Texan English

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Texan English is a dialect of Southern American English. Because of Texas's unique history and immigration background, it is often assumed that Texas English is unique as well. However, linguistically speaking, very few features of Texas English do not also occur elsewhere. What makes a "Texas accent" stand apart somewhat from the rest of the South, is the "confluence of its influences". As the most extensive recent study ever undertaken on the subject puts it: "The most basic explanation of a Texas accent is that it's a Southern accent with a twist."[1] This "twist" is the blending result of the major features of the Deep South and Upper South coming into contact with one another, as well as the notable influence derived from an early Spanish speaking population along with that of German immigrants.[2]

Texan English contains a variety of different characteristics which are on no account universal and each Texan may speak only some of these characteristics or even none. Just as there is no single "Southern accent", there is no single "Texas accent." The drawl of the Lower South has more influence in East Texas, while the "twang" of the Upper South left a greater imprint on West Texas. In South Texas, particularly, the Spanish and Mexican characteristics are heavily combined with that of the others.[3]

Phonology[edit]

There are many phonological processes which are characteristic for Texan Speech. However, those processes are on no account universal in Texan English and each Texan may speak only some of the characteristics displayed below or even none. In addition, other regional dialects in the United States or dialects from other countries may share some of these features. In particular, dialects from other Southern states share many phonological characteristics of the language spoken in Texas.

  • Phonemic distinctions: In many areas of North America phonemic distinctions rapidly disappear. Although these distinctions are also vanishing in Texas, distinctions between /hw/ and /w/, /or/ and /ɔr/, and /juː/ and /uː/ in words which sound very similar are still very common. In fact, the South is the most conservative area in the United States regarding the retention of phonemic distinctions. In central, northern and eastern Texas this phonetic phenomenon is especially widespread.[4]
  • Absence of the wine–whine merger: Most Texans distinguish the /hw/ of whale and whether from the /w/ of wail and weather. In most dialects of English, /hw/ and /w/ are [w] in all cases.
  • Absence of the horse–hoarse merger: Parts of Texas, particularly the Dallas and Lubbock areas, do not merge /or/ and /ɔr/.
  • Absence of yod-dropping: Some speakers in the Dallas area distinguish dew /dju:/ and do /du:/.[4]
  • Monophthongization of /aɪ/ before voiced consonants and word-final position: A vast majority of Texans monophthongize /aɪ/ to /a:/. Thus, buy is realized as [ba:], guy as [ga:], time as [ta:m], side as [sa:d], etc. While this is widespread, it is absent in Austin and southern Texas, especially Corpus Christi.
  • Monophthongization of /aɪ/ before voiceless consonants: This is concentrated in central Texas and San Antonio. In these areas, over 50% of /aɪ/ tokens show monophthongization to [a:] before voiceless consonants. This makes words like mite, rice, life, type, etc. sound like [maːt], [raːs], [la:f], and [ta:p].[4][5]
  • The cot-caught merger: the phonemes /ɔ/ and /ɑ/ are pronounced identically as [ɑ] making cot and caught homophones. The cot-caught merger is found almost everywhere in Texas.[6]
  • Texan dialects are rhotic; /r/ is pronounced in all environments.
  • The intrusive /r/: The intrusion of /r/ makes words like Washington sound like War-shington.[6]
  • The pin-pen merger: Many Texans pronounce the word pen like the word pin. Also other words like ten and tin, Wendy and windy, Ken and kin, send and sinned are pronounced the same.[7][8]
  • The relation of /eɪ/ in bait to /ɛ/ in bet: There are four possible relations of the /eɪ/ to /ɛ/:
  1. /ɛ/ is lower and backer than /eɪ/ which is the most conservative situation.
  2. /ɛ/ has moved to a fronter position but it remains lower.
  3. /ɛ/ is higher but remains backer than /eɪ/.
  4. /ɛ/ reversed its original relation to /eɪ/ by being higher and fronter.
It appears that the fourth situation is the most widespread in Texas. There are only the southeast of Texas and a few other places in which the fourth situation is not the most common. In parts of Amarillo, Abilene, Austin and Houston, for instance, /ɛ/ is lower and backer than /eɪ/. In a few other areas around Houston /ɛ/ is lower and fronter than /eɪ/.[4][5]
  • The glide deletion of /oɪ/ in oil: The glide deletion of /oɪ/ is much less frequent than the glide deletion of /aɪ/. It mostly appears before /l/ as in oil, toilet, spoil, etc. The only other environment in which the glide deletion of /oɪ/ occasionally comes along is before /s/ as in moisture, voice, oyster, etc. In Texas glide deletion of /oɪ/ was only noted in parts of West Texas (Lubbock to the Midland/Odessa area) and in parts around Dallas. Due to the glide deletion /oɪ/ becomes /oː/.[4]

African American Phonology in Texas[edit]

African Americans in Texas, as in other states, do not show much influence from white citizens of the same communities. Generally, African Americans avoid the sound changes noted in white communities. Therefore, the majority of sound changes listed above are usually not adopted by African Americans. In general, the English spoken by African Americans in Texas is much more akin to African American Vernacular English than to Texan English.[5]

Grammar[edit]

Southern American English has unique grammatical features which do not occur in Standard English, and as settlement patterns indicate, Texas English shares many of these characteristics with other states of the American South.

