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North Carolina Dialects


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It’s been too long since I’ve posted here, but things have been quite hectic. I’ve had a couple projects for a business that provides self storage in Greenville South Carolina and then another, sister facility that also provides self storage near Greenville. Work outside of those has stayed pretty busy and we just got back from a Surfside Beach vacation (South Carolina). So, I’m looking back seeing my plans for one post a week and realizing that is probably too ambitious. (Especially since I had the same goal for each of my sites….) So, instead of trying to make that goal, I expect to be looking at one good post a month (give or take) and spending more time on working on improving the existing county pages (which I see as the main centerpiece of the site.) The day after we got back though there was a fascinating afternoon of programming on the NC channel of the UNCtv network. It was all about the different dialects in North Carolina….


If you’ve traveled our state you will know the great variety of pronunciation, grammar and even vocabulary you will find across our state. These programs focused on the Lumbee dialect found in Robeson County, which they say is/was primarily influenced by the Lumbee Indians (whom I believe are the majority population in Robeson County.) There are some vocabulary similarities with the Brogue found in the coastal islands like Ocracoke and the other Outer Banks areas. Some speculate that the members of the Lost Colony may have moved inland and shared their accent and style of speech with the tribes they intermarried with, it’s nearly impossible to be certain, but it is an interesting theory.

The coastal brogue is beautiful to listen too, there were some people interviewed that claimed people had asked if they were from Australia or Ireland (and you can tell why, there is a bit of a lilt.) They say that since the bridges to the islands along the North Carolina coast have only come in the last 75-80 years that these areas were obviously very isolated for many generations and that explains the dialect difference.

A certain amount of time was also spent on the mountain dialects and how they vary from county to county in the Blue Ridge Mountains (just as the coastal brogue varies from one island community to the next.)

There of course were also discussions of the Spanish accent that is increasingly heard in our state as well as the dialects of the African American community in different corners of the state (urban and rural). One piece that I thought was somewhat sad was a look at the dialect in the Charlotte area and how many say that they are losing that accent as they become more and more a business center. Why is it sad? I don’t know, but the variety is nice, it’s sad to me to see every place start to look and sound alike. Communities lose their character that way in my view.

I remember when we lived in Rocky Mount for a short time I had the hardest time understanding our down east mechanic. Sometimes he would rattle something off at a surprising pace that just outran my ear….. In these programs they talked about how diverse North Carolina is linguistically with all of these dialects and I suspect it is one of the more diverse states in the nation for that (outside of states that perhaps have a more varied immigrant community…)

If languages interest you, I would definitely look for materials on this topic… of course I am fascinated by language and languages and even have a site devoted to the study of new languages which is probably why it piqued my interest, but also from a cultural heritage standpoint, these people interviewed spoke about how the dialects really define their community.