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OT - Texas Twang

I don't know if thisa will be too long for the list, but, I thought several of y'all would be interested.
From the NYT:  COLLEGE STATION, Tex.  "Are yew jus' tryin' to git me to talk, is that the ah-deah?"
That was the idea. John O. Greer, an architecture teacher at Texas A&M
University, sat at his dining table between two interrogators and their
tape recorder. They had precisely 258 questions for him. But it waddn
what he said that interested them most. It was how he said it.

Those responses, part of an ambitious National Geographic Society survey
of Texas speech, with its "y'alls," "might-coulds" and "fixin' to's,"
are helping language investigators throw a scientific light on a
mythologized and sometimes ridiculed mainstay of Americana: the Texas

Among the unexpected findings, said Guy Bailey, a linguistics professor
at the University of Texas at San Antonio and a leading scholar in the
studies with his wife, Jan Tillery, is that in Texas more than
elsewhere, how you talk says a lot about how you feel about your home

"Those who think Texas is a good place to live adopt the flat `I'  it's
like the badge of Texas," said Dr. Bailey, 53, provost and executive
vice president of the university and a transplanted Alabamian married to
a Lubbock native, also 53.

So if you love Texas, they say, be fixin' to say "naht" for "night," "rahd" for "ride" and "raht" for "right." 
And by all means say "all" for "oil."
In addition to quickly becoming enamored of Western garb like cowboy
boots and hats, big-buckled belts, western shirts and vests, newcomers
to the state  and there are a lot of them  are especially likely to
adopt the lingo pronto.

At the same time, the speech of rural and urban Texans is diverging, Dr.
Bailey said. Texans in Houston, Dallas, Fort Worth and San Antonio are
sounding more like other Americans and less like their fellow Texans in
Iraan, Red Lick or Old Glory.

Indeed, Dr. Tillery and Dr. Bailey wrote in a recent paper called "Texas
English," a new dialect of Southern American English may be emerging on
the West Texas plains. It is not what a linguist might expect, they
wrote, "but this is Texas, and things are just different here."

The changes are being tracked by researchers for the two San Antonio
linguists, who are working with scholars from Oklahoma State University
and West Texas A&M in Canyon, outside Amarillo, under the sponsorship of
the National Geographic Society. They divided Texas into 116 squares and
are interviewing four native Texans spanning four age groups from the
20's to the 80's, in each.

As part of the latest effort, two master's students in linguistics from
the University of North Texas at Denton, Amanda Aguilar, 24, and Brooke
Earheardt, 23, arranged recently to record Mr. Greer, 70, as he
responded to an exhaustive 31-page questionnaire.

Ms. Aguilar first probed some of Mr. Greer's attitudes toward Texas. Was it a barren state?
"It's in the ahs of the beholder," responded Mr. Greer, who was born in
Port Arthur. The state, he said, was "dee-vahded, you kin almost draw a

Was it a progressive state? 
"Compared to who?" he said. "Califohnia? Baghdad? Ah'd have to say Texas is a progressive state."
"Most are distinctive in their own way," he said, smiling, "with the possible exception of Ah-wah." (That was Iowa.)
Next Ms. Aguilar quizzed Mr. Greer on a lexicon of Texas words and phrases. Had he ever heard the expression "y'all?" 
Of course. "Ah think `you' sometimes just duddn't work bah itself." 
Could you use it for just one person?
"Ah would trah to confahn it to the plural," he said. "It's just like `youse guys.' "
Had he heard "fixin' to?"
Of course again. " `Ahma' often goes with it," he said. "Ahma fixin' to go."
The questions and Mr. Greer's answers kept coming. A dragonfly? That's a
"miskeeta hahk." A wishbone was a "pulleybone." A cowboy's rope was a
lasso or a lariat, or just a "ropin' rope." A drought was worse than a
"drah spell"; no rain, or "it haddn for a long tahm." You wait "for" a
friend who haddn shown up, but you wait "on" someone who is nearby and
delayed, perhaps upstairs putting on makeup.

Afterward, Ms. Aguilar and Ms. Earheardt said that Mr. Greer, though
white, employed some noticeable African-American and Deep South speech
patterns. There were also Spanish influences, common in Texas, where
Spanish was widely spoken for nearly a hundred years before English.

Dr. Tillery and Dr. Bailey warned that it was possible to exaggerate the
distinctiveness of Texas English because the state loomed so large in
the popular imagination. Few speech elements here do not also appear

"Nevertheless," they wrote in their paper on Texas English, "in its mix
of elements both from various dialects of English and from other
languages, TXE is in fact somewhat different from other closely related

Perhaps the most striking finding, Dr. Tillery said, was the spread of
the humble "y'all," ubiquitous in Texas as throughout the South. Y'all,
once "you all" but now commonly reduced to a single word, sometimes even
spelled "yall," is taking the country by storm, the couple reported in
an article written with Tom Wikle of Oklahoma State University and
published in 2000 in the Journal of English Linguistics. No one other
word, it turns out, can do the job.

"Y'all" and "fixin' to" were also spreading fast among newcomers within
the state, they said, particularly those who regard Texas fondly. Use of
the flat `I,' they found, also correlated strikingly to a favorable view
of Texas.

But they found some curious anomalies, as well.
One traditional feature of Texas and Southern speech  pronouncing the
word "pen" like "pin," known as the pen/pin merger  is disappearing in
the big Texas cities, while remaining common in rural areas, Dr. Tillery
said. Texans in the prairie may shell out "tin cints," but not their
metropolitan brethren.

Urban Texas is abandoning the "y" sound after "n," "d" and "t,"
exchanging dipthongs for monophthongs. So folks in the cities read a
"noospaper"  what their rural counterparts call a "nyewspaper." They'll
hum a "tyewn" on the range, a "toon" in Houston. The upgliding dipthong,
too, is an endangered species in the cities, where a country "dawg" is
just a dog.

Why city Texans, more than country folk, should disdain to write with a
"pin" is not clear, although it seems that some pronunciations carry a
stigma of unsophistication while others do not.

It was such mixed patterns that suggested the emergence of a new dialect on the West Texas plains, Dr. Tillery said.
Other idiosyncrasies have all but vanished over time. Texans for the
most part no longer pray to the "Lard," replacing the "o" with an "a,"
or "warsh" their clothes. How the interloping "r" crept in remains an
especially intriguing question, Dr. Bailey said. Trying to trace the
peculiarity, he asked Texans to name the capital of the United States,
often drawing the unhelpful answer "Austin."

The opposite syndrome, known as r-lessness, which renders "four" as
"foah" in Texas and elsewhere, is easier to trace, Dr. Bailey said. In
the early days of the republic, plantation owners sent their children to
England for schooling. "They came back without the `r,' " he said.

"The parents were saying, listen to this, this is something we have to
have, so we'll all become r-less," he said. The craze went down the East
Coast from Boston to Virginia (skipping Philadelphia, for some reason)
and migrating selectively around the country.

Other common Texas locutions that replace an "s" with a "d"  "bidness"
for "business," "waddn" for "wasn't"  are simply matters of mechanical
efficiency, Dr. Bailey said. "With `n' and `d' the tongue stays in the
same position," he said. "It's ease of articulation."

So even "fixin' to" becomes "fidden to" or "fith'n to." And fixin' to  where did that come from, anyway?
"Who knows?" Dr. Bailey said.

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