1. Y’all

No other grammatical feature has been more associated with Southern American English than y’all as the second person plural pronoun. As a list of phonological and grammatical features documented in Texas by Guy Bailey shows, it is also used frequently in Texan English.[9] As David B. Parker found out, the term y’all first appeared in the Southern Literary Messenger (published in Richmond, Virginia) in April 1858.[10] The term was used by an American humorist of the mid-nineteenth century, “Mozis Addums,” penname of George William Bagby, describing the crowded conditions in the Washington D.C. boarding house where he was living:

"Packin uv pork in a meet house, which you should be keerful it don't git hot at the bone, and prizin uv tobakker,which y’all’s Winstun nose how to do it, givs you a parshil idee, but only parshil”.[11]

The origin of y’all is an often debated question. Some clearly see it as a contraction of you and all whereas others like Montgomery point out the primary stress on you and the secondary on all would create you’ll as a contraction instead of y’all.[12] Thus sees it as a grammaticalized form of you coming from the Scots-Irish ye aw. This leads to the next question of y’all being used as only plural or also singular. Montgomery describes y’all as having the following six properties:[13]

  1. a paradigmatic gap for plural you
  2. an associative plural, including individuals associated, but not present with the singular addressee
  3. an institutional plural addressed to one person representing a group
  4. an unknown potential referent
  5. a form used in direct address in certain contexts (e.g., partings, greetings, invitations, and vocatives)
  6. a stylistic choice distinct in tone (e.g., in intimacy, familiarity, and informality).

[14]

Most linguists, however, agree on y’all being used as the second person plural pronoun and therefore no singular reference is possible. (Note that an associative plural y'all might be used in the context of a single person, but its reference is always strictly plural.)

2. Fixin to

(a) It’s fixin to rain [15]
(b) I was fixin to come but I got held up [16]

It is not clear where the term comes from and when it was first used. According to dialect dictionaries, fixin to is associated with southern speech and is most often defined as being a synonym of preparing to or intending to.[17] In sentences like (a) fixin to may mean something like “about to” or “planning to”. Sentence (b) expresses more the intention of doing something, in this case the speaker intended to come.[16] However, some linguists, i.e. Marvin K. Ching, regard it as being a quasimodal rather than a verb followed by an infinitive.[14] As can be found in the Linguistic Atlas of the Gulf States, the term is used by 57% of the population of Upper Texas and by 43% in Lower Texas.[18] It is a term used by all social groups, whereas one has to keep in mind that it is more often used by less educated people with a lower social status than by members of the educated upper classes. Furthermore, it is more common in the speech of younger people than in that of older people.[17] Another interesting point is that the term is prevalent in rural areas rather than in urban areas]. In addition, the term functions as an indicator for being from the South. As Ching points out, the precise meaning of the term “depends much upon its inherent linguistic meaning, which changes in shades of meaning with lexical and syntactic choice”.[14] In other words, the term is used in different situations with a variety of meanings. Nevertheless, the meaning is mostly clear to speaker and addressee when used in a particular situation and when both actors are familiar with the term fixin to.

3. Multiple modals

Standard English has a strict word order. In the case of modal auxiliaries Standard English is restricted to a single modal per verb phrase. Nevertheless, Texans have constructions which combine more than one modal auxiliary within the same verb phrase: I might could do that

These constructions are used by every social class and are, as proven by the data of the Linguistic Atlas of the Gulf States, predominately used in the eastern parts of Texas (Upper East Texas and Lower East Texas). There are different opinions on which class preferably uses the term. Atwood,[19] for example, finds that educated people try to avoid multiple modals, whereas Montgomery [20] suggests the opposite. Considering all findings of different linguists who examined multiple modals in Southern speech, it can be said that multiple modals are quite widespread and are not particularly stigmatized.[16]

Possible Double Modals used by Texans as examined by Di Paolo are:[21]

may could might could might supposed to
may can might oughta might’ve used to
may will might can might woulda had oughta
may should might should oughta could
may supposed to might would better can
may need to might better should oughta
may used to might had better used to could
can might musta coulda
could might would better


As the table shows, there are only possible combinations of an epistemic modal followed by deontic modals in multiple modal constructions. Deontic modals express permissibility with a range from obligated to forbidden and are mostly used as markers of politeness in requests whereas epistemic modals refer to probabilities from certain to impossible.[17] Multiple modals combine these two modalities.

The origin of multiple modals is controversial. Some say it is a development of Modern English, others found out that double modals already existed in Middle English and again others suggest that it derives from Scots-Irish settlers.[17]

4. Other grammatical features

Beside the three already mentioned grammatical features, there are a few others which aren’t used or are only rarely used today:

1. a-prefixing

Examples:

(a) I know he wasn’t a-telling the truth
(b) He come a-running out there and got shot
(c) She kept a-running
(d) She continued a-crying

The construction is called a-prefixing, because the a is seen as a prefix placed before the –ing participle form. Most often it occurs with progressive forms as it is the case in sentence (a). Other syntactic contexts in which a-prefixing occurs are as in sentence (b), with movement words such as come, go and take off or together with words of starting and continuing such as in sentence (c) and (d). Together with these words it functions as a type of adverbial complement to the verb.[15]

Phonological restrictions of a-prefixing include that only verbs accented on the initial syllable can occur in the form of a plus verb-ing: a-fóllowin but not *a-discóverin.[16] Moreover, it cannot occur on –ing forms functioning as nouns or adjectives. Thus, sentences like *the movie was a-charmin’ are ungrammatical.[16] A can only be a prefix of verbs or complements of verbs with –ing.[16] As Frazer found out a-prefixing is more likely to be found in the speech of elderly people and might therefore disappear in a few years.[22]


2. Plural verbal -s

Our father and mother sends you their blessings.

