Monday, June 03, 2013

Idear Will Be The Last To Fall

I have mentioned that much of the Eastern New England accent, which sounds its O and other low vowels a little differently while dropping some r’s and adding others, still persists in NH, though much weakened. The dropped-r (officially called non-rhoticity) in cards, or marked is more subtle now, but I don't believe the added-r at the end of words has diminished at all.  Many feminine names end in –a,* which in NH can still be pronounced –er, as in Christiner, Aniter, Wander, Rebeccer. The –a sound is more likely to be retained after a soft consonant, so it is rarer to hear Carler or Sarer (though they do occur). Lots of medical words end with the –a sound as well, created out of Greek and Latin roots, so here at the hospital one hears nurses saying nausear (sounds like NAW-zhur, not NAH-zee-ur), dystonier, dyslexier.

Yet strongest of all is idear.  People who add the R onto no other words might retain it there.  I don’t believe accents are actually going away, as is commonly claimed.  (It sounds plausible, but there’s actually not much evidence for it.  Most accents show up in vowels - which already have a lot of variety no matter long you put Hooked On Phonics on continuous loop in your kid’s ipod - and in dropped consonants, which already occur so often in English that they hardly raise a red flag when a particular region has variants.) But even if it is true, and Americans are homogenizing to the speech of Medina, Ohio, idear will still be around in 50 years.

*-a is a frequent feminine ending worldwide, which is part of Ruhlen’s argument for common origin of all languages.


Texan99 said...

I don't remember ever hearing anyone say "idear." You can tell I've never spent much time in New England.

Donna B. said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Donna B. said...

Texan99: or perhaps we can tell how much time you've spent in East Texas, Arkansas, Tennessee...

My aunt, born and raised in SW Arkansas and NE Texas by parents born in Tennessee and Alabama said "idear" as plain as day. I can still hear her saying "Why, the very idear..." of... whatever.

Texan99 said...

Now, you'd think I'd have noticed it more if it's NE Texas, because that's definitely my family: Nacogdoches and Lufkin, and some north Louisiana thrown in. Maybe I've just forgotten!

I have cousins in SC who sound just like Scarlett O'Hara was trying to sound (Vivien Leigh, I mean), and cousins in NC who could have been extras on the Beverly Hillbillies. I can remember my aunt yelling out the back door to my cousin to come in and "warsh yore haid," meaning bathe and wash his hair. Maybe she said "idear"? Maybe I'm so used to the sound that I think that's what it always sounds like. When I'm speaking colloquially I'll bet a bit a "r" slips into the end of the word.

What I've been noticing lately is a switching off of past and past perfect. I hear "she come to the store yesterday" and "she had came to the store." In one married couple I know, the one with a little more education in his family wouldn't think to switch them, but his earthy, backwoodsy wife always does. The kids follow Dad's usage.