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Entries - Entry Category: Language

Arkansans versus Arkansawyers

The name for residents of Arkansas has long been a subject of controversy. A fundamental premise of Arkansas culture and lore is the impossibility of defining, categorizing, or otherwise pigeonholing its people as any single type or group. This resistance to uniformity is seen in the question of whether “Arkansas” should be pronounced like “Kansas.” Because that argument was settled in favor of ArkanSAW by the Arkansas legislature in 1881, it follows that the demonym—the name of the inhabitants of a locality—“Arkansans” makes no sense, given that they live in ArkanSAW, not ArKANSAS. Although “Arkansan” has become the standard usage, some of the state’s best-known writers have argued in favor of “Arkansawyer.” To confuse the issue further, another term, Arkansians, …


The classification of dialects is an inexact science, as it is often difficult to track the minute differences in grammar, vocabulary, phonetics, and intonation that distinguish one from the next, and more importantly, track how those changes occurred. Migratory routes provide a basic framework for identifying dialects across the country. Informed by this framework, linguists identify two umbrella dialects in the state of Arkansas: Midland, sometimes called South Midland or Mountain Speech, and Southern, which refers to east-coastal Southern speech. Geography also plays a decisive role in the distribution of dialects. The Ouachita Mountains, for example, form a natural barrier for language and culture. John Gould Fletcher observed as much in his historical study, Arkansas (1947): “One may say that there are …

Ozark English

A dialect called Ozark English is spoken in the Ozark Mountain region of northwestern Arkansas and southwestern Missouri. It is a close relative of the Scotch-Irish dialect spoken in the Appalachian Mountains, as many settlers migrated from Appalachia to Arkansas beginning in the late 1830s. Scholarship posits that the geographic location and subsequent isolation of the Ozark Mountains allowed for the preservation of select archaic properties of the dialect spoken by Appalachian settlers. This isolation fostered an independent development of the dialect that set Ozark English apart from what is widely considered standard American English. Like its Appalachian cousin, Ozark English is commonly linked to stereotypes that depict the mountain culture as backward and uneducated. Scholars began linking Ozark English …