This kind of grammatical feature is most often used in Black English Vernacular but also white people in Texas use it.[23] Bailey, Maynor and Cukor-Avila examined that 70% of the black population and 43% of the white population put an –s on the third person plural in folk speech.[23] But here again the use of the third person singular marker –s in the plural is also declining in frequency.

3. Existential it

(a) It is nothing more to say.
(b) It is a friend of mine who likes to hear that kind of music.

Standard English would prefer: There is nothing more to say and in the second example: There is a friend of mine who likes to hear that kind of music.

Accordingly in Texan English some people use existential it instead of existential there. Existential there is used to say that something exists rather than saying where it is located.[24] The construction can be found in Middle English as in Marlowe's Edward II: “Cousin, it is no dealing with him now”.[24]

4. liketa

I liketa died [25]

Is a term coming from Appalachian English. It is most often seen as a synonym of almost. Accordingly, the phrase I liketa died would be I almost died in Standard English. With this meaning, liketa can be seen as a verb modifier for actions that are on the verge of happening.[16] Furthermore, it is more often used in figurative than in a literal sense.[16]

5. Perfective or completive done

(a) She has done left [25]
(b) I done told you not to mess up [16]

The past participle form of do together with a past verb form may be used to emphasize the whole action as in sentence (b) or to put emphasis on the completion of the action as in sentence (a). The form cannot only be found in Texan English, but also in other varieties of Southern American English and African American vernaculars.[16]

Lexicon[edit]

blue norther
The term blue norther refers to a weather phenomenon that often appears in the temperate zones all over the world (including Texas). It is a quickly moving autumnal cold front which drops the temperatures rapidly and brings along rain and after a period of blue skies and cold weather. The derivation of this term is unclear. Some people say that the term refers to a norther (borealis/north wind) which sweeps "out of the Panhandle under a blue-black sky" – from the heat to the blue black cold. Others suggest that blue norther denotes the color of the sky that appears after the bad weather front has passed. Yet others say that people associate blue with the cold that the front brings along. Variants of this term are blue whistler, blue darter and blue blizzard. Whereas the term blue whistler is also used in Texas the two latter terms are from out of state. Blue norther, however, is purely Texan. Since Spanish times, the effect of blue norther has been noted in Texas and this phenomenon has often been exaggerated. But contrary to the belief of many people blue norther is not unique to Texas.[26][27]
dogie
calf.[28]
fixin' to
a future-tense modal verb analogous to "about to" in much of American English.[29]
howdy
a general greeting; a shortened form of "How do you do?"[30]
looker
an attractive woman[30]
maverick
stray or unbranded.[28]
motte/mot
The term motte or mot refers to a small grove of trees in open grasslands. It was first introduced by Irish immigrants in the 1830s. They brought this term from Ireland where people used to call similar woods this way. In the United States one hears of motte only in Texas.[27]
pole cat
a skunk[29]
shinnery
Shinnery is a well-known term in western Texas. It denotes a shinnery oak or a sand shinnery oak. These trees grow in Texas, western Oklahoma, and eastern New Mexico. The term shinnery can also mean the area or landscape in which shinnery oaks grow.[27]
tank
stock pond.[28]
Y'all
a second-person plural pronoun; a shortened form of "you all"[29]
(Over) Yonder
an adverbial used to designate a faraway place; analogous to "over there"[30]

Texan terms with Spanish origins[edit]

Due to Spain's influence in Texas from the past, the vocabulary of Texas is much more influenced by Spanish than the vocabulary of other states. Some of the Texan terms that originated from Spanish are listed below.[27]

esplanade
Sometimes grassy strips between two divided highway lanes are called esplanade.[27]
jalapeño
The Spanish word jalapeño used to be solely Texan. Not until recently did the term start to expand. Now it is well known in other States of the U.S. and many other countries. It refers to a hot pepper originated from Mexico.[27]
lariat (from Spanish la reata)
rope or lasso.[31]
pinto or paint (from Spanish pinto = painted)
familiar spotted or piebald Western pony.[31]
remuda (from Spanish remudar = to exchange)
spare horse or remount; mainly used in West Texas.[31]
Tejano
The noun Tejano is derived from the Spanish adjective tejano or tejana (feminine). It refers to a Texan who originates from Mexico. This term also embraces cultural manifestations in language, literature, art, music, cuisine, etc. already in 1824 the author of the Mexican Constitution of 1824, Miguel Ramos Arispe, called the citizens of Texas Tejanos. After the Mexican War the term Coahuiltejano which contains the term Tejano denoted the residents of the Mexican state Coahuila and Texas. Already in 1833 Hispanics in Texas started to identify themselves as Tejanos. In 1855 when the San Antonio newspaper El Bejareño reported a letter by José Antonio Navarro read at the second meeting of the Spanish-speaking members of the Bexar County Democratic party the term Méjico-Tejano first appeared in print . Tejano occurred more often in speech and texts when the political activity of Hispanics in Texas became pronounced, in particular since the Chicano movement of the mid-1960s started. This term is common enough that it is considered an item in the Texas lexicon. Other and broader terms used for the same ethnic group are Hispanic American, Latin American, Mexican American, Mexican, and Chicano.[27]
wrangler or horse wrangler (Anglicized form of the Spanish word caballerango)
a groom; the typical Texas wrangler was “a bachelor and worked with several outfits over the course of his hard career”.[31]

