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A (very brief) introduction to the Southern dialect

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Laurence Goodwin

on 12 January 2015

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Transcript of A (very brief) introduction to the Southern dialect

American English
Shakespeare in American?
Southern English
A note about R's
Where to start?
and intonation

Let's hear how Ellen and Hugh each pronounce these American and British slang words.
Southerners have some distinct sounds which differ from the Standard American dialect.

For example:
Vowels are normally elongated. 'i' generally becomes 'ayhh'

Words are usually elided and the sounds softer than a standard accent (think the opposite of a clipped New York accent).

Several elements make an accent believable
The majority of you will be speaking with a Southern accent. This accent is slower than a standard American, quite drawl-y and fairly relaxed.
It's not enough just to master the pronunciation of words...you need to catch the intent too!
Note how the intonation in the middle of her sentences (and some words) goes up while his pretty much stay flat throughout.
Americans generally strongly pronounce their r's (this is technically known as rhoticity). However, Southerners DO NOT. So a word like 'hard' in a Southern drawl might sound something like 'hahhd'.

This is similar to a standard RP pronunciation - the main difference is the location of the sound in the mouth (Brits push sounds to the front of their mouths while Americans tend to concentrate their sounds towards the back of the mouth). We'll discuss this more in depth.

If you are an aural learner, watch and listen to as many Southern things as you can (films, radio, tv shows etc.)

If you are more of a textbook learner, have a look at the diagrams and sheets which will shortly appear in the Dropbox.

There are also plenty of instructional You Tube videos and blogs detailing the various aspects of this particular accent. The last clip is from Sweet Home Alabama - it's a long one but illustrative of the accent and culture of the South!
Watch out for t's and double t's in the middle of words. These are usually pronounced as d's. For example, "pretty" becomes "priddy".

Listen out for this in the next clip from The Help.

And yes, Crisco is as good as she says!
T's at the end of words are hardly ever said forcefully. Note how Christopher Guest pronounces 'nut' in the next clip and how Maggie says 'cat' in the clip after that.

Also, watch out for G's at the end of words. They are often dropped or very lightly spoken.
G and Ts - but not as you know them
T's = D's
Full transcript