Old Virginia accent

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The Old Virginia accent is one that is primarily heard in the Tidewater and Piedmont regions of the Commonwealth of Virginia and northeastern North Carolina. Traces of this dialect and its characteristic drawl can also be heard in adjacent states, including words that are pronounced differently, such as "out" and "house."


Southern and south midland accent characteristics include:[1]

  • "drawl" [lengthening, fronting, and raising vowels]
  • /ai/ > /æ:/ in find, mind
  • /oi/ > /o/ in boil, oil
  • /u:/ > /yu:/ in due, tuesday
  • /au/ > /æu/ in out, doubt
  • /e/ > /ei/ in bed, head
  • /e/ > /i/ in pen, ten
  • greasy > greazy
  • carry > tote
  • dragged > drug
  • you > you all, y’all


The earliest English settlers of the colonies of Virginia and Massachusetts were mainly people from Southern England. However, Virginia received more colonists from the English West Country, bringing with them a distinctive dialect and vocabulary.

The Boston, Massachusetts, Norfolk, Virginia and Charleston, South Carolina areas maintained strong commercial and cultural ties to England. Thus, the colonists and their descendants defined "social class" according to England's connotations. As the upper class English dialect changed, the dialects of the upper class Americans in these areas changed. One example, is the "r-dropping" of the late 18th and early 19th century, resulting in the similar "r-dropping" found in Boston and parts of Virginia today.[1]

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