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AMERICAN ENGLISH
This article is from:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yat_%28New_Orleans%29

All text is available under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia:Text_of_the_GNU_Free_Documentation_License 

Yat (New Orleans)

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Yat refers to a unique dialect of English spoken in New Orleans, Louisiana. The term also refers to those people who speak with a Yat accent. The name comes from the common use amongst said people of the greeting, "Where y'at?" (Where you at?), which is a way of asking, "How are you?" The Yat dialect sounds similar to that of Brooklyn, New York natives, with influences from Louisiana Creole French and Southern American English. While the term Yat is usually reserved specifically for the strongest varieties of the New Orleans dialect within the city, the term often refers specifically to speakers of Yat, outside of the city proper, and around the rest of Louisiana, it is often used as a colloquial demonym for any person from New Orleans.

History

The origins of the accent are described in A. J. Liebling's book, The Earl of Louisiana, in a passage that was used as a forward to John Kennedy Toole's well-known posthumous novel about New Orleans, A Confederacy of Dunces:[1]

Historically, New Orleans was home to people of French, Spanish, and African heritage, which led to the creation of the Louisiana Creole language. The city came under U.S. rule in the Louisiana Purchase, and over the course of the 19th century, the dominant language of New Orleans gradually became non-rhotic English. An influx of Irish, Italian, and German immigrants during the 19th century, along with the city's geographic isolation, led to the creation of a new local dialect.

It is a common misconception that that the local dialect of New Orleans is Cajun. While certain Cajun words, such as jambalaya, have been incorporated into the vocabulary of Southern Louisiana, Cajun culture has had relatively little influence upon Yat. The confusion of the Cajun culture of Southern Louisiana with the Creole culture of New Orleans is largely due to the merging of these French cultures by the tourism industry.

This distinctive accent is dying out generation by generation in the city but remains very strong in the surrounding Parishes. However, Hurricane Katrina of the 2005 Atlantic hurricane season, and its resultant mass evacuation of New Orleans and other areas along the Mexican Gulf has further endangered the preservation of these dialects.[citation needed]

Local Variance

The Yat dialect is the most pronounced version of the New Orleans Accent. Natives often speak with varying degrees of the Brooklyn-esque accent, ranging from a slight intonation to what is considered full Yat. As with all dialects, there is variance by local speakers due to geographic, ethnic, racial, and social factors. This results in many different levels of Yat throughout the city, marking distinct differences between higher-income people, lower-income whites, lower-income African-Americans, and Creoles. African-American varieties of Yat have been significantly influenced by African American Vernacular English. Yat tends to differ in strength and intonation from neighborhood to neighborhood, regardless of race.

Longtime New Orleans residents can often tell what New Orleans neighborhoods other residents are from by their accent. Speakers of this dialect originated in the Ninth Ward, as well as the Irish Channel and Mid-City. While some remain there, most have moved to the suburbs of St. Bernard Parish, such as Arabi, Chalmette, Meraux, and Violet, as well as to the suburbs of Jefferson Parish, such as Gretna, Marrero, and Westwego. Slighter intonations of the dialect can be heard throughout the city, and the suburbs of Metairie and Kenner. As with many sociolinguistic artifacts, the dialect is usually more distinct among older members of the population.

Linguistic features

Pronunciation

There are also numerous phonological differences between words pronounced in the dialect and their standard equivalents. This most often occurs in the form a stress-shift towards the front of a word (i.e. 'insurance', 'ambulance' as ['inʃuɻəns], ['Šmbjə'lŠns]), or in the form of a change in vowel quality. Some of the most distinct features are:

  • the rounding and lowering in some cases of /a/ and /ɔ/ to [ɔʷ] (i.e., 'God,' 'on,' 'talk', become [gɔʷd], [ɔʷn], [tɔʷk])
  • the loss of rhoticization on syllables ending in /ɻ/ (i.e. 'heart,' fire' become [hɔʷt], ['fajə])
  • the full rhotacization of a syllable-internal /ɔj/ (i.e. 'toilet,' 'point' become ['tɝlɪt], [pɝnt]). This feature is more typical in men than in women.
  • the loss of frication in the interdental fricatives /θ/ and /­/ (i.e. 'the,' 'there,' 'strength' become [də], ['dŠə], [ʃtɻejnt])
  • the substitution of /ɪn/ or /ən/ (spelled -in, -en) for /ɪŋ/ (spelled -ing)
  • the split of the historic short-a class into tense [eə] and lax [Š] versions, as well as pronunciation of cot and caught as [kɑt] and [kɔt]
  • the coil-curl merger of the phonemes /ɔɪ/ and /ɝ/, creating the diphthong [ɜɪ], before a consonant, although this feature has mostly receded

And then there are words which can be pronounced differently, yet according to no particular pattern: 'lunch' [lɝntʃ], 'corner' ['kɔʷndə], 'sink' [zink], 'orange' [ɝndʒ], 'room' [ɻʊm], 'mayonnaise' ['mejnŠz], 'museum' [mju'zŠm], 'ask' [Šks], just to name a few examples.

