Appalachian English

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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10 thoughts on “Appalachian English”

  1. I’ve spent quite a bit of time in the Appalachian Mountains of Western NC in my life, and I’ve definitely run in to some of the local people with these very thick ‘Appalachian English’ dialects. They are indeed very difficult to understand. It is likely because, as you write, many of them have become very isolated from the ‘outside world’ out there in those deep mountain “hollers” and thus never learn ‘proper’ public forms of English.
    RL:”The tribe is said to be somewhat Black-White-Indian mixed, and for this reason, they have had a hard time getting recognized.”
    There are also the Melungeons – – I’ve never personally met one that I know of (they are an isolated and clannish group, apparently), but I know people who have and they’ve told me they look odd and strange. They’re also not very smart at all either (which is typical of very racially/ethnically mixed groups).
    There are a lot of these “tri-racial isolate” groups in the Southeast and especially here in the Carolinas, possibly because this area is a ‘crossroads’ of sorts between the Whiter Northern states and the Blacker states of the Deeper South – pile on top of that the Amerindian element, race-mixing, and a bit of time and you now have a “tri-racial isolate,” the mixing of the three major races of humankind: the White (European), Black (African), and Yellow/Red (Asiatic Amerindian). See:

    1. One minor detail. Amerindians are Caucasoid; Asians in places like Japan, China, Vietnam are not Caucasoid.
      Central Asians, Europeans, and Amerindians all have a common ancestor in Central Asia.

    2. No, Amerindians are Mongoloids, but incredibly diverse ones. Some even put them into a Major Race apart from the rest of the Asians. And those are some of the Asians that are closest to Caucasians, it is true.

    3. I’m not going to use the term mongoloid because I don’t know how accurate it is anymore. Maybe there is some East Asian mixture in Amerindians and Central Asians but that happened later.
      I recently watched a documentary and they used DNA to find a direct descendant of Europeans, Central Asians, and Amerindians. he lives in one of those -stan countries in Central Asia. They actually went to his house and told him; it was kind of funny.
      So basically some humans migrated to Central Asia a long time ago and some stayed right there in Central Asia. However, some split off and went west to Europe and others went east to Siberia and North America.
      It makes sense because a lot of Amerindian/white biracial people in the US look white or pretty darn close to white. An East Asian/white mix can sometimes look white but usually you can tell they have East Asian blood in them.

    4. We mostly class them in Macro-Asian on appearance. However, in general, they do go into Macro-Asian on genetics too. Some of them are strange. The Chukchi, on some charts, go into Caucasian. Yet they are an Eskimo type. I put them in Asian due to appearance since it seems stupid to call them Caucasians. The rest of Amerindians are in the Asian quadrant or tree on all charts, though they are often quite close to Caucasians.
      Amerindians are one of the strangest and most diverse groups of Asians though, and they don’t have a lot in common with the rest of them.
      That Central Asian guy just contributed genes to Europeans, Amerindians and Central Asians.
      Keep in mind that the Amerindians came from Central Asia. Their homeland is in the Altai Mountains where China, Mongolia and Russia all come together. It extends over to Lake Baikal north of Mongolia. Another group is more Japanese/Korean like and they came from the mouth of the Amur River probably later on.
      The people in the Altai now are very much a Caucasian/Mongoloid mix, but we don’t know how long that has been the case. Anyway, Amerindians don’t have any Caucasian genes anymore.
      Europe was starting to be populated 35,000 years ago. The input at 45,000 years ago was 2/3 proto-Asian (proto-Chinese) and 1/3 proto-African (proto-Masai type). This base produced the Caucasian race. The earliest homelands of the Caucasians were in India, North Africa, the Middle East and the Caucasus. Not in Central Asia. Caucasians probably moved into Central Asia later on, with maybe some late movements back towards Europe.
      I find it dubious that Europe is populated by Central Asians. Certainly in part though.

    5. The latest thinking is that the first Europeans came from Central Asia. Scientists think that because of the ice age there was no direct path to Europe from the Middle East.
      I’m not saying that mixing didn’t happen at a later date though.
      You can find Central Asians with red and light colored hair in relatively high frequencies that you can’t find in East Asians like the Japanese.

    6. Have you seen my major piece on race in which I divide all humans into 83 races? It is here. The Central Asians are difficult to place, but I think I put most of them into Asian just based on appearance. Genetically, there were quite a few that were right on the line between Caucasians and Asians.
      On some charts, Northern Turkics are either on the border between Asians and Caucasians or they are into the Caucasian quadrant or on the Caucasian tree. I put most of those in Asian anyway just based on appearance. White nationalists go insane enough as it is if you only say that Afghans, North Indians, Jews, Azeris, Arabs, Armenians, etc. are White.

    7. No, I haven’t looked at it yet. I’m going to soon.
      Last thing I’ll say on this is that I understand what you are saying but relatively similar appearance doesn’t necessarily mean two groups of people are of the same race or closely related . An example is black Africans and Australian aboriginal people.

  2. Some phrases like “yonder” in Appalachian English seem to come from Old English. The only time I heard a non-Appalachian say it, was when my friend from Northern Ireland used it in conversation.

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