St. Louis on the Air
4:46 pm
Wed February 13, 2013

Missour-ee Or Missour-uh? Talking About Talking In St. Louis And Beyond

Is it Missour-ee or Missour-uh?

Those two pronunciations of the state, according to linguist John Baugh of Washington University in St. Louis, peacefully co-exist and are “indicative of all of the linguistic collisions from the rest of the country that happen in our wonderful city.”

Baugh and linguist Cindy Brantmeier of Washington University joined host Don Marsh to talk about how language forms, evolves, and is spoken differently throughout the United States.

“When the state was first settled, the Missour-uh pronunciation was prevalent and pervasive,” Baugh said.  “There were others who moved from the East to St. Louis that used the Missour-ee pronunciation though because the city of the St. Louis was so crucial to westward movement, the rural dialects from the South and from the West merged at the same time that you had travelers coming from other parts of the country.”

A robust discussion with examples of regional dialect from wash vs. worsh and farty-four vs. forty-four to sink vs. zink and chawklet vs. chocolate took place on our Facebook page.

Feel free to check it out and join the discussion.

Role Of Technology

While relatively new technological communication trends such as using “internet language” and texting impact language, technological advances have long influenced communication.

“The people from England who settled Boston came from a different part of the dialect regions of England than those who settled the South.  And because the eastern part of the (United States) was settled prior to the Industrial Revolution, people got around by horse and buggy or on foot and, as a result of that, the dialect regions fossilized,” said John Baugh.

Cindy Brantmeier explained how recent technological advances in communication influence language.  “If you look at technological influences in written English, as a linguist, I’m fascinated by the texts I get from friends.  I don’t look at the content of what they’re saying, but rather the linguistic morphological aspects of what they’re sending me over texts,” she said.

Noticing Changes In Language

“(Linguistic) changes are difficult to detect within one’s lifetime.  It’s like the erosion process. You can look at rocks and know intellectually they are suffering erosion but not be able to detect it physically and depending upon the linguistic change we’re considering, it’s difficult at times for people who are actively using the language to sense those changes as they’re ongoing.” – John Baugh

St. Louis Language Is Unique

“We know from linguistic evidence that St. Louis is the one place in the country where all of the regions seem to collide. It’s where the south meets the north, it’s where the east meets the west and as the Gateway City, from a linguistic point of view, it’s absolutely rich and fascinating.” – John Baugh

More Information About Our Guests

John Baugh

Margaret Bush Wilson Professor in Arts & Sciences and Professor of Linguistics at Washington University in St. Louis.  John was recently named a founding co-editor of a new electronic journal on linguistics and public policy. Language, the official journal of the Linguistic Society of America, will publish in three new areas: Teaching Linguistics, Public Policy and Perspectives. John will serve as co-editor of Public Policy. 

Baugh has also completed groundbreaking research concerning voice discrimination, as we talked about toward the end of the show.

Cindy Brantmeier

Associate Professor of Applied Linguistics in the Department of Romance Languages and Literatures at Washington University in St. Louis.

Brantmeier was recently honored as Washington University’s recipient of the 2012 Emerson Excellence in Teaching Award. The annual award from Emerson recognizes top educators from the St. Louis region for their passion for teaching, their impact on student learning, and their knowledge and creativity.

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