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Ten The Language The Preservation of Southern Speech among the Colonists Michael B. Montgomery and Cecil Ataide Melo For more than 120 years, descendants of the Confederates who migrated to the region near Santa Barbara have remained a tiny English-speaking Protestant minority in a Portuguese-speaking Catholic nation. They maintained English-language schools; used English in their homes, churches, and community life; and kept alive memories of their former country. Over the years the principal settlement developed into the city of Americana, and the confederados, as they were known, gradually integrated into Brazilian society. For those born after World War II, Portuguese became the first and dominant language, and there are no longer monolingual English speakers in the region. Still living in the environs of Americana are several hundred older descendants of the original settlers for whom English is their first language and who speak in soft, slow voices quite reminiscent of people of the same age in the Lower South of the United States today. While their accents are unmistakably Southern American, they have a definite Portuguese ring also. Given the isolation of the Americana community, cut off from other English speakers for over a century (although some Americana residents occasionally visited relatives back in the South), the confederados today and their speech patterns appear to represent a lost cousin to Southerners in the United States. It turns out that studying Americana English is far more than a genealogical exercise of locating a faraway relative and determining where he or she belongs on the family tree, because the speech of the confederados also represents a time capsule. Analyzing it can help us understand what Southern American English sounded like in the third quarter of the nineteenth century. There is much about Southern speech-particularly the pronunciation -of that period that linguists have been able only to guess at. It was only in the 1930s, three to four generations later, that recordings began to be made which can be analyzed for clues to these questions. The Language As a result, linguists have little more than speculated about how similar Southern English a century and more ago might have been to its modernday counterpart, or about whether or how Southern speech has become more different from other types of American English since the Civil War. Assuming that isolation has permitted present-day speakers of Americana English in Brazil to preserve the pronunciation of Confederate immigrants of over a century ago (there is, as we will see, good reason to assume this), recordings of them enable us to begin documenting many details of an earlier stage of Southern speech than has hitherto been possible. Americana English thus offers the key to answering two of the most fundamental questions about the history of Southern American English: Has it always been distinctive from the rest of American English? And how much has it changed in recent generations? Without a kindred variety like Americana English, these would be very difficult indeed to answer. Recently, interviews with eleven mostly older members of the Americana community have been recorded and then excerpted on the public television program The Last Confederates. 1 This paper examines how these individuals use six patterns of pronunciation that are well-known in Southern speech today. These include the lack of "r" after vowels in words like car and bird, the use of "n" as the final consonant in words ending in -ing like singing, and the pronunciation of the vowel in words like my, kind, and right. Analyzing these features will help us assess the character ofAmericana English and determine its resemblance to present-day Southern American speech. As described elsewhere in this volume, both psychological attachments and geographic separation helped the confederados hold onto the culture and speech of their ancestors. The questions at hand in this paper concern how similar their English is to that in the Southern United States, and what this tells us about the development of Southern speech over the past century and a quarter. We use the term "Southern American English" to refer to a generalized version of the traditional speech of the Lower South recognized by writers like Raven I. McDavid,Jr., as used by whites in the former plantation belt, which extends from Eastern Virginia southwestward to Georgia and then westward to Texas.2 Data and Speakers Jor This Study Of the eleven individuals on whom this study of the pronunciation of Americana English is based, ten (five women, five men) were born...

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Additional Information

ISBN
9780817389024
Related ISBN
9780817309442
MARC Record
OCLC
45730752
Pages
288
Launched on MUSE
2016-01-01
Language
English
Open Access
No
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