th grade. My English teacher would keep me after school to coach me in proper pronunciation because some kids in my class would make fun of the way I talked. When JFK was elected to the presidency, my mom and grandmother would tell me that I used to talk just like him.

The funniest thing I ever witnessed was a conversation between a true Bostonian and a true backwoods southerner. I thought I was on another planet. LOL. The southerner could not enunciate combined with that drawl, and the Bostonian with that nasal-short combined with that broad-a like aw and paw made a classic event. Dude, it was beyond hilarious, I wish I recorded it.

I prefer the Mid Atlantic and west coast accents if there is one, people just say we talk proper and enunciate correctly devoid of any speech impediments, and I agree. I tried to expunge all honky-tonk from my wife's accent but somethings are just permanent like: "I'm fixing to go to my mama's house right quick." LOL.
 
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David Knight

First Sergeant
Joined
Feb 26, 2012
Location
Pontefract, Yorkshire.
Accent can be a very difficult thing to determine as although I have lived in the same place since I was 4 except for years at University I do not have a local accent. Having said that my non-specific Northern accent I was shocked when on a CPR course in up state New York the person taking the course after suggesting "you are not from around here" then told me to within 13 miles where I lived. So whilst I do not sound Yorkshire to locals to an ex member of the US Military I came from Leeds. Pontefract is 13 miles south east of Leeds city centre.
 
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