Examples Of Regional Dialects During The Civil War?

Joined
Sep 28, 2013
Location
Southwest Mississippi
My friend and I were mistaken for Australians in Kentucky, Tennessee and Georgia back on a tour of the western battlefields in the early 90's, not long after Paul Hogan became a big thing in the USA with his Crocodile Dundee movies and Talk Show appearances. We both had strong London accents at the time, though not Cockneys in the strict sense of the word.
Yeah, I can understand such misconceptions.
( Steve Irwin and the Outback restaurant commercials didn't help matters)
:smoke:

Personally I love an Aussie accent !
I'm actually mesmerized, and could listen to their accent all day.

Recently, I've been watching a few Aussie & Kiwi You Tube channels.

From the voices I've heard, average Australians do sound different from average New Zealanders.

Kind of like us.
Example: we are all from the Southern USA, but a Virginia dialect is nothing like Georgia, Mississippi, Alabama, Tennessee or Texas.

But I am very much aware that accents within the UK ( especially England ) are vastly different among regions.

I've always enjoyed the variations within our language.
 
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Youngblood

Sergeant
Joined
Apr 26, 2015
We had a thread here a couple years ago and i dont recall the source but it was said that the southern accent really came about post war to differentiate themselves from yankees. But who knows.
 

Cycom

Sergeant
Joined
Feb 19, 2021
Location
Los Angeles, California
I would encourage anyone interested in regional accents and dialects to take the time and view this video:

@GwilymT thanks again for the video. Unfortunately I was only able to get to around 5 minutes. Was excellent until that point. The linguist host seemed to be a pro and the accents were very interesting. Then, without logic, race was thrown into the mix (as it so often does these days). It was quite jarring, and I couldn’t continue. I will have to search out similar content, though...this at least got me going.
 

GwilymT

Sergeant Major
Joined
Aug 20, 2018
Location
Pittsburgh
@GwilymT thanks again for the video. Unfortunately I was only able to get to around 5 minutes. Was excellent until that point. The linguist host seemed to be a pro and the accents were very interesting. Then, without logic, race was thrown into the mix (as it so often does these days). It was quite jarring, and I couldn’t continue. I will have to search out similar content, though...this at least got me going.
The only reason race was thrown into the mix, as I see the video, is because of the simple fact that not only white people live in North America. The video is about North American accents, what they are and how they came to be... that story can’t be honestly told without taking race, history, geography, and dozens of other factors into account. I’m sorry you couldn’t stomach it but would encourage you to give it another try.

I am not aware of any video only addressing white accents, if I find one I’ll forward it along...
 

lurid

First Sergeant
Joined
Jan 3, 2019
The only reason race was thrown into the mix, as I see the video, is because of the simple fact that not only white people live in North America. The video is about North American accents, what they are and how they came to be... that story can’t be honestly told without taking race, history, geography, and dozens of other factors into account. I’m sorry you couldn’t stomach it but would encourage you to give it another try.

Just like if you threw a blanket over blacks and whites in the south you wouldn't be able to tell them apart. I'm not talking about Ebonics, but just casual informal and sometimes formal conversation they have the same accent and lingo.
 

GwilymT

Sergeant Major
Joined
Aug 20, 2018
Location
Pittsburgh
Just like if you threw a blanket over blacks and whites in the south you wouldn't be able to tell them apart. I'm not talking about Ebonics, but just casual informal and sometimes formal conversation they have the same accent and lingo.
I was quite taken aback by the objection to the video. To pretend that race, history, contact, and immigration patterns aren’t some of the most influential factors in accents seems silly. How can we understand the development of accents in North America unless we can understand if the influences were English, Irish, French, Spanish, African, Native, or all of the above... and also at what time these influences were introduced.
 

