Saturday, September 3, 2005

A dialect diaspora?

There have been reports of Louisiana residents relocating all over the country, from Texas to Tennessee to Virginia and elsewhere. (In particular, three cheers to Washington, DC, for this effort and to the Catholic Diocese of Washington for arranging for the incoming refugees not to stay at the Armory, but to find homes for them with area families and landlords with empty apartments they are willing to donate for a time.)

Depending on just how many people relocate, and how far, and how permanently, a very interesting phenomenon may result. 40 years from now, people all over the southeast will have a good chance of knowing someone whose parents moved from the New Orleans area. What effect will such a diaspora have on the language or accent of the South? Maybe none, or nothing much. Then again, maybe something. Just thinking about the Lousianans and especially the cajuns I've met, I have a feeling what makes their dialect so unique will not just die out. Also, as a New Yorker living in Virginia, in an area where many kids have parents from New York, I know one never completely 'blends in' in such circumstances. So with French words and other N'Ollins peculiarities popping up wherever generous souls have opened their homes to today's refugees--what change might this effect on southern accents as a whole? Imagine, say, a Virginian travelling through Alabama in 2040. He hears a cajun word, and understands it because his friend back home says the same thing. Maybe he doesn't even think of it as a cajun word by then.

Maybe it won't turn out to have any major effect, but it could be one small thing the Southern states find they have common with each other, and something else to differentiate them from the rest of the country. Has anything similar happened in history? What do you think? Tawk amongst yuhselves....


polyglot conspiracy said...

I've thought the same thing but haven't been able to articulate it. All I kept thinking is some sort of string of associations: "Creole" "NOLA dialect" "notoriously unique" "speakers displaced/dispersed" "sociolinguistic effects" etc.

(Is it awful to be wondering about the linguistic consequences of a natural disaster, when there are tangible ones to be worried about that seem far more important? The ethics of this are eating at me.)

King Alfred said...

Heh, unless such thoughts actually keep us from something we should be doing, I wouldn't worry too much about it. It won't do for the rest of us to stop our lives entirely out of false sympathy. We stop, we pray for them, we do what we can, then we continue our own duties and lives.

Glad someone else thought of it this way, too. :-)