On Thursday afternoon, the Linguistics Program at UT hosted a Linguistics Talk by Dr. Paul E. Reed, an assistant professor in the Department of Communicative Disorder at the University of Alabama. During the lecture, Reed discussed the impact of Appalachia on the region’s language, through his research done with Appalachian residents.

Reed completed his PhD at the University of South Carolina, and his research specialties are phonetics, phonology and intonation variation.

Reed began the lecture by explaining research done by Dr. Robert Agnew at Emory University. Agnew’s findings identified three components of place: locale, location and sense of place. Agnew defines locale as “the setting in which everyday life is concentrated for a group of people,” location as a “node that links the place to both wider networks and the territorial ambit it is embedded in” and sense of place as a “symbolic identification with a place as distinctive and constitutive of a personal identity and a set of personal interest.”

Reed explained that place and language are tightly related.

“Most people recognize that speakers from different areas sound slightly different,” Reed said.

According to one of Dr. Reed’s research sources, Barbara Johnstone at Carnegie Mellon University, regions and places are seen as meaningful places where individuals construct and select reference points. Reed added that depending on the individual, the impact one gets from the place one is from varies.

Reed added that place likely influences language due to local variations of pronunciation, lexical items, phrasing, syntax and other linguistic structures.

He also explained the emotional attachment that can be associated with particular places.

“A place can mean something to someone. It could be something that you orient yourself to or orient yourself away from,” Reed said.

Ultimately, Reed explained that one’s rootedness in place matters. Speakers who are more rooted in place than others often utilize more features associated with and indexical of a local area.

A speaker’s rootedness also affects different types of phonetic features such as monophthongization and rising pitch accents. In addition, Reed explained that rootedness interacts with other factors as well, such as gender, tasks and more.

According to Reed, his findings imply that the concept of rootedness provides further evidence that speech communities, even very small ones, are heterogenous and challenge the idea of a monolithic Appalachia or of a monolithic Appalachian English. 

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