Dialect Differences in Central Pennsylvania: A Socio-Historical Account of Regional Dialect Use and Adaptation by African American Speakers in the Lower Susquehanna Valley

Document Type


Publication Date

Spring 2009

Department 1

Africana Studies


This study examines the sociohistorical acquisition and non acquisition of the regional dialect by African Americans who are at least second-generation residents (i.e., natives) of Pennsylvania's Lower Susquehanna Valley (including Harrisburg, York, and Lancaster). The linguistic factors that are considered are region-specific elements of lexicon and syntax; social and historical factors involve the migrant African Americans' relationships to the European American community including physical location (rural vs. urban, integrated vs. segregated), socioeconomic status, rates and types of contact among speakers, and the connections maintained by the relocated members to their home communities. Findings show that European Americans still use substantially more of the local expressions, and that the region's rural African Americans are no more likely to integrate the local lexicon into their everyday usage than the African Americans who reside in the area's urban centers. Despite the fact that urban Lower Susquehanna Valley African Americans are often closely connected to larger African American communities and have decreased rates of contact with non--African Americans, they also show evidence of familiarity with and usage of the local lexicon and report more usage of regional syntactic patterns (e.g., the car needs washed) than do the rural African American participants.


Original version is available from the publisher at: http://americanspeech.dukejournals.org/content/84/1/27.abstract



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