Dictionary of Smoky Mountain and Southern Appalachian English
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Dictionary of Smoky Mountain and Southern Appalachian English

This report describes the Dictionary of Smoky Mountain and Southern Appalachian English, a forthcoming work of lexicography based on historical principles. It discusses the dictionary's relationship to the earlier Dictionary of Smoky Mountain English and to the Dictionary of American Regional English. Setting out the scope, primary practices, purposes, and many other features of the dictionary, this report discusses how the work relies on previously untapped written and spoken sources, including Civil War letters and extensive spoken materials from an oral history project and how it seeks to capture the speech of one of America's most reputed cultural areas.


The Dictionary of Smoky Mountain and Southern Appalachian English (Montgomery and Heinmiller forthcoming; hereinafter DSMSAE), now under contract and under final review at the University of South Carolina Press, is an outgrowth of the Dictionary of Smoky Mountain English (Montgomery and Hall 2004; DSME) and is an expansion of the earlier work geographically and chronologically. By incorporating DSME and adding further material from East Tennessee and Western North Carolina, the most concentrated focus of DSMSAE remains on that part of Southern Appalachia most thoroughly documented and [End Page 68] arguably having the greatest recognition nationally and internationally. The Smokies. Much had already been written about "the Smokies" by the time Great Smoky Mountains National Park was established in the 1930s (Bridges et al. 2014 contains 1300 references). In part because formation of the park displaced thousands of residents from an 800-square-mile territory, that process resulted in massive, unprecedented documentation of the human and natural life of an area featuring a more diverse ecosystem than any other of its size in the country. That documentation has continued apace to the present day, with the national park attracting researchers from every direction and well nigh every field of investigation. Beginning in 1937, these researchers included Columbia University graduate student Joseph Sargent Hall (1906–1992), a Californian embarking on what would become nearly a half-century of observing, recording, and compiling the speechways and traditional lore of a few older residents granted lifetime leases to remain and many other former residents who had sold their homes and property to settle in communities nearby. Friendships forged and Hall's curiosity led to periodic onsite collecting of folkloric material as varied as witchlore and dance parties. In addition to his 1942 doctoral dissertation, several articles, and three popular books of anecdotal material, Hall in his later years prepared a 500-entry typescript glossary, with the intention of depositing it in the Library of Congress for later scholars. In a 1990 visit to Hall, who had retired to Oceanside, California, Montgomery agreed to carry that glossary forward through a comprehensive reading program and to develop a full-fledged dictionary of the mountainous region along the Tennessee-North Carolina border. What resulted fourteen years later and a dozen years after Hall's death was DSME. Hall's collections furnished the core of the volume, and its front matter detailed the characteristics (age, level of schooling, level of literacy, types of employment) of every speaker from whom he collected. The dictionary included an extensive sketch of morphology and syntax and other unprecedented features. The Smokies are at the center of a folk culture whose salience, breath of documentation, and wide interest beyond the immediate area justified the relatively small geographical compass of the 2004 volume. [End Page 69]


As the successor work, DSMSAE retains every significant feature of DSME. The proportion of entries derived from Hall's collections has decreased from more than twenty percent to less than ten, with the sequel enlarging most entries and adding thousands more to comprise a projected 10,000 (four of which are presented in the Appendix) and 35,000 citations—60 percent more material than DSME.1 DSMSAE encompasses parts of eight states, basing its demarcation of Southern Appalachia in large part on that of the Appalachian Regional Commission, from southern West Virginia to northeast Alabama.2 Every reasonable effort has been undertaken to canvass material from or about this territory to produce...