The Legendary Language of the Appalachian “Holler”
Is the unique Appalachian dialect the preserved language of Elizabethan England? Left over from Scots-Irish immigrants? Or something else altogether?
I took a slow and southerly journey through the Appalachian mountains this summer, hoping to hear the strains of some lost southern speech emerging from hill to hollow along its twisted roads. As the linguistic legend goes, the Appalachian dialect is reputedly so odd and so archaic, hundreds of years out of step with the rest of the English-speaking world, that you “might could” ask, as Shakespeare would have it, “What country, friends, is this?”
Well even if Appalachia is America’s mythical Illyria, where rugged mountain men and folk heroes like Daniel Boone roam about checking on their moonshine, some think Shakespeare might feel right at home. In fact, some say that the speech of the southern mountaineers is “pure Elizabethan English” just as Shakespeare would have spoken it. Others go even further and claim that “the dialect of the Appalachian people is the oldest living English dialect, older than the speech of Shakespeare, closer to the speech of Chaucer,” apparently preserved by a brutally impoverished rural existence in the isolation of their mountain fastness, with little contact from the modern civilizing ways of outsiders. CLICK TO CONTINUE
Photo Credit: Jean Cassidy
Neils Creek and Celo Knob