ASHA Annual Convention

November 2000

Washington, D.C.

Children of Appalachia: Deliverance from Stereotypes


Claire M. Waldron (                      Elizabeth Dotson (

Radford University, Radford, Virginia                             Mountain Region Speech and Hearing Center, Kingsport, Tennessee


Linguistic prejudice and dialectal intolerance are alive and well in an otherwise politically and morally correct society.

Purpose of Presentation

·          Promote attitudinal shifts away from deficit view of dialectal differences

·          Inform communication specialists about communicative competence of children in Appalachia

·          Identify linguistic variations characteristic of Appalachian dialect

·          Demonstrate video-notetaking as a research tool for preserving linguistic and cultural heritage


Deficit view of Dialectal Differences:                 


The view of some members of powerful groups that language variations of less favored or stigmatized groups are deficient; that speakers who are different have social and cognitive handicaps because their dialects are illogical, sloppy, or just bad grammar (Wolfram, Adger, & Christian, 1999).


Another name for the deficit view is standard language ideology


                        The imposition and maintenance of a bias toward an abstracted, idealized, homogenous spoken language by dominant bloc institutions.  The

                   model is drawn primarily from the spoken language of the upper middle class (Milroy & Milroy, 1991).


Also called language subordination


             “Accent serves as the first point of gatekeeping because we are forbidden by law and social custom, and perhaps by a prevailing sense of

          what is morally and ethically right, from using race, ethnicity, homeland or economics more directly. We have no such compunctions about

                   language, however. Thus, accent becomes a litmus test for exclusion, an excuse to turn away, to refuse to recognize the other.” (Lippi-

                   Green, 1997, p. 64).


Realities of Language Variations


·          Linguists view all spoken language varieties as complete and rule-based linguistic systems.

·          Dialects are more like each other than not.

·          All spoken languages are equal in linguistic terms.

·          Variations in language convey social, stylistic, and geographical meaning.

·          Judgments regarding the value or merit of one dialect relative to another are SOCIAL, not linguistic judgments.

·          Language variation and change are inevitable.


Where is Appalachia?


          The mountainous sections of Maryland, Virginia, West Virginia, Kentucky, Tennessee, North Carolina, and Georgia are generally identified as “Appalachia” (Wolfram & Christian, 1976), but the broader term “Appalachian Region” may also include sections of Alabama, Mississippi, a corner of South Carolina, and parts of Ohio, Pennsylvania, and New York.


Radford University


Scott County


Grayson County




Phonological Variation


·          Plural formations – words ending in –sp, -st, -sk add the –es plural while retaining the cluster intact. Example:  deskes, ghostes, waspes


·          Voiced fricatives before nasals   /  D  ,  z,  v/   become stops before a nasal. Example: isn’t -> idn’t,   seven  ->  sebm


·          Unstressed initial syllable deletion – unstressed syllables of prepositions, adverbs, nouns and verbs may be deleted

Examples:  ‘bout/about, ‘cause/because, ‘member/remember, ‘posed to/supposed to.


·          Unstressed initial /w/  deletion – initial unstressed /w/ may be deleted in verbs or auxiliaries. Example:  He’uz going for He was going or He’z going.  The pronoun “one” may be affected as well (e.g., this ‘un for this one, good’un for good one).  Deletion of the proceeding vowel may also occur with it being replaced by a syllabic nasal (e.g., good’n or this’n).


·          Intrinsic /h/ - the pronoun it and auxiliary ain’t may have an initial /h/. Example:  hit for it and hain’t for ain’t.


·          Deletion of initial /  D  / – when preceded by a consonant sound.  For example, up ‘ere or like ‘at for up there and like that.


·          Intrusive /t/ – for example, clifft for cliff, twict for twice


Vowel differences                                                                  Examples


·          / I   /   before / S  /  may become tensed and produced as /i/.             fish -> /fi S/                       dish ->  /di S /

·          /  i / before / l / may become lax and produced as / I /.                      really -> /r I l/                    meal -> /m I l/

·          /  E  / may be raised preceding nasals and produced as / I /.     pen -> / p I n/           sense -> /s I ns/

·          /  E  / may be raised preceding /g/ and produced as / eI  /                   egg -> /eI g/             leg -> /leI g/

·          the diphthong / aI  / is lowered and produced as / a /               fire -> /far/              right -> /rat/

·          The diphthong / oI / becomes a monophthong before /l/            boil -> /b Ü :l/                                      

·          Final unstressed /  o / may be produced as “er”                     hollow ->  holler                swallow -> swaller         tobacco ->  backer


Grammatical variations


·          Past forms – some verbs with irregular past forms can have the regular past tense suffix –ed added (e.g., knowed for know, heared for heard, drinked for drank).  Some irregular verbs can be preceded by the auxiliary had.  For example, “ I had went to the store yesterday” or “He had came to my house on Tuesday”.


