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Linguistics: Vernacular, Dialect

How Appalachians Speek The history of dialect in West Virginia. Appalachian residents speak a variety of Englishes — and not a single monolithic dialect.

"All language varieties are legitimate. There's not one that's somehow damaged and then others that are just fine. They're all just fine." ~ West Virginia University linguist Kirk Hazen

Hazen, who's spent two decades recording dozens of interviews around West Virginia, is among a new wave of scholars seeking to put to rest "Beverly Hillbillies"-style myths and stigmas about Appalachia. Hazen has also used his research to illustrate that other stereotypical features of Appalachian speech have become rare — such as the demonstrative them ("them apples are the best") or a-prefixing ("I'm a-going to the store"). Neither of those fading features was heard during the recent interviews in Pineville. Speakers in the region may purposely use vernacular expressions to show they belong to a group of family or friends. In his article about the word "ain't," Hazen notes that all West Virginians are conscious of how the word is perceived, and that for the past three decades, its use has been "a choice of social identity."

Lore and Language of School Children

  • Review of Iona and Peter Opie's The Lore and Language of Schoolchildren (Oxford University Press, 1959) originally appeared in The Nation (9 April 1960). Copyright 1960.
  • 4/20: The True Story About How Today Became Weed Day - The origin of the term 420, celebrated around the world by pot smokers every April 20th, has long been obscured by the clouded memories of the folks who made it a phenomenon.