Vocabulary of the South Texas Layer[edit]

acequia
an irrigation ditch.[31]
arroyo
a gulch, ravine, creek bed[31]
caliche
a hardened layer of calcium carbonate in the ground.
chaparral
brush-covered terrain[31]
frijoles
kidney or pinto beans[31]
hacienda
the main house of a ranch[31]
icehouse
a term used in the San Antonio area to mean a convenience store. Elsewhere, this denotes an open-air tavern, the origin of which dates back to the times when fresh beer was stored in "ice houses" placed strategically along beer delivery routes for local and regional delivery. Over time these locations began to serve cold beer, since it was stored there already, and other conveniences, such as food items, cigarettes, etc. In more modern times, the surviving ice houses are little more than open air beer bars. It is the "open air" feature (often obtained with multiple garage doors in place of walls), in fact, that distinguishes an ice house from a tavern.[32]
llano
a plain[31]
olla
an earthenware pot or crock[31]
pelado
a Latin American[31]
pilon
a bonus, lagniappe[31]
reata
a rope or lasso[31]
resaca
a small body of water[31]
toro
a bull[31]
vaquero (from Spanish vaquero)
a cowboy[31]

Vocabulary of the Central Texas Layer[edit]

clook, cluck
(from German Glucke) a setting hen [31]
cook cheese, kochcase
(from German Kochkäse = (literally) smearing cheese) a soft cheese cooked and poured into jars [31]
grass sack or gunny sack
a burlap bag [31]
plunder room
a storage room [31]
roping rope
a lariat [31]
settee
(from British settle) a couch or sofa [31]
smearcase
(from German Schmierkäse) cottage cheese [31]
tarviated road
a paved or blacktopped road [31]
tool house
a toolshed [31]
wood house
a woodshed [31]

Texan English styles, uses, phrases, and sayings[edit]

Use of conditional syntax[edit]

People from Texas are said to be more polite, more easygoing, and less direct in speech than, for example, people from the northern states. Many Texans do everything to not offend someone by speaking too directly and straight forward. Therefore, in many situations they make use of conditional syntaxes as shown below:[33]

Conditional syntax in requests:

  1. “I guess you could step out and git some toothpicks and a carton of camel cigarettes, if you a mind to”.
  2. “If you be good enough to take it, I believe I could stand me a taste”.[33]

Conditional syntax in suggestions:

  1. “I wouldn’t look for’m to show up if I was you”.
  2. “I’d think that wiskey’d be a trifle hot”.

Conditional syntax creates a distance between the speaker’s claim and the hearer. Therefore, it serves to mitigate impositions and to express negative, deferential politeness.[33]

Evidentiality[edit]

Texans also often use “evidential” predicates such as think, reckon, believe, guess, have the feeling, etc.:

  1. “You already said that once, I believe.”
  2. “I wouldn’t want to guess, but I have the feeling we’ll know soon enough.”
  3. “You reckon we ought to get help?”
  4. “I don’t believe I’ve ever known one.”

Evidential predicates indicate how certain the knowledge asserted in the sentence is or how it was acquired. According to Johnstone evidential predicates nearly always hedge the assertions and allow the respondents to hedge theirs. They protect speakers from the social embarrassment that appears in case the assertion turns out to be wrong.[33]

Texan phrases & expressions[edit]

If there is one feature of the Texas dialect that distinguishes it from other Southern dialects, it is the widely-used expressionism shared with many far-western states. Cowboy slang, farmer slang, and Southern slang have all combined to make an extremely variable and often intentionally humorous set of phrases and expressions, some of the more well-known appearing below. There is also social capital to be gained in originating certain expressions, and the frequent use of such phrases or provisional but esoteric wisdom (such as "you can put your boots in the oven, but that don't make them biscuits.") is a matter of personal style. Many of the more vulgar examples are not included here, but expressions like "colder than a witch's tit" or "hotter than a two-dollar whore on the fourth of July" are most often the slang of field workers, rough-necks (oilmen), and other manual laborers.