New Orleans is pronounced [nə'wɔʷlɪnz], [nə'wɔʷlijənz] or with the /ɻ/ still intact. The 'Nawlins' [nɔlɪnz] of the tourist industry and the common [nuwɔɻ'linz] are not to be heard among natives. Louisiana is pronounced as the standard [lu'wiziŠnə] or a slightly reduced [lə'wiziŠnə], but never as ['luziŠnə].

Lexicon

  • Algerine or Algereen - a person from Algiers, New Orleans (Still common in Algiers, but now less common in other sections of the city except with older speakers)
  • Alligator Pear - an avocado
  • anyways - and, so; and, then
  • Arabian - a person from Arabi in St. Bernard Parish
  • banquette - the sidewalk (by now rarely heard except from some elderly)
  • beignet - (IPA:['bɛnjej]) a type of French doughnut, it is fried and has a lot in common with the sopaipilla. Typically served with coffee or cafÚ-au-lait, they can be found at Cafe du Monde and other cafÚs throughout the city.
  • brake tag - an inspection sticker on your car
  • brah or bruh - common form of address for men, as in "Say brah," or "How ya do bruh?"
  • bobo - a wound or bruise
  • boo - A term of endearment, often used by parents and grandparents.
  • by [location] - to be at or in someplace; a replacement for "at" or "to" when referring to a destination or location
  • cap - "sir"; a form of address between men who are usually unacquainted; from "captain"
  • Chalmatian - someone from Chalmette in St. Bernard Parish
  • charmer - a female Yat
  • chief - a term of address used among men
  • cold drink - a soft drink
  • creole - this has come to be less of a specifically ethnic or linguistic term, but now is more of a general term applied to an item of New Orleans culture or cooking, such as creole tomatoes or creole seasoning
  • dawlin - a term used by women as a form of address, or by men towards women. Differs from the Deep South 'dahlin' in that the vowel is very rounded.
  • doubloon - a coin thrown out by Mardi Gras krewes
  • dressed - to have condiments on a Po-boy, burger, or any other sandwich; typically lettuce, tomatoes, mayonnaise, and sometimes pickles
  • esplanade - (IPA:['ɛsplənejd]) a walkway, also a type of undershirt
  • faubourg - (IPA:['fabɔʷg]) a suburb or neighborhood, used in context of a particular area such as Faubourg Bouligny (This is no longer used as a common noun)
  • flying horses - a merry-go-round, or specifically the merry-go-round in City Park
  • fa sho - for sure, a statement of agreement
  • fa true - for true, a statement of truth
  • go cup - a paper or plastic cup for consuming alcoholic beverages on the go, usually in public
  • gout - French for "taste", usually in the context of coffee
  • grip - a small overnight bag, schoolbag, or suitcase
  • grippe - the flu
  • gris-gris - a Voodoo spell, either malicious or for protection (now rare other than in tourism pamphlets and some people who actually practice certain types of voodoo)
  • heart - identical in meaning and usage to dawlin', and also pronounced with a severely rounded vowel
  • hickey - a knot or bump on one's head
  • house coat 'n' curlas - many middle to lower class yat women wear a robe and have their hair in curlers while out shopping, especially for groceries
  • indicator - a turning signal on a car, also called a 'blinker'
  • inkpen - a ball-point or any type of pen
  • jambalaya - a rice-based Cajun dish
  • K&B Purple - the distinctive shade of purple used by the defunct New Orleans-based drug store, K&B
  • lagniappe - (IPA:['lŠnjŠp]) a little something extra
  • locker - a closet
  • looka - imperative form of the verb "to look"
  • make dodo - sleep, or go to sleep; from the Cajun French "fais do do"
  • make groceries or makin' groceries - to go grocery shopping; this phrase probably originated from the French expression for grocery shopping, "faire le marchÚ"
  • Mardi Gras - a city wide pre-Lenten celebration, literally "Fat Tuesday"
  • marraine - (IPA: [mə'rŠn]) one's godmother
  • maw-maw - one's grandmother
  • mirliton - a chayote
  • mosquito hawk - a dragonfly
  • muffuletta - (IPA: [mʊfə'laɾə]) a famous Italian New Orleans sandwich, invented at Central Grocery
  • neutral ground - a street median
  • over by [location] - to be at or in someplace; a replacement for "at" or "to" when referring to a destination or location
  • parish - a state administrative district equivalent to a County (United States) in the rest of the United States; da parish usually refers specifically to St. Bernard Parish
  • parraine or parran - (IPA:[pə'rŠn]) one's godfather
  • passion mark - a hickey
  • po-boy - (IPA:['pɔʷbɔj], ['poʷbɔj]) a New Orleans submarine sandwich, made on French bread in many varieties; some of the most popular are hot roast beef and fried shrimp
  • praline - (IPA:['prɔʷlin], ['pralin], never ['prejlin]) a New Orleans confection made with pecans, sugar syrup, and cream
  • regular coffee - coffee with sugar and milk; not black coffee
  • Schwegmann's bag or Schwegmann bag - a unit of measurement; refers to the large brown paper bags which extinct local New Orleans grocery chain Schwegmann Brothers Giant Supermarkets packed groceries
  • the show - the movies
  • snowball - a frozen treat similar to a sno-cone, but made of 'shaved ice' and not crushed ice. A snowball stand will have 30 or more flavors, not counting 'cream' flavors (contains evaporated milk mixed in).
  • to pass by - to stop and visit someplace, such as a person's house
  • shotgun house - a style of architecture found all over the city. In the French style of planning, plots of land along a river are long and thin, so the houses also came to be long and thin. A shotgun house typically has a living room followed by a bedroom followed by a kitchen followed by another bedroom.
  • suck the head, squeeze the tip or suck the head, squeeze the tail - a phrase that describes the local technique for eating crawfish
  • throw me somethin', mista! - the traditional phrase yelled out to passing floats during Mardi Gras
  • valise - a suitcase (used only by a few elderly people)
  • Violation - a person from Violet, Louisiana in St. Bernard Parish (not used in practice)
  • Where Y'at - the traditional New Orleans greeting; equivolent to "what's up?" or "how are you?"
  • Wutzapnin - another New Orleans greeting drived from "What is happening?"
  • y'all - "you" (plural)
  • ya' boy / ya' girl - used to identify someone (any random person)
  • yeah, you right - New Orleans equivalent to "yes, I see your point"