·          Perfective constructionsdone plus past form, as in I done tried. This form denotes an action started and completed at a specific time in the past.


·          A + verb + ing – an a- can be prefixed to a following verb that has an –ing  participial form; such as, He was a-goin’ to town or  I’m a-tellin’ you the truth.  These forms do not occur when the form functions as a noun or adjective or when a word begins with an unstressed syllable or vowel.  For example, It was shocking to see how sick she was or Laughing is good medicine.


·          Double modals – certain modals may co-occur within the same verb phrase, such as might could,  might should, used couldn’t.  These also may accompany a past form of the verb, such as liketa as in It liketa kilt me (this means the activity in the sentence came close to happening but didn’t).


·          Intensifying adverbs – the intensifier right can be used before adjectives (right large), adverbs (right loud) and in construction with smart (a right smart while).  The intensifier plumb (which refers to completeness) occurs with adverbs, verbs and some adjectives.  For example, scared plumb to death, plumb foolish.


·          Multiple negation – a negative is attached to the main verb and all indefinites following main verb, such as, She didn’t do nothin’.


·          Demonstratives – demonstrative pronoun them is used in place of demonstrative pronoun those.  For example, I want them crayons.  Here and there may be added to the demonstratives these and  them to form sentences such as I like these here pants better than them there ones.


·          Relative pronouns – speakers will often use what in place of who, whom, which or that; such as, A car what runs is good to have.


·          Articles – article the can be used as an adjective when preceding a formal noun as in I’m going to the K-mart. or My dad works at the Eastman.


·          Reflexive pronouns – the form –self may be added to all third personal pronouns, such as hisself and theirself.


·          Personal dative pronoun – a nonreflexive pronoun may be used when a direct object is also present.  For example, I bought me a shirt.


·          Plural forms of you – plural form of you is y’all  or you’uns


·          Plural nouns  the plural suffix may be deleted for nouns that refer to weights and measures.  For example, five pound, six foot, ten cent.


·          Subject-verb agreement – singular verbs may be used with plural nouns; such as, We was all sick at my house.


Lexical variations             (too many to list all)




Aim                                          I been aimin’ to go down and see her.


Bless out                                  I got blessed out for missing school.


Fixin’                                        It was just fixin’ to bite me and I took off a-runnin’.


Happen in                                 They sometime happen in at the same time.


Reckon                                     I reckon she’s done sold it.


Yonder                                      I’ve got an old horse way back up yonder.


Upside                                      He got hit upside the head.


Suwannee                                 Well, I Suwannee! I never woulda believed it.


Mash                                        It’s dark in here. Mash the light switch.










VIDEO DOCUMENTARY: Mountain children: Speakers and Storytellers

Rationale for production


·          The Appalachian dialect of adult speakers and storytellers is documented both in print  (Wolfram  & Christian, 1976), and in other media, including the PBS documentary The Story of English, and American Tongues


·          Little or no information is available regarding dialect in preschoolers


·          Regional archives of Appalachian culture located at Radford University, Morehead State University, Berea College, University of Kentucky, East Tennessee State University, Appalachian State University, Virginia Tech, and Appleshop did not contain similar video recordings of the speech and language patterns of the children of Appalachia. 


·          Speech-language pathologists are responsible for distinguishing between children who are truly language-disordered and those who speak some variation of standard English (Jeter, 1977), so they must recognize dialectal variations of standard English and know what constitutes communicative competence within a child’s own speech community.




·          filmed in Scott and Grayson counties in Virginia


·          filmed and recorded by professional videographers and sound designers


·          illustrates the cultural and linguistic diversity of children in the region in naturalistic contexts


·          illustrates phonological, grammatical, and lexical variations of Appalachian speech


·          depicts communicatively competent children engaging in conversation, storytelling, reading, and creative writing, in their community schools 


·          contains examples of

o         conversational language, dramatic play, and emerging literacy skills of 3 and 4 year old children

o          a first grader telling ghost stories, a traditional regional form of oral narrative

o         High school and college students speaking frankly about the reactions of people who respond in stereotypic fashion to their speech



·          be aware of the consequences of linguistic prejudice and intolerance


·          distinguish between children who speak a cultural/linguistic variation of English and the truly language disordered child


·          recognize dialectal variations of English


·          be armed with the knowledge of what constitutes communicative competence in a child’s own speech community







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