  • ugly as a mud fence
  • plug-ugly
  • dumber than dirt
  • older than two trees
  • tighter than bark on a tree
  • dumb as a box of rocks
  • the poor thang - similar in use to 'poor thing' but with emphasis on the 'thang'
  • crooked as a dog's hind leg
  • crooked as a barrel of snakes
  • dumb as a box of hammers
  • cut your peaches, girl! - calm down
  • get your guns up, boy! - get ready
  • You're cute as a possum.
  • You're happy as a gopher in soft dirt.
  • You're tough as a boot.
  • You're quick as a hiccup.
  • You'll do to run the river with.
  • You look like you've been rode hard and put up wet.
  • You look like ten miles of bad road.
  • You're big enough to hunt bear (bar) with a switch. – very big.
  • He beat him like a rented mule.
  • He'll tell you how the cow ate the cabbage.
  • He thought he was in tall cotton.
  • He's all hat and no cattle. (or all buckle and no belt, or all broth and no beans)
  • He thinks the sun comes up just to hear him crow.
  • That's close enough for government work
  • He's useless as tits on a boar hog.
  • This ain't my first rodeo.
  • I'm busier than a one-legged man in an ass-kicking contest.
  • Hidden in the basement like a crazy aunt.
  • Blacker than midnight under a skillet.
  • I got more than you can shake a stick at.
  • I wouldn't trust him any farther than I could throw him.
  • She'd charge hell with a bucket of ice water.
  • She's as hot as a stolen tamale.
  • She could sell ice to an Eskimo.
  • She's so country she thinks a seven-course meal is a possum and a six-pack.
  • Fine as frog's hair.
  • Like the dogs was after him. – in a big hurry
  • knee-high to a grasshopper – very young
  • as all get out – very much so
  • rearin' (pronounced "rarin") and ready to go
  • gully-washer, fence-lifter, cow pissin' on a flat rock, frog strangler - all referring to hard rainfall

[34]

Texan sayings[edit]

  • "Never ask a man if he's from Texas. If he is, he'll tell you on his own. If he ain't, no need to embarrass him."
  • "The Lord never closes one door without opening another one."
  • "Evil thoughts are like chickens--they come home to roost."
  • "You can always tell a Texan, but you can't tell him much."
  • "I wasn't born in Texas, but I got here as fast as I could!"
  • "Thunder ain't rain." (a sort of negative variation on "Where there's smoke, there's fire.")
  • "If you don't like the weather, wait a minute!"

[34]

History[edit]

In its beginning Texas was populated by numerous native tribes before the first European explorers arrived. The Spanish were the first to visit the region in the 16th and 17th centuries. Since then Texas had continuously been a part of New Spain.[35] Except for the native languages Spanish was the first language spoken in Texas. After Mexico gained independence in 1821, Texas opened up to Anglo Settlements in the 1820s. Following the influx of English-speaking whites from the United States, English became as common as Spanish in central and north Texas while South Texas remained largely Spanish speaking.

Due to the immigration of mainly southern states of the United States, the English language was mainly introduced from the old South.[36] Immigrants who migrated to the east and southeast parts of Texas included Anglos from the lower or coastal South states such as Alabama, Mississippi, and Louisiana whereas Anglos from the Upper South (Tennessee, Kentucky, Missouri, and Arkansas) dominated most of northern and central Texas.[16] The immigration from the lower and coastal South to southern Texas can be proven by the 1850 census returns of Jefferson County, located in southeastern Texas. In this census citizens of Jefferson County named their origin among other things. The 1850 census returns of Grayson County which is located in the northeast of Texas proved that immigrants moved to this area mainly came from the Upper South.[36] Any attempt to make an assumption of the immigration to West Texas is not possible due to the lack of information in the 1860 census concerning the origin of immigrants. However, after a military campaign against the Indians in 1875 the number of immigrants in West Texas grew rapidly.[36] In 1896 400,000 persons moved to north-central Texas, half of which came from northern Arkansas, and Tennessee.

After the Texas Revolution Texas became an independent republic in 1836. As a result Anglos outnumbered Hispanics [37] and English became the predominant language in Texas. However, Spanish did not simply disappear but was united with the language and culture of the new settlers making a new kind of dialect.[37] Nevertheless, the formation of what we call Texan English was not finished until the 19th century when immigrants from Europe came in great numbers to Texas.[37] The language they brought with them strongly influenced general English as well as Texan English. The migration from Europe to Texas or the USA in general continued in the 20th century and was increased by other immigrants from all over the world, especially from Mexicans.[15] In the beginning of the nineteenth century after the Mexican Revolution of 1910-1920 there was a great number of Mexicans which immigrated to Texas.[16][35] This then slowed down in the mid of the 20th century only to increase massively since 1990.[37] Due to the large amount of Mexican immigrants Spanish will remain having a great influence on the Texan dialect of English.

The history of immigration did not only make English the predominant language but also led to a difference between the pronunciation in West Texas and East Texas. This difference can be easily explained by the migration history of Texas in which different states of the United States and different countries of Europe settled in certain areas, thus “creating a dialectal zone of transition between East and West Texas”.[36] Texas had a unique history, an individual migration process and, an existence as an independent Republic. All these factors contributed to form Texan English.

