Saturday, July 20, 2013
During our trip up to Williamsport, Pennsylvania this past week we experienced an interesting phenomenon unfamiliar to most in the northern states. While geographically we headed north in the commonwealth, with regard to demographics we headed south. This great commonwealth has an interesting dichotomy in that Philadelphia and Pittsburgh are politically and culturally northern while everything in between is southern in character and, in some places, dialect hence the term Pennsyltucky.
During a very nice trolley tour we observed a clear cut example of this contradiction when, while exiting the vehicle, a southern family of three bid their farewell to the driver and thanked them for a wonderful tour. In response, he said “hope y’all have a good time.” This immediately stopped them in their steps and prompted a conversation that was more akin to four old friends catching up and talking about the good old days rather than between some tourists and a tour guide.
Obviously they didn’t expect to hear the sounds of the southern twang in Pennsylvania which is a common misconception. People seem to assume that as soon as you venture north of the Mason-Dixon Line the southern drawl magically disappears. The same can also be said of those who head south expecting the dialect to change as soon as they pass this cultural line of demarcation.
There have been multiple studies to map out the different dialects throughout this country and the one thing that has remained constant in each and every one of them is the fact that man made boundaries have no noticeable impact on the way people speak. This is not surprising. However, what is quite interesting is the influence that accent and dialect have on human relations.
Basically,studies have concluded that people more easily connect with those they share a commonality with and one of the most profound connections people experience is in regard to accent and dialect. These are the two most telling attributes that help us determine where and when someone might have lived and, therefore, can establish an immediate commonality and certain level of trust (or distrust in some situations). Inflection, enunciation, and pronunciation are all telling factors that have a tremendous impact on the impression we leave on others.