An Examination of Southern Dialect
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Word Count: 2928 "This site is hellacious and outstanding!!" An Examination of Southern Dialect An Examination of Southern Dialect as Seen in the Works of William Faulkner In the writings of William Faulkner, the reader may sense that the author has created an entire world, which directly reflects his own personal experience. Faulkner writes about the area in and around Mississippi, where he is from, during the post-Civil War period. It is most frequently Northern Mississippi that Faulkner uses for his literary territory, changing Oxford to âJeffersonâ and Lafayette County to âYoknapatawpha County,â because it is here that he lived most of his life and wrote of the people he knew. Faulknerâ(tm)s stories focus on the Southeastern United States at a time period when old traditions began to clash with new ideals. This is an era in American history with which most people can quickly identify, whether they are Southern or not. The South in Faulknerâ(tm)s works are complete with all the expected features: an agricultural society, Southern belles and gentlemen, racial tensions, and especially the common characteristics of Southern speech. Faulkner strays from the normal customs of Northern literature to present a realistic portrait of the South that he grew up in. In doing so, he comes up with an excellent sample of the Southern language, including linguistic qualities of both black and white speech. Faulkner establishes a unique literary voice which is recognizable due to variances from standard English in vocabulary, pronunciation, and grammatical form, while juxtaposing speech elements foreign to anyone not familiar with Southern heritage.
It has been noted by researchers of Southern linguistics that a strong relationship exists between the rituals of black churches and everyday black speech customs. Examples of this relationship include religious reference, long pauses, swaying and gesturing, and repetition (Jones-Jackson 115-124). Although it is impossible to identify with many of these aspects of black speech while reading words on a page, it is clear that Faulkner takes advantage of those aspects that the readers can detect. For instance, all of his works display abundant uses of the words Jesus, heaven, and crucifixion, and sometimes choir hymns such as âall folks talkinâ(tm) bout heaven ainâ(tm)t gwine darâ appear in the speech of black characters (Brown 19-222). Other Negro language features common in Faulkner are loss of /r/ at the end of words as in âbettaâ for better, use of be substituted for all tenses of the word be, as well as the âzero copula, or possession indicated without a possessive morphemeâ (Stewart 57). Much of Faulknerâ(tm)s writing has viewed blacks humanely, giving them a significant voice in the Southern American culture. However, for the most part, the literature reflects the general social attitude towards blacks at the time, which renders their language substandard and basically inferior to that of most whites. In the stories of Faulkner, the author writes in his natural language which he learned growing up in Mississippi. This language, obviously, is what constitutes his literary dialect. Nevertheless, a closer observation of the linguistic style of his writing reveals exactly how he establishes this unconventional dialect.
First and foremost of these blemishes is the pervading tone of racism, automated by the appearance of the word âniggerâ in practically all of Faulknerâ(tm)s works. Although the word does represent the authenticity of Faulknerâ(tm)s dialect, it will always carry with it an arresting level of shame and disgrace. The feeling of racism is perpetuated by the fact that most of the Negro speech in Faulkner is slightly less standard than white speech, giving it a hint of inferiority. Although Faulkner explores the issue of racism with an open mind and even attempts to repudiate some of the negative connotations associated with blacks, his genuine Southern tongue cannot completely detach from the very real evils of racial injustice in Southern American history. Finally, the dialect in these stories, in all of its originality, continues to uphold the popular belief that Southern English is, in many instances, bad English employed by less intelligent speakers. This setback is mainly attributable in Faulknerâ(tm)s writing to the double negatives, use of ainâ(tm)t, and use of third person donâ(tm)t. Contrary to these negative opinions however, most of the cases of bad grammar here are actually remnants of archaic proper English rather than unintelligent corruptions of modern English. Thus Faulknerâ(tm)s storytelling dialect creates a lasting impression of his Southern world, encompassing both the common and unique, the positive and the negative. In demonstrating his ability to author such a realistic, yet original world, drawing on his own natural dialect, âFaulkner insists that life is narrative, based on the preeminence of language in our livesâ (Lockyer xii). By: AdamVanDeVeire For: Mrs.
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