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Texan English is the array of American English spoken in Texas, primarily falling under the regional dialects of Southern and Midland U.S. English. As one extensive study states, at the most basic level, the typical Texan accent is a "Southern accent with a twist." The "twist" refers to major features of the Lower and Upper South coming into contact with one another, as well as some notable influences derived from an early Spanish-speaking population and German immigrants. In fact, there is no single accent that covers all of Texas and few dialect features are unique only to Texas. The most advanced (i.e., newest and most developed) accent features of the regional Southern U.S. dialect are reported in North and West Texas (but not El Paso), associated with the Upper South, while elements of the same regional dialect are present but less consistent in East and South Texas, associated more with the Lower South. In South Texas, particularly, Mexican Spanish characteristics are heavily influential as well. Abilene, Austin, Corpus Christi appear to align to the Midland regional accent of the United States more than the Southern regional one; El Paso aligns to the Western regional accent; and Dallas is greatly variable.
English in Texas is not universal in every region of the state, and its dialect boundaries, in general, are rather vague; however, most of its dialects are classifiable under the larger Midland and Southern regional dialects of the United States. Scholar 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". Nevertheless, since 1935 and into the twentieth century, various linguists attempted to delimit Texas into dialect regions, although the evidence for their division was insufficient.[clarification needed]
The largest group of those researchers divides Texan English into two regional varieties though with each researcher suggesting different boundaries than the others. Some linguists draw their boundaries based upon phonological (sound) differences and others on lexical (word) differences, and research data can sometimes be conjectural. Some linguists often regard East and South Texas as a particular dialect region, disagreeing on its western extension. Another set of linguists divide "Texas linguistically in a more general East–West fashion". 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).
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). 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).
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. The South Texas Layer lies south of the San Antonio River and is distinguished by a large number of Spanish loanwords. The Central Texas Layer is characterized by German features, due to the large numbers of settlers. 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 Northern States, due to settlement history.
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.
Linguists propose that urbanization, geographic and social mobility, and the mass media have homogenized the speech of the United States to a national norm. Consequently, dialect differences are disappearing.
Due to rapid urbanization, increasing dominance of high tech industries, and massive migration Texan speech has been reshaped as well, especially since 1990. 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. 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. Guy Bailey identifies 11 changes:
Texan English phonology stereotypically is defined by the monophthongization of /aɪ/ (e.g. price is pronounced like [pɹaːs]), which is best reported in Dallas, Lubbock, and Odessa; other Texan cities, however, are reported as usually preserving the diphthong pronunciation of /aɪ/ (e.g. price pronounced as [pɹaɪs]). Latest findings show a strong orientation of primarily young and urban Texans towards a diphthongization of /aɪ/. In fact, the monophthongization of /aɪ/ has left the central Texan speech almost entirely. 89% of the "younger" speakers aged 21–30, use diphthongal realizations of /aɪ/, whereas only 11% use monophthongal or intermediate realizations of /aɪ/. The change toward the diphthongization of /aɪ/ is led by young female Texans, as 92% of the 11% still using the monophthongization were males.
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 large urban areas and small cities. The urban-rural linguistic split mainly affects phonological phenomena.
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.
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. As David B. Parker found out, the term y’all first appeared in the Southern Literary Messenger (published in Richmond, Virginia) in April 1858. 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:
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. 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:
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.)
All y'all may be used to refer to a broader group of people when y'all has already referred to a constituent subgroup. All y'alls may then expand the group of reference to another degree.
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. 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. However, some linguists, i.e. Marvin K. Ching, regard it as being a quasimodal rather than a verb followed by an infinitive. 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. It is a term used by all social groups, although more frequently by 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. The term is also more prevalent in rural areas 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". 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.
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, for example, finds that educated people try to avoid multiple modals, whereas Montgomery 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.
Possible double modals used by Texans as examined by Di Paolo are:
|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. 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.
Beside the three already mentioned grammatical features, there are a few others which aren’t used or are only rarely used today:
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.
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. Moreover, it cannot occur on –ing forms functioning as nouns or adjectives. Thus, sentences like *the movie was a-charmin’ are ungrammatical. 'A' can only be a prefix of verbs or complements of verbs with –ing. 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.
This kind of grammatical feature is most often used in Black English Vernacular but also white people in Texas use it. 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. But here again the use of the third person singular marker –s in the plural is also declining in frequency.
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. The construction can be found in Middle English as in Marlowe's Edward II: "Cousin, it is no dealing with him now".
Like't'a is a conjunction of "like to have" coming from Appalachian English. It is most often seen as a synonym of almost. Accordingly, the phrase I like't'a died would be I almost died in Standard English. With this meaning, like't'a can be seen as a verb modifier for actions that are on the verge of happening. Furthermore, it is more often used in figurative than in a literal sense.
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 can be found not only in Texan English, but also in other varieties of Southern American English and African American vernaculars.
Many of these lexical terms are shared with the Midland and Southern dialects generally:
Due to Spain's past influence in Texas, 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.
Conditional syntax in requests:
Conditional syntax in suggestions:
Conditional syntax creates a distance between the speaker’s claim and the hearer. It serves to soften obligations or suggestions, make criticisms less personal, and to express politeness, respect, or courtesy.
Texans also often use "evidential" predicates such as think, reckon, believe, guess, have the feeling, etc.:
Evidential predicates indicate the certainty of the knowledge asserted in the sentence is, or how it was acquired. According to Johnston, 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. As is the case with conditional syntax, evidential predicates can also be used to soften criticisms and to afford courtesy or respect.
In its beginning Texas was populated by numerous native tribes before the first European explorers arrived. The Spanish were the first Europeans to visit the region in the 16th and 17th centuries. Since then Texas had continuously been a part of New Spain. 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. 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 (Georgia, Tennessee, Kentucky, Virginia, the Carolinas, Missouri, and Arkansas) dominated most of northern and central Texas. 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 who moved to this area mainly came from the Upper South. 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. 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 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. 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. 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 Mexico. In the beginning of the 20th century after the Mexican Revolution of 1910-1920 there was a great number of Mexicans which immigrated to Texas. This then slowed down in the mid of the 20th century only to increase massively since 1990. Due to the large number of Mexican immigrants Spanish will continue to have a great influence on the Texan dialect of English.
The history of immigration not only made 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". Texas had a unique history, an individual migration process, and an existence as an independent Republic. All these factors contributed to form Texan English.
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".
The Texan accent gained nationwide fame with the presidency of native Texan Lyndon B. Johnson. A lifelong resident of the Texas Hill Country, Johnson's thick accent was a large part of his personality and brought attention and fame to the dialect.
The Texan dialect gained fame again when George W. Bush started to serve as president. The former President, who moved to West Texas at the age of two, always emphasized his connection to Texas by retaining his dialect during his time in office. His dialect was particularly heavy. Words like America sometimes sounded like "Amur-kah" or even just like "Mur-kah". Former U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson also speaks with a distinctively Texan accent.
Although the state of Texas does not have an official language, the majority of all Texans speak English. Because of the large number 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. Recent data shows that Spanish is still increasing. Since there are so many Spanish speakers in Texas, Spanish has a high impact on the English dialect spoken in Texas. 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 mostly 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. In addition to Spanish, there are several other non-English languages, but compared to Spanish they are not very common (see table).
|All languages other than English combined||6,858,870||33.64%|