Subdialects/Subregions of Texan English[edit]

The English spoken in Texas is not universal in every region of the state but dialect boundaries, in general, are rather vague. In fact, some scholars suppose that drawing dialect boundaries can hardly lead to an adequate result. As Bagby Atwood stated “I will not draw lines showing the limits of Southwestern [English] or any of its subareas. Far too many lines have been drawn already, probably by popular demand and certainly on insufficient evidence, purporting to show the limits of speech areas in the West.[35] Nevertheless, since 1935 various linguists attempted to delimit Texas into dialect regions, although the evidence for their division was insufficient.[38]

The largest group of those researchers divides Texan English into two regional varieties but their arrangements differ widely.[38] One reason is that some of the linguists draw their boundaries based upon phonological differences and others on lexical criteria and another reason is that the research data used for the division are diverse in their nature, merely based upon “conjecture, speculation, or personal whim” or lack at all.[38] Some of those linguists claim “that the English of southeastern Texas […] is different from that of the rest of the state”.[38] They agree generally to the northern limits of this speech area but disagree on its western extension.[38] Another set of linguists divide “Texas linguistically in a more general East-West fashion”.[38] Another factor causing confusion in the attempt to divide linguistic areas in Texas is that the scientists use different labels for the same area.

Other scholars divided Texas into three speech areas. Frederic Cassidy divides Texas into a border that “runs between Texarkana and Longview in East Texas and extends westward to the region south of Dallas and Fort Worth before curving southward clearly to the west of Waco, Austin, and San Antonio, putting all of the Lower Rio Grande Valley in the eastern zone” (Cassidy 1982:202 in Underwood, 106).[38] In contrast Terry Jordan’s “line turns south between Longview and Tyler, snakes its way southeast of Bryan–College Station, curves westward through Gonzales County to the east of San Antonio, and turns back in a southeastern direction to Lavaca Bay just east of Victoria” (Jordan 1984:97, in Underwood, 106).[38] Other linguists divided Texas into four or more dialect areas.

According to Craig Carver, Texas can be delimited into two dialect regions: “a south Texas layer that runs by-and-large along the Texas–Mexico border and reaches up to San Antonio, and a central Texas region that includes the areas where large numbers of speakers of German and other European languages settled” (Carver in Walters).[39]

As Anglo-American settlers dominated central Texas, the influence of the German language in central Texas is proportionally less important than the influence of the Spanish language in south Texas.[31] The South Texas Layer lies south of the San Antonio River and is distinguished by a large amount of Spanish loanwords.[31] The Central Texas Layer is characterized by German features, due to the large numbers of settlers.[31] The Texan word clook (= a setting hen), which derived from the German word Glucke, is pronounced with the original German high back vowel /ʊ/, whereas in other regions it is cluck and it is pronounced with the central vowel /ʌ/. In addition, the Central Texas Layer is influenced by several dialects of other South Atlantic States and other northern states, due to settlement history.[31]

Texan English in the media[edit]

Texan English frequently shows up in the media. In the 1950s and 1960s many Hollywood western movies like Giant, Hud, and The Alamo were set in Texas. In those movies the Texan dialect took a big part. In fact, Hollywood stars like James Dean, Rock Hudson, Dennis Hopper, Paul Newman, and Patricia Neal first had to learn how to speak Texan English and were instructed by native Texans. Also the famous TV series Dallas was often characterized by Texan English.

Texas Instruments sometimes uses Texan English in its products. The TIFORM software for its TI-990 minicomputer sometimes displayed "Shut 'er Down Clancey She's a-Pumping Mud". Its documentation defined the error message as "An error has occurred in the TIFORM Executor which is not identifiable. Please call the TI customer representative".[40]

The Texan dialect gained fame again when George W. Bush started to serve as president. The former President who hails from Texas always emphasized his connection to Texas by retaining his dialect during his time in office. His dialect was particular heavy. Words like America sometimes sounded like “Amur-kah” or even just like “Mur-kah”. [37][41]

Changes in Texan English[edit]

Linguists suppose urbanization, geographic and social mobility, and the mass media to homogenize the speech of the United States to a national norm.[6] Consequently, dialect differences are disappearing.

Due to rapid metropolitanization, increasing dominance of high tech industries, and massive migration Texan speech has been reshaped as well, especially since 1990.[37] Whereas these changes are mainly phonological phenomena, changes in the Lexicon of Texan English can be detected as well. As much of the traditional regional vocabulary concerned farming and rural life these terms are now disappearing or being replaced by technical (book) terms.[6] The general tendency in the phonology of Texas English is that mergers expand at the expense of distinctions although traditionally, Texan Speech was determined by phonemic distinctions.[6] Guy Bailey identifies 11 changes:

  1. the merger of /ɔ/ and /ɑ/ so that words like caught and cot become homophones;.[6]
  2. the “monophthongization” of /aː/ in words like night so that outsiders, but never Texans, often perceive night and not as homophones;[6]
  3. the merger of /i/ and /ɪ/ before /l/ so that words like feel and fill become homophones;[6]
  4. the merger of /eɪ / and /ɛ/ before /l/ so that words like sale and sell become homophones;[6]
  5. the merger of /u/ and /ʊ/ before /l/ so that words like fool and full become homophones;[6]
  6. the loss of initial /h/ before /j/ so that words like Hugh and you become homophones;[6]
  7. the loss of /j/ after /t, d, n/ so that words like due and do become homophones;[6]
  8. the intrusion of /r/ in words like Washington;[6]
  9. the “loss” of /r/ after vowels in words like forty;[6]
  10. the variation of /ɑ/ and /ɔ/ before /r/ so that lord often sounds like lard;[6]
  11. the fronting and raising of the first element of the diphthong /au/ in words like house. This change only occurs among the white population of Texas and it has had little effect on the speech of African Americans or Hispanics.[6]

