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Drums and Shadows, by Georgia Writer's Project, [1940], at

p. xix


Pronunciation of individual words, elision, and emphasis play almost equal roles in the Negro speech of this section. Except for the spelling of surnames, dialect in the interviews has been faithfully transcribed. Great care has been taken to try to represent the pronunciation, but to have represented literally the elision and emphasis would have made the text unintelligible to the average non-scientific reader. Therefore the elision has been moderated and the emphasis left to the reader. Diacritical marks have not been used because it was thought it would give the text too foreign an appearance, and apostrophes commonly used in dialect have been discarded for simplification. Many variations in pronunciation occur even in a small area; younger members of a community speak differently from older, the better educated differently from the less well educated. Excitement or emotion often throws the speaker back into a type of speech which ordinarily he no longer uses. Almost universally uh is substituted for er and d for th, though there are more exceptions to the latter than to the former. An h is nearly always substituted for an r following a vowel and ah is substituted for the terminal re; thus here becomes heah. This latter spelling is as near as can be achieved, and though the diphthong is present the e is very short. In certain cases persons have learned to pronounce certain words correctly while other words of the same type will still be spoken in dialect. Mother is a common example of this. The th in this word has often been deliberately learned though the final er will still be

p. xx

pronounced uh. Initial syllables are often pronounced differently from the same syllable occurring in the middle of a sentence. The pronoun I at the beginning of a sentence is almost always pronounced correctly, whereas I in the middle of the sentence is usually pronounced uh. Thus the same word often varies according to its importance and the need of the speaker for emphasis, and so on, ad infinitum. Some of the above mentioned points may not seem worthy of mention to the student familiar with white speech of the same section. But because the white speech has many similarities of pronunciation, it does not make the recorded speech of these studies any less of a dialect nor any less of a variation from standard speech.

African parallels will be found in the appendix. These have been grouped according to subjects and the subjects arranged alphabetically and numbered consecutively. Text reference numbers (Arabic) refer to the appendix numbers where pertinent parallels may be found. Where an appendix number is followed by a letter, the parallel under this heading is especially noteworthy. Though European parallels could be cited for many of the cultural patterns, the citations in the appendix have been limited to African material both because the European material is better known and because the African parallels suggest interesting lines of investigation.

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