North Carolina 11

Listen to North Carolina 11, an 83-year-old woman from Burnsville, North Carolina, United States. Click or tap the triangle-shaped play button to hear the subject.

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AGE: 83


PLACE OF BIRTH: Hertford, North Carolina

GENDER: female

ETHNICITY: Caucasian

OCCUPATION: housewife

EDUCATION: college


The subject was born in Hertford, in the northeastern part of North Carolina. After the age of 8, her family moved to Burnsville, in the the western part of the state, which has a different and distinctive dialect.


The subject has absorbed the dialect of  Burnsville, which is in western North Carolina, in the Appalachian Mountains. This lively 83-year-old has been described as “the funniest woman God ever created.” She describes herself as “a housewife and ne’er-do-well.” Her deceased husband was the town mayor. The town is now largely one of shopkeepers, but income used to derive from the textile plants and growing tobacco, still a source of ancillary income in this rather poor county.

The text used in our recordings of scripted speech can be found by clicking here.







One Sunday mornin’, we had a very unusual thing to happen at my house. I went upstairs to make the bed and we, uh, we’ve always had, uh, something — some vehicle , uh, just rottening down in our yard. For some reason or other, it seems to make the grass grow or either it makes the rest of us, uh, you know, realize that we don’t live forever. Well, we had, uh, my husband Mark was a very, uh, well, he was right exciting. I never was bored with ‘im, tell you the truth but, anyway, we had been keepin’ a white poodle dog that had been given to our daughter for a wedding present by her mother-in-law. Uh, my daughter and her husband were in Chapel Hill at the time an’– which is a whole lot hotter than our native, uh, climate and, so, Mark had gotten attached to the dog, an’ so he decided that he would — didn’t want the dog to stay in Chapel Hill, but he wanted to keep it here with us. So he got more n’ more attached to it. Well, uh, the dog slept under our bed, he slept on top of the bed if Mark wan’t at home — which he was traveling and he wan’t at home sometimes — but anyway the dog would sleep on top of the bed when he wasn’t there and under the bed when he was there. Well, this Sunday mornin’ that I’m talkin’ about Mark decided — we had this old truck that had been rottenin in the yard, you know, fo’ years — and Mark had gotten th’ engine so it would run, but the truck was most dilapidated and, you know, uh, the whole sides were rotted out, but he and Cyrie — the dog’s name was Cyrano de Bergerac and we called him Cyrie fo’ short — well, Mark took Cyrie and he said, “Come on, Cyrie, we’re goin’ over to, uh, come on, we’re goin’ t’ ride in the truck.” So Cyrie he got in the truck and he sat up straight in the front seat, and that was the funniest lookin’ thing you’ve ever seen in your life, to see Mark Benny with a poodle dog sittin’ in the front seat o’ the truck. [Laughs] Well, his, his mother and his two, uh, sisters, uh, very well to do people in town, uh, always went to the Methodist Church on Sunday mornin’, which Mark didn’t go — we didn’t go to church at that time. He also had a s’ brother-in-law that, uh, always went over to the New-Ra Inn [spelling?], which’s right in the middle of town on the square, uh, or I should say on the square in the middle o’ town, but anyway, he always, uh, went over and sat with the top down on his convertible, with his flat straw hat on an’ a rosebud in his buttonhole [giggles] in his lapel, and, so, Mark always, I mean, at this time he was goin’ t’ show out, I think, you know, try t’ embarrass the family, ‘cause he got Cyrano in the truck and they were goin’ over — almost the time church let out was about the time Mark was gonna pass by the Meth’dist Church [laughs] and drive on aroun’ t’ the, t’ the, so that he would embarrass, um, Ernest sittin’ there with his rosebud on. [laughs] Well, he got him in the truck and he said, “Come on, Cyrie, and let’s go.” Now he — I was upstairs makin’ up the beds and I was lookin’ out the window watchin’ and they didn’t know I was lookin’ at ‘em at all. So he got the dog in the car, I mean, in the truck, and here they started, and they got around the corner, and the motor died. Well, they, he had to back back, you know, and he said, “Get out, Cyrie, let’s see what’s wrong.” So he lifted the hood, and he fumbled around with it and then he started up again, and so, he said, “Come on, Cyrie, now let’s go,” this time. So this happened three times, and Cyrie was gettin’ very impatient and I all the time I was lookin’ out the window and they didn’t have any idea I was lookin’ at ‘em, and finally he said, “Now come on, we are ready this time.” And when [laughs] Cyrie got out of the car, Mark got out of the car, Cyrie came around and bit him on the leg, [laughs] and Mark said, “Why you little son-of-a-bitch, you get in that car.” [laughs] So they proceeded to go right over and get there right when church was out, and right when Ernest was sittin’ in front o’ th’ — and I just thought, you know, that was really a …

TRANSCRIBED BY: Sandra Lindberg






The subject has a rich dialect that differs considerably from younger individuals of the same area. Like her younger neighbors, she uses a retracted “r” and eliminates consonants; for example, “sentimental” becomes “senimenal,” “kept” becomes “kep,” and “slept” is “slep.” However, some words or phrases are unique. She talks about a car “rottnin’ down” in the yard (rotting), and more commonly, that her husband was “right exciting.'” Unlike her younger neighbors, the subject consistently substitutes “in'” for “ing ” in words like “callin’,” singin’,” “talkin’,” etc. Final “y” is a short vowel (“territory,” “very”). A schwa precedes the vowel in “me,” “fleece,” and “seat.” The liquid “ju” in “huge” or “you” is preceded by a forward vowel. She uses the liquid “ju” in “duke.” “Time” and “right” are pronounced with a vowel, not a diphthong. “Daughter” uses the same vowel.  “All” becomes a diphthong, not a vowel, and begins with a front vowel. The “Choice” diphthong becomes two syllables beginning with the rounded “O.” Note that “thought” and “force” use the “O” vowel. The first part of the diphthong in “mouth” and “tower” is a front vowel. The vowel in “mess,” “bed,” “vet,” “bed,” and “end” is elongated. “Yellow” ends with a schwa. Check out the pronunciations of “law” and “dog,” which are distinctive and frequently heard. Also take note of “name,” which becomes a triphthong, and her unusual pronunciation of “unusual.” This is a delicious accent to do, even though it’s a lot of work.



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