NC State researcher says there is a lot more to ‘Southern accents’ than people realize

North Carolina news

RALEIGH, N.C. (WGHP) — To say someone has “A Southern accent” is to not understand the richness that is dialect.

And if you live in North Carolina, you’ve hit the mother lode of dialects.

“There are at least five or six major dialects in North Carolina,” said Walt Wolfram, a linguist at North Carolina State University who has studied language and how it’s used for 50 years.

The first thing he’ll make sure you know is to not confuse an accent with a dialect.

“A dialect is simply an identifiable variety of a language,” Wolfram said. “So, we can sort of say, ‘OK, this is Outer Banks dialect – people from the Outer Banks, historically, speak this variety,’ people can identify that.”

Wolfram also pointed out other dialects.

“Then there is the mountain dialect – they wouldn’t call it Appalachian, but many people do. There is also a Tidewater dialect that bleeds down from Virginia in the northeast part of the state, one in the coastal plains, an African-American dialect and one from the Native Americans here.”

His point is that a dialect is so much more than simply a way of speaking. It’s a part of who we are.

“All of these things make it really intriguing, complex, they’re changing, they’re dynamic, Some are dying, others are rising. Some are maintaining themselves so it’s just absolutely fascinating,” Wolfram said. “How can you be proud of the heritage without being proud of the language, which is an integral part and reveals that heritage? In a state like North Carolina where we have so many dimensions of history and culture that we embrace, language has been lost – we don’t embrace our language, we don’t embrace the diversity of the dialects of North Carolina.”

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