Talking Appalachian: Voice, Identity, and Community

Talking Appalachian: Voice, Identity, and Community

Talking Appalachian: Voice, Identity, and Community

Talking Appalachian: Voice, Identity, and Community

Excerpt

To every person who has asked us why Appalachians sound like hillbillies, to every teacher who corrected us for taking our home voices to school, and to every misguided individual who has described Appalachian speech varieties as “bad,” “incorrect,” or “improper,” this book is our response.

Like the borders of Appalachia, its dialects are difficult to define, and the boundaries of where language “appropriateness” begins and ends are blurred by politics. Bad grammar, hillbonics, hick, comfortable tongue, nonstandard English, briar, countrified, and Shakespearean are valueladen descriptors of Appalachian speech that may lead to emotional reactions. The way people clash over language variations, their origins, their significance for speakers, and where they rank in the linguistic hierarchy of American Englishes begs for the conversation in these pages.

Appalachia is generally considered the region that follows the Appalachian mountain chain in the eastern United States. The name suggests a type of geographic core distinguishing it from the rest of the United States; however, Appalachia’s boundaries, drawn and redrawn since the seventeenth century, are chiefly political. The Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC), established in 1965, developed what may be the most widely accepted map of Appalachia, although its inclusion of southern New York and parts of Mississippi while excluding sections of Virginia is a matter of contention. Nevertheless, Appalachia is both a real place to those who live there and a sometimes mythic land to outsiders. For inhabitants, what it means to live in Appalachia and how they identify . . .

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