Tuesday, December 02, 2003

Tracking All the Y'Alls in Texas

"Are yew jus' tryin' to git me to talk, is that the ah-deah?"

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 twang.

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 state.

"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."

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.

Much more in this great article.

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