“Hey, y’all! Sure is sunny out there today.”
“Good evening, gentlemen! The weather outside is most delightful.”
Let’s face it, we all judge people based on how they speak. Look at the two examples above. The first person may be classified as Southern, uneducated, or possibly a hillbilly. At the same time, he or she sounds rather friendly. The second person seems educated, upper class, maybe a little formal, or even stuffy. We can gather all this just from a few words on a page.
Human minds like to put people in different categories, and one of the major criterion we use is dialect. We can often tell where a person is from based only on the way they speak. This is not a bad thing; it just proves that we want to know all we can about other people because we’re interested in them.
The problem arises when we make snap judgments about others based solely on their manner of speaking. People with southern accents are commonly thought to be uneducated and backwards, even though this may not be the case at all.
Linguists spend much of their time studying various dialects. The United States alone has over 24 English dialects. Linguists have found that dialects are just as complicated, and often more complicated, than Standard English, the version of the language we are taught to speak in school and we are familiar with on the radio or television. In fact, the Southern dialect sounds more like British English than standard American English does.
In many ways, dialects represent America. We all put our own spin on the language, but we can understand each other and share our ideas across geographical lines. Dialects simply allow us to be individuals.
So embrace your dialect. If you’re Southern, don’t be afraid to sound like it. If you’re from New York, be proud of how you speak. Your version of English is just as valuable as anyone else’s.