• World English - Dialects

    Dialectal Differences: Texas and New Orleans, Louisiana


    As a creative writer and soon to be instructor of English Composition, understanding and acknowledging the variations among the usage of “American” English is beneficial from multiple facets. With so much diversity, culture, and history intertwined throughout the numerous versions of American Dialect, it would behoove creative writers to study and research specific dialects written and spoken in settings used for fictional scenes, such as historical fiction. In other words,  if I am writing a fiction novel that takes place in Texas, understanding the lexical and phonological differences of the written and spoken dialect in Texas will support a more realistic and encompassing experience for readers.

    As a teacher of American English Composition, having an awareness of some of the dialectal differences will help me focus more on “process-method” instruction and less on “sentence-structure/word usage method” instruction. In other words, realizing that dialects of American English utilize different names for the same “item” would be necessary from a grading and teaching perspective. For example, Texas has always manifested a strong Hispanic cultural influence, and as Bailey and Tillery point out, “Lexical items like frijoles, olla, arroyo, and remuda reflect not only the relatively large number of Hispanics in the areas but also the importance of Mexican American culture in the development of a distinct Texas Culture” (39).

    New Orleans, Louisiana

    New Orleans, Louisiana (NOLA), is another city/state known to be a hub of distinct southern culture that exhibits lexical uniqueness: alligator pear is another name for an avocado; lost bread is another name for french toast; flying horses represent a carousel (Eble 45). NOLA is also accredited to having three separate dialects based upon class, color, and neighborhood known as uptown white, Yat (downtown white), and black (46). Understanding the characteristics of these NOLA dialects would be imperative for authenticity in creative writing. Lexical variances between American English dialects can cause confusion when communicating with others (whether written or spoken); it reminds me of the video we watched in class of the students representing various countries. Grading a paper that references a “flying horse” may cause confusion or reading about an alligator pear in a student essay — as an instructor, I wouldn’t make the connection.

    EX:  On the warm summer day, I strolled around the park, taking notice of the flying horses. On a warm summer day, I strolled around the park, taking notice of the carousel.

    Works Cited

    Bailey, Guy, and Jan Tillery. “The Lone Star State of Speech (Texas).” American Voices, edited by Wolfram, Walt and Ben Ward, Blackwell Publishing Ltd., 2006, pp. 36-41.

    Eble, Connie. “Speaking the Big Easy (New Orleans, LA).” American Voices, edited by Wolfram, Walt and Ben Ward, Blackwell Publishing Ltd., 2006, pp. 42-48.

    Mark, David. Pixabay, 2020, pixabay.com/photos/texas-ranch-entrance-fence-1581881/.

    Skeeze. Pixabay, 2020, pixabay.com/photos/mardi-gras-new-orleans-festival-1176483/.

    Wolfram, Walt, and Ben Ward, editors. American Voices. Blackwell Publishing Ltd., 2006.

  • World English - Dialects

    American English Dialectal Differences

    Charleston, South Carolina

    Charleston, South Carolina, is known today for its sense of southern charm, hospitality, ghostly hauntings, and uniqueness. The first permanent English community was established in native Catawba and Cherokee inhabited territory. European settlers constructed vast plantations and began harvesting crops for sustainability, while African slaves provided workforce labor representing the majority population (Baranowski 30). The distinctive dialect of the white upper-class Charlestonians is partly due to interactions with Gullah, the dialect spoken by the African slaves (31). Charlestonian dialect remains distinct due to “. . . its unique combination of features and to the sources of these traits” (30).

    One of these unique aspects of traditional Charlestonian accent is vowel pronunciation. Vowels are “produced by maintaining the quality of the first vowel element throughout the syllable (the vowel of dead in day and that of bought in go); they are monophthongs” (Baranowski 31). This is also known by linguists as “ingliding vowels.” In the Charlestonian version, “the tongue is closer to the roof of the mouth, not unlike the vowels in bee and boo” (32). This ingliding pronunciation of the vowels is not found in any other American English dialect, except for Gullah (32).


    Known as the heartland of America, Ohio presents a division of dialectic variations (due to migration route influences) that can be broken out into three separate geographic locations: Northern, Central, and Southern Ohio. Collectively, the various dialects exemplified throughout Ohio were influenced by speech patterns of Northern England and Scottish-Irish variety (Flanigan 119-121). Southern Ohio featured bilingual schools of English and German, creating a dialectal influence of the German language (122).

    While Northern Ohio dialect keeps the pronunciation of vowels distinct (known as Northern Cities Shift), such as the differences heard between cot and caught, in Central Ohio pronunciation, “rounded back vowel is essentially lost” (Flanigan 121). Traditional Charlestonian dialect distinguished a difference in the pronunciation of the vowels in cot and caught, similar to the Northern Ohio dialect, while “the youngest speakers do not distinguish between the vowels in these words: they hear them as the same and pronounce them identically” (Baranowski 34). Southern Ohio features distinct lexical forms, such as “you’uns,” that share commonality with Appalachia (Flanigan 121).

    American English Dialectal Differences

    Both Charleston, SC, and Ohio, showcase settlers’ cultural influences in both spoken and written language. However, as embodied in the “Northern Cities vowel shift in Cleveland and Toledo, the cot/caught merger in Columbus, and South Midland with a touch of Kentucky in Cincinnati,” and the “Pin/pen, him/hem, and sinned/send” (Flanigan 123; Baranowski 34) word pairs, dialects blend, merge, and evolve with time and exposure to outside influences.

    Works Cited

    Baranowski, Maciej. “Doing the Charleston (South Carolina).” American Voices, edited by Wolfram, Walt and Ben Ward, Blackwell Publishing Ltd., 2006, pp. 29-35.

    Flanigan, Beverly Olson. “Different Ways of Talking in the Buckeye State (Ohio).” American Voices, edited by Wolfram, Walt and Ben Ward, Blackwell Publishing Ltd., 2006, pp. 118-123).

    Jovanovic, Biljana. Pixabay, 2020, pixabay.com/photos/english-english-language-language-2724442/.

    Stelmaszek, Don. Pixabay, 2020, pixabay.com/photos/charleston-south-carolina-bridges-2343974/.

    Sturgell, William. Pixabay, 2020, pixabay.com/photos/barn-rustic-barns-ohio-digital-art-2686500/.

    Wolfram, Walt, and Ben Ward, editors. American Voices. Blackwell Publishing Ltd., 2006.