Texan English phonology stereotypically is (or was) defined by the monophthongization of /aɪ/ (e.g. ‘’price’’ is pronounced like /praːs/).[42] Since approximately 60 years a change in the pronunciation of /aɪ/ is developing. There is a tendency occurring in central Texas to use the Standard English diphthong pronunciation of /aɪ/ (e.g.’’ price’’ is pronounced /praɪs/).[42] Latest findings show a strong orientation of primarily young, urban Texans towards a more standard realization of /aɪ/, namely the diphthongization, of /aɪ/. In fact, the monophthongization of /aɪ/ has left the central Texan speech almost entirely.[42] 89% of the “younger” speakers aged 21–30, use diphthongal realizations of /aɪ/, whereas only 11% use monophthongal or intermediate realizations of /aɪ/.[42] The change toward the diphthongization of /aɪ/ is led by young female Texans, as 92% of the 11% still using the monophthongization were males.

The urban-rural linguistic split[edit]

Another linguistic change in Texan English is an emerging rural-urban split, meaning that most stereotypically and traditionally Southern or Texan features remain strong in rural areas, whereas many of these features tend to disappear in urban areas and small cities.[37] The urban-rural linguistic split mainly affects phonological phenomena.

  1. The pen/pin merger, the loss of the offglide in /aɪ/, and upgliding diphthongs are now recessive in metropolitan areas.
  2. Traditional grammatical features like y’all and fixin’ to are expanding to non-natives in metropolizes (and to the Hispanic population, too).[37]
  3. New features are developing, mainly in urban areas, for example vowels in words like caught and cot are becoming merged (both sound like cot).[37]
  4. Tense/lax vowel pairs before /l/ (e.g. pool-pull, feel-fill, sale-sell) are now homophones.[37]

Languages spoken in Texas[edit]

Languages spoken in Texas

Although the state of Texas does not have an official language, the majority of all Texans speak English. Because of the large amount of Spanish-speaking immigrants from Mexico Spanish is the second most widespread language. About 14 million Texan residents speak exclusively English which is around two-thirds of the people over five years old in Texas. Due to thousands of Mexican immigrants around 6 million (ca. 29%) people in Texas speak Spanish as the first language.[43] Recent data shows that Spanish is still increasing.[44] Since there are so many Spanish speakers in Texas Spanish has a high impact on the English dialect spoken in Texas.[43] For instance, many Texan English words are derived or adopted from Spanish. Many Mexican Americans in Texas speak their own variety of English which has many Spanish features (terms, phonology, etc.). This dialect is called Tejano English (TE) and is majorly spoken by working class Mexican Americans. A very distinctive feature of that dialect is the /-t,d/-deletion in words which contain a /t/ or /d/ in the final position.[45] Next to Spanish there are several other non-English languages but contrary to Spanish they are not very common (see table).

Language Speaker  %
English 13,528,191 66.35%
All languages other than English combined 6,858,870 33.64%
Spanish 5,932,609 29.09%
Vietnamese 139,534 0.68%
Chinese 83,641 0.41%
German 61,316 0.30%
French 57,992 0.28%
Tagalog 56,752 0.27%
Korean 45,272 0.22%
Urdu 43,202 0.21%
Hindi 39,570 0.19%

[43]

References[edit]