Cycom

Sergeant
Joined
Feb 19, 2021
Location
Los Angeles, California
The only reason race was thrown into the mix, as I see the video, is because of the simple fact that not only white people live in North America. The video is about North American accents, what they are and how they came to be... that story can’t be honestly told without taking race, history, geography, and dozens of other factors into account. I’m sorry you couldn’t stomach it but would encourage you to give it another try.

I am not aware of any video only addressing white accents, if I find one I’ll forward it along...
Can you please quote where I stated or alluded that I only am interested in “white accents?”Please do so, or retract your comments, because nothing of what I said points to that. My response to the video was done as a critique to that video itself and not to you. Lose the condescension and racial aspersions, please.

In the chance that you misinterpreted my comment, my complaint about the placing of “race” into the video had ZERO to do with the discussion of black English accents in N. America (which I hope would be included since it’s part of our history)and all to do with how the concept was shoved in my face, IMO. I’ll have to find a different video covering this topic. This one quickly degenerated into buzzfeed-like dreck.
 

GwilymT

Sergeant Major
Joined
Aug 20, 2018
Location
Pittsburgh
Can you please quote where I stated or alluded that I only am interested in “white accents?”Please do so, or retract your comments, because nothing of what I said points to that. My response to the video was done as a critique to that video itself and not to you. Lose the condescension and racial aspersions, please.

In the chance that you misinterpreted my comment, my complaint about the placing of “race” into the video had ZERO to do with the discussion of black English accents in N. America (which I hope would be included since it’s part of our history)and all to do with how the concept was shoved in my face, IMO. I’ll have to find a different video covering this topic. This one quickly degenerated into buzzfeed-like dreck.
Apologies. You did state that once race came into the video at the five minute mark you were jarred and had to stop watching. That happens to be the point where the video says that they’ve only been taking about white accents and that there is more to the story. This logically led me to believe that you were only interested in certain accents more so than others. If I misinterpreted you I apologize and wish you well.
 

Cycom

Sergeant
Joined
Feb 19, 2021
Location
Los Angeles, California
Apologies. You did state that once race came into the video at the five minute mark you were jarred and had to stop watching. That happens to be the point where the video says that they’ve only been taking about white accents and that there is more to the story. If I misinterpreted you I apologize and wish you well.
No problem at all @GwilymT

👍🏼
 

Wisteria

Cadet
Joined
Jun 17, 2021
My brother who lives in Maine assures me that Mainers have maintained their accents from of old.
Actually, the Maine accent is disappearing. I've lived in southern Maine for 23 years, being originally "from away", and have noticed that the few speakers I hear with the classic Maine accent tend to be older, I've yet to hear it from someone under 40. I believe it may be more prevalent up north, where there are fewer transplants, however an article I read a couple years ago pointed out that it, together with some other regional accents are fading away.
 

GwilymT

Sergeant Major
Joined
Aug 20, 2018
Location
Pittsburgh
Actually, the Maine accent is disappearing. I've lived in southern Maine for 23 years, being originally "from away", and have noticed that the few speakers I hear with the classic Maine accent tend to be older, I've yet to hear it from someone under 40. I believe it may be more prevalent up north, where there are fewer transplants, however an article I read a couple years ago pointed out that it, together with some other regional accents are fading away.
This is a continuation of the basic fact that nowhere are accents static, they are always changing. A proper Brit speaking the Queen’s English in 2021 would notice stark differences in accent if speaking to a proper Englishman speaking from the eighteenth century. Accents, like those that speak them, are living and changing things. In the past these changes were primarily due to migration but in the modern world, it’s not only migration but also technology that has an affect. Strong accents tend to develop and stay somewhat static in isolated communities. In today’s world not only is migration easier but on the tech side starting with radio, then television, and now the internet, there are very few truly isolated communities. This doesn’t mean that there aren’t still accents or regional dialects, it’s simply that they are changing at a faster pace than in the past.
 

