I’m not ready to split off English dialects into separate languages yet, as my previous forays into this area have pissed people off enough as it is. As a general rule, I can understand almost anyone speaking any dialect of US English. I lived in a tourist town near Yosemite National Park for many years, and we had tourists coming in from all over the country. Never once did I have a hard time understanding anyone, and I think I heard them all, the dialects that is. In my previous piece on this subject, I suggested that African American Vernacular English (AAVE) or Ebonics, probably deserves to be called a separate language from US English. Many if not most US linguists who have an opinion seem to agree, but I think no one wants to touch it since the rightwingers not to mention the White nationalists would go stark raving berserk. However, I recently spent a couple of hours with a couple of local Black women who were speaking AAVE. It might as well have been Greek. They could also switch on a dime over to a perfectly intelligible US English, so they were effectively bilingual. But damned if that wasn’t the nastiest and hardest to understand US English dialect I have ever heard firsthand. I mentioned in the other piece that a guy came out to the mountains here in California recently from New York. He was a young Italian-American guy from Queens, New York. Queens is one of the holdouts for the hardest of hardcore New York English dialects. The guy spent three or four months here hardly being understood by a soul until he finally figured out how to speak California English and make himself understood. There were a couple of clues that he was speaking a foreign language and not a US English dialect. First of all, he was unable to moderate or tone down his lect of make it more intelligible, even after months in the area. That’s a good sign that you’re dealing more than a mere dialect. Dialects are typically adjustable, separate languages much less so. Another sign was that even after 3-4 months of listening to him, a lot of the people he was talking to could not understand him any better than they could on Day One. This is also a good sign of a foreign language and not a dialect. With a US English dialect, usually we can adjust to it pretty quickly after hearing it a bit, and then we can get most to all of it. Therefore, I would split off AAVE and hardcore New York English into separate languages, but I won’t do so in an official post as I have enough enemies as it is. I would like to add one more extremely nasty US English dialect to the mix though. This is something like Appalachian English, though I am thinking in particular of that spoken in a couple of locales. I am not sure where they are doing the mountaintop removal mining in the hollows of West Virginia. But I recently heard a radio report on that, and while I could understand company spokespeople pretty well, once they started interviewing poor folks down in the “holllers”, I kept having to turn the radio up and I still wasn’t getting a lot of it. I recently heard another radio report about a tribe called the Monacans in Virginia. I assumed they would be easy to understand like most Virginians, but this was one of the nastiest US English dialects I’ve ever heard. The Monacans live in Appalachian Virginia, north of Lynchburg near the town of Amherst and then northwest of Lynchburg near the Natural Bridge and the towns of Goshen, Lexington and Glasgow. The terrain looks something like this. The Natural Bridge area is more forested. The spokeswoman for the Monacans was an assimilated woman speaking an intelligible Southern or maybe Appalachian English. However, they also interviewed several tribe members, older women who lived in very rural areas and recalled how they used to practically live off the land down there. I was missing a lot of what they said, and it was one of the hardest-core English dialects I’ve ever heard. The tribe is said to be somewhat Black-White-Indian mixed, and for this reason, they have had a hard time getting recognized. I am not sure how their mixed nature plays into this dialect, or how many other folks around there talk the same way. I suspect that the real hardcore lect is with older people, rural people, and possibly females. Females often have the hardest core dialects since males have to work. In having to work, they often have to tone down their hardcore dialects or languages and either learn a majority tongue or speak a more assimilated dialect. Traditional women are just in the home and in a lot of parts of the world, they stay monolingual and don’t learn the majority language of the country. I’m not sure how the rest of Appalachian English sounds, but at least the speech of some parts of Appalachian West Virginia (this area is in the Blue Ridge Mountains) and Virginia is incredibly hard to understand. The dialect spoken by the Monacans seems to be one of the Southern Appalachian dialects. These are the dialects that are said to resemble Shakespearean English. Though this is not Shakespearean English (this is an urban legend) these dialects to contain many Elizabethan English words from 1550-1600 which are no longer used in Modern English. They also have strong influences from Scots and North Ireland Scots English, along with some influences from Welsh. Wikipedia says that Appalachian English is one of hardest to understand English dialects spoken in America.
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