Learning Southern & Texas Accents
WHAT WILL YOU DOWNLOAD?
The download contains one hundred four (104) minutes of systematic instruction in MP3 sound files. You’ll also get a printable PDF of the instruction manual. It contains summaries of the audio lessons and full transcripts of the drill words, phrases, and passages.
WHAT WILL YOU LEARN?
You’ll first learn contemporary “general Southern.” This pattern does NOT drop R’s after vowels. But it contains the inflections and basic pronunciations that make today’s Southern speech “sound” Southern. You’ll then branch into other regional and historic variations. Firstly, you learn the variations of the rural South and North Texas. Secondly, you’ll intensify that to create many regional and historical variations. These include historical R-dropping styles (Antebellum and Plantation), Mountain (Hillbilly) speech, and other sub-regional Southern and Texas locations. Here’s the program’s sequence of instruction.
- Lesson 1 first teaches the Southern glide or inflection heard on stressed syllables. Then you’ll using that trait to give emphasis to given words or ideas.
- Lesson 2 integrates the lilt with two diphthongs (double vowels) that often shorten to single vowels in Southern speech.
- The 3rd Lesson helps you combine the lilt with four vowels that add an extra stage at the beginning—becoming diphthongs.
- Lesson 4 provides drills for additional vowels.
- Lesson 5 begins with Southern pronunciations of several consonants. Then it teaches you to drop post-vowel R’s in some versions and pronounce them in others.
- The 6th Lesson puts general Southern together in several drill passages. Firstly, it reminds you about the lilt. Secondly, it walks you through target pronunciations phrase by phrase. It then shows you placement and pronunciation changes that create Rural, Mountain, and several Texas versions of the accent.
- The Final Lesson teaches you two historical, R-dropping Southern accents. I sometimes call these “Southern Belle” and “Plantation” styles.
MORE ABOUT AMERICAN SOUTHERN ACCENTS
When actors or directors contact me about needing “a Southern accent,” the first thing I ask is, “Which one?” True, there is a through line (an inflection or lilt on stressed syllables) that makes all Southern accents “sound Southern.” However, the overall differences in speech impression from sub-region to sub-region—often even within southern states—can be drastic. The “border” between Southern and non-Southern accent regions is probably farther north than many Americans think. The sound can be heard in the southern parts of Illinois, Indiana, and Kansas—none typically classified as “Southern States.”
AMERICAN SOUTHERN FOR TODAY’S ACTORS
Almost all North American English speakers recognize pretty much any American Southern accent as Southern regardless of its sub-region. And, clearly, the main identifying trait across the South is the Southern lilt or inflection.
- Several types of American Southern easily become stereotyped when actors overly used the lilt in a repetitive pattern. But actors can avoid this problem by using the glides (and changing their duration) to emphasize words and ideas.
- Also, many native speakers of the Mountain or Hillbilly variety of Southern are very difficult to understand by outsiders. If playing characters from those parts, you’ll need to make artistic modifications for intelligibility.
- The world of theatre is filled with plays by American Southern playwrights and others with Southern characters. Varieties of American Southern characters live in most scripts by Tennessee Williams and Beth Henley. Other popular plays: Robert Harling’s Steel Magnolias and Jack Heifner’s Vanities (both with great roles and all-female casts). Ironically, the Southern character in John Patrick’s The Hasty Heart is called “Yank.” (Although, when played by Ronald Reagan in the movie, he was no longer Southern.)