  1. ^ http://www.pbs.org/speak/seatosea/americanvarieties/texan/drawl/
  2. ^ Do You Speak American: Drawl or Nothin'
  3. ^ Do You Speak American: Texas English
  4. ^ a b c d e Labov, William, Sharon Ash, and Charles Boberg. Atlas of North American English: Phonetics, Phonology and Sound Change. Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter, 2006.
  5. ^ a b c Feagin, Crawford. “Vowel Shifting in the Southern States.” English in the Southern United States. Ed. Stephen J. Nagle and Sara L. Sanders. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2003. 126-140.
  6. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p Bailey, Guy. “Directions of Change in Texas English.”.Journal of American Culture 14.2 (1991): 125-134.
  7. ^ “Pin-Pen Merger.” The American Front Porch. The University of North Carolina. 5 Sept. 2012
  8. ^ Bigham, Doug. “The PIN~PEN Merger: Movement of Front Vowel Allophones in Pre-Nasal Position.” Department of Linguistics at the University of Texas. 2007. Accessed 5 Sept. 2012 < >.
  9. ^ Bailey, Guy. “When Did Southern American English Begin?” Old Englishes and Beyond: Studies in Honour of Manfred Gorlach. Ed. Edgar Schneider. Amsterdam: John Benjamins, 1997. 255-275. .
  10. ^ Parker, David B. “Y’All: Two Early Examples.” American Speech 81.1 (2006): 110-112. .
  11. ^ Bagby, Georege William. The letters of Mozis Addums to Billy Ivvins. Richmond: West & Johnson, 1862. .
  12. ^ Montgomery, Michael. “The Etymology of ‘Y’all’.” Old English and New: Studies in Language and Linguistics in Honor of Frederic G. Cassidy. Ed. Joan H. Hall, Nick Doane, and Dick Ringler, New York: Garland, 1992. 356–67..
  13. ^ Montgomery, Michael. “Future of Southern American English.” SECOL Review 20 (1996): 1–24.
  14. ^ a b c Ching, Marvin K.L. “Plural You/Ya’ll Variation by a Court Judge: Situational Use.” American Speech. 76.2 (2001): 115-127.
  15. ^ a b c Wolfram, Walt. “Toward a Description of A-Prefixing in Appalachian English.” American Speech, 51.1-2 (1976): 45-56.
  16. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l Wolfram, Walt, and Natalie Schilling-Estes. American English: Dialects and Variation. Malden: Blackwell Publishing, 2008.
  17. ^ a b c d Bernstein, Cynthia. “Grammatical features of southern speech: yall, might could, and fixin to.” English in the Southern United States. Eds. Stephen J. Nagel and Sara L. Sanders, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2003. 106-119.
  18. ^ Pederson, Lee, ed. Linguistic Atlas of the Gulf States: Social Pattern for the Linguistic Atlas of the Gulf States. Athens: University of Georgia Press, 1992.
  19. ^ Atwood, E. Bagby. A Survey of Verb Forms in the Eastern United States. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1953.
  20. ^ Montgomery, Michael. “Multiple Modals In LAGS and LAMSAS”. From the Gulf States and Beyond: the legacy of Lee Pederson and LAGS. Eds. Michael Montgomery & Thomas E. Nunnaly, Tuscaloosa: The University of Alabama Press, 1998.
  21. ^ Di Paolo, Marianna. “Double Modals as Single Lexical Items.” American Speech, 64.3 (1989): 195-224.
  22. ^ Frazer, Timothy C. “More on the Semantics of A-Prefixing.” American Speech, 65.1 (1990): 89-93.
  23. ^ a b Bailey, Guy, Natalie Minor, and Patricia Cukor-Avila. “Variation in Subject-Verb Concord in Early Modern English.” Language Variation and Change, 1 (1989): 285-300.
  24. ^ a b “Existential it.” Online Dictionary of Language Terminology. 4 Oct 2012
  25. ^ a b Bailey, Guy, and Jan Tillery. “The Persistence of Southern American English.” Journal of English Linguistics, 24.4 (1996): 308-321.
  26. ^ Barkley, Roy. „Blue Norther“ .2012. Texas State Historical Association. 5 Sept 2012.
  27. ^ a b c d e f g Metcalf, Allan. How We Talk: American Regional English Today. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 2000.
  28. ^ a b c “Texas English”. Do you speak American? Web. 14 August 2012
  29. ^ a b c "Drawl or Nothin’". Do You Speak American?. PBS. 2005. Retrieved 3 September 2010. 
  30. ^ a b c "The Handbook of Texas Online". 
  31. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x y z aa ab ac ad ae Carver, Craig M. American Regional Dialects: a Word Geography. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1987.
  32. ^ David Hisbrook, "Texas Primer: The Icehouse", Texas Monthly, August, 1984. http://www.texasmonthly.com/content/texas-primer-icehouse
  33. ^ a b c d Johnston, Barbara. "Features and Uses of Southern Style". English in the Southern United States. Eds. Stephen J. Nagle and Sara L. Sanders. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2003. 189-205.
  34. ^ a b DiSanto, Kathy. “Texas Talk”. Armadillo's WWW Server. 1995. Rice University. 5 Sept. 2012
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  36. ^ a b c d Walsh, Harry, and Victor L. Mote. “A Texas Dialect Feature: Origins and Distribution.” American Speech, 49.1-2 (1974). 40-53.
  37. ^ a b c d e f g h i j “Texas English.” Do you speak American?. 6 Sept 2012
  38. ^ a b c d e f g h Underwood, Gary N. (1990), “Scholarly Responsibility and the Representation of Dialects: The Case of English in Texas”, Journal of English Linguistics 23: 95-112.
  39. ^ Walters, Keith. “Dialects”. Handbook of Texas Online. Texas State Historical Association. Web. 14 August 2012
  40. ^ Lener, Jeffrey (1984-04-03). "TI Talks Texan". PC Magazine. p. 49. Retrieved 24 October 2013. 
  41. ^ “Drawl or Nothin’” Do you speak American?. 6 Sept 2012
  42. ^ a b c d Jung, Natalie A. (2011) “Real-Time Changes in the Vowel System of Central Texas English”. ‘’Texas Linguistics Forum’’ 54:72-78.
  43. ^ a b c Feal, Rosemary G., ed. “MLA Language Map Data Center.” Modern English Association. 4 Sept 2012
  44. ^ Feal, Rosemary G., ed. “MLA Language Map Data Center.” Modern English Association. 4 Sept 2012
  45. ^ Bayley, Robert. “Variation in Tejano English: Evidence for Variable Lexical Phonology.” Language Variety in the South. eds. Cynthia Berstein et al. Tuscaloosa: The University of Alabama Press, 1997. 197-210.

External links[edit]