The Cambridge History of English and American Literature in 18 Volumes (1907–21).
VOLUME XVI. Early National Literature, Part II; Later National Literature, Part I.

V. Dialect Writers.

§ 16. Southern: Its Rules.

What is known as the Southern dialect may be formulated also in seven general rules:   44
  1. Like does duty for as if in such sentences as “He looks like he was sick.” This construction, says Lowell, is “never found in New England.”   45
  2. ’Low (allow), meaning think and say, though “never heard in New England” (Lowell), is very common among white and black illiterates, as it is in the pages of Bret Harte. Guess in the New England sense is also used, but New England cal’late (calculate) is unknown.   46
  3. Such words as tune, news, duty (but not true, rule, sue, dude) have the vanishing y-sound heard in few. 41  This pronunciation, like the retention of broad a, can hardly be called dialectal; but it is almost a shibboleth of the Southerner to the manner born, and helps to differentiate him from the Westerner and Northerner.   47
  4. The vanishing y-sound heard in gyarden, cyards, Cyarter, Gyarfield, is common in Virginia but less so in other parts of the South.   48
  5. The same may be said of broad a, intermediate a (halfway between father and fat) being distinctively academic and acquired.   49
  6. More, store, floor, four, door, and similar words are usually pronounced mo, sto, flo, fo, do by negroes. Among the white population the r is not pronounced but these words have two distinct syllables, the last syllable having the obscure uh sound heard in mower or stower. The tendency in the North and West to pronounce long o as au (in autumnal rather than in autumn) is not observable in the South.   50
  7. The most distinctive idiom in the South is the use of you all, meaning not all of you but you folks, you people, you boys, you girls. It may be addressed to one person but always implies more than one. If a Southerner says to a clerk in a store, “Do you all keep shoes here?” he means by you all not the single clerk but the entire firm or force that owns or operates the store. 42    51
  Notable writers of the Southern dialect besides Harris, Page, and Cable, are Richard Malcolm Johnston, 43  Charles Egbert Craddock, 44  and O. Henry. 45    52

Note 41. See Some Variant Pronunciations in the New South, by William A. Read, Dialect Notes, Vol. III, Part vii, 1911. [ back ]
Note 42. There is an interesting paragraph on this idiom in Jespersen’s Modern English Grammar, Part II, Syntax, First Volume (Heidelberg, 1914), pages 47–48. He compares it with East Anglian you together, “used as a kind of plural of you. [ back ]
Note 43. See also Book III, Chaps. IV and VI. [ back ]
Note 44Ibid., Chap. VI. [ back ]
Note 45Ibid. [ back ]