Imagine my surprise when I went to Jamaica a few years ago and learned that I do, indeed, have an accent. You see, unlike my paternal grandmother, I don't stretch the word "cornbread" into four syllables. She might say, "Here. Have ye some co-orn-bray-ed;" whereas I might say, "You want some corn-bread?" See? Two syllables on the cornbread; "you" rather than "ye."
Unlike my maternal grandmother, I say "carrion" rather than "kyarn." In fact, I had no idea what she was talking about until recently when I mentioned the word to my husband. I told him, "Grandmother used to say, 'That stinks like kyarn.' I never figured out what 'kyarn' was." He said, "Road kill." My jaw dropped. "You mean, carrion? Kyarn is carrion?" "Yeah," he said. "Put the Appalachian accent to it." It made sense.
Unlike my mother-in-law, I say "they fought," not "they fit."
Thus, I concluded that I have no accent. After all, I'm fairly well educated. I studied French for three years, and I did some self-study of German and Greek. Plus, I'm well read, and I've authored several books. Ain't I the berries? I couldn't possibly have a hillbilly, Appalachian accent. And, yet, in Jamaica, everyone I met asked, "What part of the South are you from?"
So, I did a little research and learned that the Appalachian region has its own language. Linguists call it "Appalachian English." The Scots-Irish settled the entire region known as Appalachia (all of West Virginia and portions of Virginia, Pennsylvania, North Carolina, Kentucky, Tennessee and Georgia) in the mid-1700's. At the time, physical boundaries kept modernization out. Then in the 1940's, the Great Smoky Mountains National Park was created; and that brought tourists to the area. By the 1950's, highways and telephones were more prevalent throughout Appalachia, bringing the modern world another step closer to its rural inhabitants.
Now, I don't want you to think we in Appalachia are a bunch of snobs. We realize that the same immigrants who settled here settled land elsewhere, but the linguists tell us that our speech patterns will not be found in any other dialect to the extent that they are in Appalachia. In addition, we Appalachians use variants of our own speech patterns. Just because I don't use the same words as my grandmothers doesn't mean that I don't have an Appalachian accent. In fact, the linguists say that each region has its own speech patterns and that most of us allow our situations to govern our speech. For example, when I'm talking with my family, I'm liable to let down my guard a little