Among the unexpected findings, said Guy Bailey, a linguistics professor at the University of Texas at San Antonio and a leading scholar in the studies with his wife, Jan Tillery, is that in Texas more than elsewhere, how you talk says a lot about how you feel about your home state.
"Those who think Texas is a good place to live adopt the flat `I' — it's like the badge of Texas," said Dr. Bailey, 53, provost and executive vice president of the university and a transplanted Alabamian married to a Lubbock native, also 53.
So if you love Texas, they say, be fixin' to say "naht" for "night," "rahd" for "ride" and "raht" for "right."
And by all means say "all" for "oil."
At the same time, the speech of rural and urban Texans is diverging, Dr. Bailey said. Texans in Houston, Dallas, Fort Worth and San Antonio are sounding more like other Americans and less like their fellow Texans in Iraan, Red Lick or Old Glory.
Perhaps the most striking finding, Dr. Tillery said, was the spread of the humble "y'all," ubiquitous in Texas as throughout the South. Y'all, once "you all" but now commonly reduced to a single word, sometimes even spelled "yall," is taking the country by storm, the couple reported in an article written with Tom Wikle of Oklahoma State University and published in 2000 in the Journal of English Linguistics. No one other word, it turns out, can do the job.
True story: When I was contracting for the large multinational firm which now employs me, the person who handled my timekeeping was in northern Virginia. One day she told my Houston-based boss that she thought I had a "cute Texas accent". My boss, a fellow transplanted Yankee, politely informed her that I'm a native New Yorker, then died laughing. It's still the only example I know of where I was given that designation.
UPDATE: Stephen Bates has a slightly different take on drawls, twangs, and other speech patterns.Posted by Charles Kuffner on December 03, 2003 to The great state of Texas | TrackBack