For more than half a century, the familiar Southern accent has been fading in Raleigh, North Carolina. Its disappearance has been so slow and so subtle that locals may not even have noticed. But for Robin Dodsworth, an associate professor in sociolinguistics at NC State, the decline tells the story of rapid social change across the urban South.
Dodsworth discovered that the vowels of speakers born between 1920 and 1950 were remarkably stable. Then, in the middle of the 20th century, Southern linguistic features began to steadily decline. But why?
Dodsworth states, “Language is part of the Southern tradition and culture, and across North Carolina you have all these pockets of linguistic diversity. These projects are an effort to make our research relevant to people who are proud of their heritage–or insecure about their heritage. We want to help people recognize the cultural value of how they speak.”
Some of the answers are revealed in an article by Alastair Hadden in the National Science Foundation web site at http://www.nsf.gov/discoveries/disc_summ.jsp?cntn_id=135770&org=NSF.