TerryB

Lt. Colonel
Joined
Dec 7, 2008
Location
Nashville TN
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.
One thing I hate about the movies and TV is that they think all Southerners don't pronounce their rs. You have to be from the Memphis area, Alabama, Mississippi and other Deep South states for that to hold true, but it's dying out as well. In the army I noticed that guys from rural Indiana, Ohio and Illinois had what we would call countrified accents. There's a funny commercial where Elizabeth Banks (Effie in the Hunger Games) says, "ah'm gona git me some pay-unts." My mother was from the Plateau, so she pronounced pants as "paints." And I've heard people from Williamson County say "I'm gittin' me a paint," for pint.
 

Wisteria

Cadet
Joined
Jun 17, 2021
British, not American, but there are about 20 or more recordings made in the 1930s by the British Drama League on You Tube, to capture old regional dialects before they faded away altogether. Considering that in the Civil War era, most people were never further than 5 or 10 miles from their homes, there must have been many, many dialects.
 

TerryB

Lt. Colonel
Joined
Dec 7, 2008
Location
Nashville TN
I've posted this before, but it's a fun fact. My maternal grandmother, from White County, TN, had a great expression when she was cooking a meal, and just as she's about the set the table. If she spied kinfolks coming up the driveway to the house she'd say, "Here comes Bragg's Army!" I imagine Bragg's Army ate a lot of Tennesseans out of house and home.
 

RedRover

Corporal
Joined
Dec 16, 2019
This is a fun thread. Many amusing notices.

Here's a comment from a late 19th Century Georgian on "crackers":

But for my town raising and old field school education, I too would have made a very respectable cracker. This was the class of young men and middle-aged that first settled among these historic hills and valleys and climbed these mountains and fished in these streams. By and by the fortunate owners of these lands received their certificates, and may of them came form all parts of the state…They built their cabins and cleared their lands and raised their scrub cattle, and with their old fashioned rifles kept the family in game. Many of these settlers could read and write, but in their day there was but little to read. No newspapers and but few books were found by the hunter’s fireside. Their children grew up the same way, but what they lacked in culture they supplied in rough experiences and hairbreadth escapes and fireside talks, and in sports that were either improvised or inherited. Pony races, gander-pullings, shooting matches, ‘coon hunting, and quiltings had more attractions than books. How they got to use such twisted language as “youuns” and “weuns” and “injuns” and “mout” and “gwine” and “all sich” is not known, nor was such talk universal. When such idioms began in a family, they descended and spread out among the kindred, but it was not contagious. I know one family now of very extensive connections who had a folklore of their own, and it can be traced back to the old ancestor who died a half century ago. But these corruptions of language are by no means peculiar to the cracker, for the English cockneys and the genuine yankee have an idiom quite as eccentric, though they do not realize it and would not admit it.


From Lippincott's magazine, 1870, Mr. J.S. Bradford states regarding "cracker" speak:

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J. Marshall,
Hernando, FL
 

29thWisCoG

Private
Joined
Apr 12, 2021
Many of the regiments from Wisconsin had German accents, that is my supposition! Wisconsin had the highest concentration of immigrants from Germany in the the entire nation at the time of the CW, and the common language in many of these towns was German. These soldiers had to learn English to serve in the Union, so I am certain most had thick accents.
 

RedRover

Corporal
Joined
Dec 16, 2019
Many of the regiments from Wisconsin had German accents, that is my supposition! Wisconsin had the highest concentration of immigrants from Germany in the the entire nation at the time of the CW, and the common language in many of these towns was German. These soldiers had to learn English to serve in the Union, so I am certain most had thick accents.
I seem to recall a statement by a veteran of the 21st Ohio at Chickamauga, that in the defense of Horseshoe Ridge, they were particularly assisted by the 9th Ohio (a "German" outfit) on their left flank, which did some good "work" for a time. When asked how sure he was that that was the 9th Ohio (many regiments after the war wrangling for position of monuments, etc.), the fellow from the 21st said they were speaking German in combat as loudly and excitedly as any other regiment English...

J. Marshall,
Hernando, FL.
 
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