The Southern Dialect


The South falls into two regions that have influenced the patterns of language in the land, The Upper South, and The Lower South. The Upper South includes most of the Piedmont area fom Virginia to Georgia, the Ozark Mountains of Northwest Arkansas, Southern Missouri, and Western Oklahoma. The Lower South includes the Tidewater and Coastal plains of Virginia, the Carolinas, Georgia, the Gulf Plains of Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, Eastern Texas, and the Lowland areas of Arkansas and Western Tennessee.

Upper South Lexicon

The absence of foreign immigration into the South left distinguishing marks on its speech. The Upper South has very few, if any, non-English words, and no European words. Due to this fact, most Southern words are new terms or adaptations of old words. Many of the upper South's words are folk-like sounding. Some examples of these words are as follows: "snake doctor" is a dragon-fly; "pulley bone" is a wishbone; for one to be "sawing gourds" is to be snoring. Some other words are a little more straightforward--some examples are: "egg turner" for a spatula; "before day" for the time before the sun rises, or predawn. Some odd terms that are used in this type of speech are: "a cat's head" for a large biscuit, and a "cooling board" for the slab of metal on which a corpse is laid out. An unusual characteristic of this lexicon is the tendency to disregard the "standard" rules that govern verb conjugations. One example of this is the term "knowed" instead of know. The Upper South has very interesting language uses and patterns, that have shaped the speech of the whole South in general.

Lower South Lexicon

One of the most recognizable terms in this method of speech is the word "grits," which refers to coursely ground grain. Another is "chitterlings" or as it's usually pronounced "chitlins," which are deep fried hog intestines. "Collard greens," which are smooth leaved kale, are also a very popular food in the South. In the Lower South, the children's game Hopscotch is usually referred to as "hopscot." Another term used in the Lower South is for the meaning "to forget"--the term "to disremember something. The Lower South has many similarities to black speech; some of them are as follows: "big mamma" or "big daddy" are widely used terms in both as the words for grandmother or grandfather, and the word used for a silver dollar is "beau dollar". Some terms brought into Lower Southern speech that have African origin are: cooter, goober, banjo, bogus, jive, and hip. The influence of black speech is still very much alive in the Lower South.
Audio Clip of Southern Speech
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