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A drawl is a perceived feature of some varieties of spoken English, and generally indicates slower, longer vowel sounds and diphthongs. It is often perceived as a method of speaking more slowly, and may be erroneously attributed to laziness or fatigue. This particular speech pattern exists primarily in varieties of the English language, most noticeable of which are Southern American English, Broad Australian English, and Broad New Zealand English. It is believed to have its origin in the 1590-1600s Dutch or low German word "dralen /ˈdraːlə(n)/" meaning to linger.[1]

The most commonly recognized Southern Drawl features the diphthongization or triphthongization of the traditional short front vowels, as in the words pat, pet, and pit. These develop a glide up from their original starting position to [j] and, in some cases, back down to schwa.

Southern drawlEdit

The Southern American English drawl, or "Southern drawl", involves vowel diphthongization of the front pure vowels, or "prolongation of the most heavily stressed syllables, with the corresponding weakening of the less stressed ones, so that there is an illusion of slowness even though the tempo may be fast".[2]

CharacteristicsEdit

One characteristic of southern drawl is vowel breaking. That is, when a monophthong changes into a diphthong or triphthong (Monophthongization). In the case of southern drawl, the short front vowels [æ], [ɛ], and [ɪ] become accompanied by an off-glide [ə] (also known as a schwa) such as in the words pat [pæ(ə)t], pet [pɛ(ə)t], and pit [pɪ(ə)t].[3]

This is accompanied in older Southern American English by a second, very noticeable characteristic known as the loss of postvocalic /r/, or r-less speech for short. Along with the elongation of the vowels, in words with /r/ immediately following a laxed vowel or appearing at the end of the utterance the /r/ is dropped altogether, usually replaced by a schwa, or velar glide.[4] This speaking style is the most easily recognizable form of drawl among English speakers.

/æ/ → [æ(ə)] sat [sæt] > [sæi̯ət]
/ɛ/ → [ɛ(ə)] set [sɛt] > [sɛi̯ət]
/ɪ/ → [ɪ(ə)] sit [sɪt] > [sɪi̯ət]
  • Glide (schwa) - Pitch lowers, stretches in central vowels, and becomes lax
  • Monophthongs, Diphthongs, Diphthongs - singular, doublet, and triplet vowel 'sounds' in an utterance. Ex.: "Ha", "Heya" "Greetings!"

History[5]Edit

With their settlement of the Americas by immigrants from southern England and Scotland, where ‘r’less dialects had become popularized by prestige and adopted by the majority of speakers, the method of 'drawling' speech had already some root in the English language. As agriculture became more relevant, Southern European settlers slowly migrated south towards the prime farmlands of tidewater zones along the southern coast. Scottish immigrants, meanwhile, moved west and then south, following the major waterways.

The already popular 'English' ‘r’-less speaking patterns became more pronounced over time by the drawing out of vowels which we are familiar with today. Meanwhile, as slavery took hold in the economy of southern plantations, more and more Africans and soon-to-be African Americans were introduced to the r-less drawl pattern of English through their captors.

Meanwhile, the Northern-European drawl moved south from the midwest, bringing its own 'r'-full speech patterns to the mix. Rather than dropping the postvocalic /r/, the Northerner 'r'-full speech emphasized it.

In 1900's, well after these different speech patterns had established themselves to some degree in both the white and black populations of the South United States, the Great Migration (African American) drew large swathes of black people, culture, and their mixed form of drawling speech to the areas along the Sun Belt and west coast. This speech pattern had already become somewhat established as today's African American Vernacular English, and is by far the most common form of R-less southern speech.

Social perceptions of the Southern drawlEdit

A drawl in Southern English is often associated with social stereotypes, both positive and negative. Studies have shown that American adults tend to attribute Southern English with friendliness, and Northern English with intelligence. Many people consider Northern English a neutral, unmarked variety and do not even realize that it is an accent. The Southern drawl is associated with negative stereotypes with regard to intelligence and work ethic, with a drawl coming across as lazy or unintelligent. A study in 2011 by Rakic and others showed evidence that when people categorize others, a person's accent mattered more than apparent ethnicity.[6]

In 2014, the U.S. Department of Energy at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee offered a voluntary "Southern Accent Reduction" classes so that employees could be "remembered for what they said rather than their accents". The course offered accent neutralization through codeswitching. The class was cancelled due to the resulting controversy and complaints from Southern employees who were offended by the class which stigmatized Southern accents.[7] This event demonstrated that a bias exists against Southern variations of English, with Northern varieties being favored by some employers.