New Orleans accent in popular conception

The characters "Vic & Nat'ly" by local cartoonist Bunny Matthews are stereotypical Yats.
The characters "Vic & Nat'ly" by local cartoonist Bunny Matthews are stereotypical Yats.

The distinct New Orleans dialect has been depicted in many ways throughout the city and America.

The main character of the cartoon strip Krazy Kat spoke in a slightly exaggerated phonetically-rendered version of early-20th Century Yat; friends of the New Orleans-born cartoonist George Herriman recalled that he spoke with many of the same distinctive pronunciations.

Benny Grunch and the Bunch recorded an album known as the 12 Yats of Christmas, which is one of the truest expressions of Yat language and culture. The songs explain much of the local customs and traditions of New Orleans and the surrounding areas, but perhaps raise as many questions as they answer for outsiders, due to the fact that the lyrics are mostly in Yat. The local CBS affiliate, WWL-TV Channel 4 usually broadcasts videos of the songs during the Christmas holidays during their evening newscasts and via the station's website.

Actual New Orleans accents were long seldom heard nationally (New Orleanians who attained national prominence in the media often made an effort to tone down or eliminate the most distinctive local pronunciations). Movies and television shows set in New Orleans generally make the mistake of imbuing the characters with a generic "Southern" accent, a "Gone With the Wind" accent, or a Cajun accent (primarily heard in Southwest Louisiana, not in the city), much to the amusement or annoyance of New Orleanians. The national attention the city received from the disaster of Hurricane Katrina in 2005 gave many people from elsewhere in the nation a chance to hear people speaking with New Orleans accents for the first time.

Notes

  1. ^ Toole, John Kennedy (1980). A Confederacy of Dunces. Baton Rouge: LSU.
  2. ^ Liebling, A. J. (1970). The Earl of Louisiana. Baton Rouge: LSU.

References

  • Liebling, A. J. (1970). The Earl of Louisiana. Baton Rouge: LSU. ISBN 0-8071-0203-2. 
  • Toole, John Kennedy (1980). A Confederacy of Dunces. Baton Rouge: LSU. ISBN 0-8071-0203-2. 

External links

  • Benny Grunch and the Bunch Website
  • Benny Grunch and the Bunch Yat Song Lyrics
  • Lexicon of New Orleans Terminology and Speech
  • WWL-TV website
  • Glossary of Terms Used in New Orleans
Retrieved from "http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yat_%28New_Orleans%29"