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Does hillbilly slang (for lack of better words) fall under a type of English language and if not, what is it referred to as, if anything?

Such as:

Ch'out!= combo of "watch out!" combined.

y'all = you all

reckon = do you think? Used: "You reckon she's ok?"

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    Perhaps dialectal English. – Weather Vane Sep 23 at 17:38
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    "Ch'out!" y'all, and reckon are far more broadly used than simply by "Hill-billies" - not at term you should really use as it is vague and somewhat disparaging."Y'all" is quite common throughout the Southern States and I, (BE speaker) might use "Ch'out!" and I do use "reckon". – Greybeard Sep 23 at 17:47
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    As a hillbilly by upbringing, "ch'out" isn't anything I remember hearing, "y''all" is widespread southern US English, and "reckon" is perfectly standard general English. – jamesqf Sep 24 at 3:29
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    "reckon" goes all the way back to Old English. "Y'all" may be headed for being the standard second person plural form. – Gort the Robot Sep 24 at 4:12
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    Reckon isn't slang, your example is standard usage of the word. – nnnnnn Sep 24 at 4:34
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The answer to the question "is it a type of English" is definitely "yes". While the lines between "language" and "dialect" and "local slang" can blur, it's obvious that certain geographical areas have their particular style of speech, and these local variants are certainly studied as regional and local dialects, and not (as some people might claim) as "mistakes" or errors in speech.

Here's a good podcast episode by linguist John McWhorter about what constitutes a "dialect" vs a "language", if you want to learn more about what makes a "type of English".

And as for your specific dialect in question, "hillbilly" usually refers to residents of the Appalachian and Ozark mountains in the eastern USA, and they have a rich and quite distinct dialect with its distinct phonology and vocabulary. The Wikipedia entry for "Appalachian English" lists as references many books published on the topic, if you want to read up more on it.

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    I thought the major difference between a dialect and a language is that a language is a dialect with an army. – Stian Yttervik Sep 24 at 14:56
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    A language is a dialect with a good public relations firm. – Avner Shahar-Kashtan Sep 24 at 15:06
  • @StianYttervik: The original quote adds "and a navy". – Michael Seifert Sep 24 at 20:17
  • I'd be more interested in book published in Appalachian than books about Appalachian :) – Mad Physicist Sep 25 at 17:39
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I've voted up the "Appalachian English" answer, but depending on what you mean, there has historically been a larger sub-dialect area in the US referred to as "South Midland" with related or sub-dialects that include Appalachia and the Ozark highlands in Missouri*. It has often been ethnically associated with the in-migration of the Scotts-Irish in America. There's a discussion of it on Robert Delaney's website. It can effectively be considered a "highlands" accent, which sounds more like standard Midlands the further from the rural hills you go.

enter image description here

A lot of South Midland isn't super noticeably different from the rest of Midland (which many consider "Standard American English"), except in a few details. Using "you all" for second person plural is my favorite, but linguists seem to prefer to talk about things like "cot-caught merger". However, in the Ozarks and Appalachia the difference is much more pronounced.

Second person plural map: enter image description here (Its a bit tough to see, but there's a lot of yellow "You all" in that whiteish in-between area)

Cot-Caught merger map: enter image description here Green is complete, yellow is in process.

Pen-pin merger map: enter image description here At first glance this looks "southern", but then you notice it extends well up into standard Midlands areas like Kansas City and Indianapolis as well.

For background, I grew up in Tulsa, OK, and have been often told I have "no accent". However, for me "caught" and "cot" are homonyms, as are "pin" and "pen", and the proper second person plural in English is "you all". These are just facts, and I cannot be convinced otherwise.


* - Current linguistic opinion is that this dialect has slowly become subsumed by "North" Midland, and they are today similar enough to not be considered separate dialects. However, there's still lots of older recorded media out there (not to mention older human beings) from when that wasn't the case.

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    I suspect that pin-pen circle in California is linguistic evidence of the Okie Dust Bowl migrations. – T.E.D. Sep 24 at 16:08
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    What is the place labeled "12" on the first map? Is it DC? And what name goes with "3"? I expect answers to those questions are on a web site from which you copied the map, but you haven't told us where to find that. – Michael Hardy Sep 24 at 20:42
  • @MichaelHardy - I didn't make the map, so you're not exactly asking the expert here. However, I suspect the "Pennsylvania German-English" label was meant to go with that 12 (Amish?) and the "New England Western" label with 3. You can go look at the maps in context at the website I linked. Who knows, the author might even respond to requests. – T.E.D. Sep 24 at 21:54
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I've seen it described as "Appalachian English" or the 'Appalachian Dialect'. (From Wikipedia):

Appalachian English is a variant of American English native to the Appalachian mountain region of the Eastern United States.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Appalachian_English

This article specifically links 'Hillbillies' with Appalachian English

After years of association with "The Beverly Hillbillies," Appalachian people are taking back their dialect.

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  • The question uses expressions that are not hillybilly or Appalachian. They are southern and/southwestern, too. – Lambie Sep 24 at 19:47
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Could be called a Patois (pat-wah) which is speech or shared language that is considered "nonstandard" though this is not defined formally. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Patois

It is not a Pidgin because that is a simplified crossover of two languages - the meeting of two circles in a Venn diagram.

It is also not a Creole, which is a stable natural language developed from a mixture of different languages. If there are a good percentage of loan words from outside english, then perhaps this could fit.

The phrase Dialect would fit, but Vernacular is better because it has a strong geophysical connection. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vernacular

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