In a study of children's attitudes about accents, Tennessee children aged 5–6 were indifferent about the qualities of persons with different accents—while children from Chicago were not. Chicago children aged 5–6 (who spoke Northern English) were much more likely to attach positive traits to Northern speakers. The results of this study suggest that social perceptions of Southern English are taught by parents to children, and don't exist for any biological reason.[8]

Broad AustralianEdit

Broad Australian likely emerged from New South Wales in southeastern Australia in the early 1800s during a time when the population was significantly increasing due to the import of convicts. Many of these convicts came from Britain and Ireland showing what dialect Broad Australian was born from. However, the area was relatively cut off from outside influences which fostered growth of this new dialect. Then in the late 1800s people from New South Wales began to immigrate to other areas of the continent due to events such as increased overseas immigration and gold rushes.[9]

Vowel Changes[10]Edit

/oʊ/ has a lowered first target and a lowered and fronted second target

/u/ is lowered

/i/ significant onglide - The degree of this onglide is affected by age and is less marked by younger age than older age

/ɜ/ is fronted

/aʊ/ has a fronted and raised first target

/eɪ/ has a retracted first target

/aɪ/ has a retracted and raised first target

/ɪə/ has a diminished offglide

/ɛə/ has a diminished offglide

The "cavalry drawl" was a phenomenon of English-speaking officers of England, noted around 1840. Officers in smart[clarification needed] cavalry regiments would talk affecting a drawling delivery, and lisping.[clarification needed][11]

Broad New ZealandEdit

Broad New Zealand, much like Broad Australian, began taking hold in the late 1800s when people from the British Isles brought their varieties of English to New Zealand. The drawl in this regional accent is due to vowel shifts and diphthongization.[12]

SourcesEdit

  • Nagle Stephen, Sanders Sara L. (eds.) (2003). English in the Southern United States. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. pp. (pp)19, 26.CS1 maint: extra text: authors list (link)

ReferencesEdit

  1. ^ "drawl." Merriam-Webster.com. 2018. https://www.merriam-webster.com (8 May 2011).
  2. ^ McDavid, Raven I. (1968). "Variations in Standard American English". Elementary English. 45 (5): 561–608. JSTOR 41386367.
  3. ^ LaBouff, Kathryn (2007). Singing and Communicating in English: A Singer's Guide to English Diction. Oxford University Press. p. 268. ISBN 978-0195311396.
  4. ^ Schönweitz, Thomas (2001-09-01). "Gender and Postvocalic /r/ in the American South: A Detailed Socioregional Analysis". American Speech. 76 (3): 259–285. doi:10.1215/00031283-76-3-259. ISSN 1527-2133.
  5. ^ "Do You Speak American . Sea to Shining Sea . American Varieties . Southern | PBS". www.pbs.org. Retrieved 2018-12-10.
  6. ^ Fields, R. Douglas. "Why Does a Southern Drawl Sound Uneducated to Some?". Scientific American.
  7. ^ Schappel, Christian (August 2014). "Employer to Southern workers: You sound dumb and we can fix that". HR Morning.
  8. ^ Katherine D. Kinzler & Jasmine M. DeJesus (2012): Northern = smart and Southern = nice: The development of accent attitudes in the United States, The Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology, DOI:10.1080/17470218.2012.731695
  9. ^ Yallop, Colin (2003). "A. G. Mitchell and the Development of Australian Pronunciation". Australian Journal of Linguistics. 23:2 (2): 133–136. doi:10.1080/0726860032000203146.
  10. ^ Harrington, Jonathan (1997). "An acoustic phonetic study of broad, general, and cultivated Australian English vowels". Australian Journal of Linguistics. 17:2 (2): 157. doi:10.1080/07268609708599550.
  11. ^ Lawrence James (2 December 2010). Warrior Race: A History of the British at War. Little, Brown Book Group. p. 190. ISBN 978-0-7481-2535-7.
  12. ^ Gordon, Elizabeth (2004). New Zealand English: Its Origins and Evolution. Cambridge University Press. pp. 100–101. ISBN 9781139451284.