Inside Appalachia: Do We Talk Funny? "Ap-pal-atch-un" vs "Ap-pal-ay-shun"


Despite stereotypes, Appalachians don’t have a homogenous way of speaking. This week, we’re excited to share lots of Appalachian voices as we explore the complex aspects of the way we talk.

We reached out on twitter to see what you have to say about Appalachian accents, and we were overwhelmed by so many voices that we dedicated nearly half of this week’s show to your responses.

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Appalachian Code Switching

Appalachian accents often come with a negative stereotype from some folks. Because of that stigma, many of us Appalachians ‘code switch’. Bluefield, Virginia native Chelyen Davis recently wrote about this on The Revivalist: Word from the Appalachian South. She talked about Appalachian accents and how sometimes our accent changes when we speak to mountain friends and when we talk in other settings. Davis lives in Richmond, Virginia now, but Inside Appalachia’s host Jessica Lilly caught up with her during a visit back home at her mother’s house in Bluefield, Virginia. Davis also writes her own blog called The Homesick Appalachian.

What’s ‘West Virginia Speak’? One Project Works to Map the State’s Dialect

A professor of linguistics and English at WVU is working to map West Virginia’s dialects and accents.  Kirk Hazen was in Wyoming County earlier this week, collecting interviews from natives. Hazen and his students are working to map West Virginia’s dialects and accents, and he’s finding that just within West Virginia alone there’s a cornucopia of different ways of speaking.


Credit Jessica Lilly
Chelyan Davis lives in Richmond, Va. but grew up in Bluefield, Va. She often misses the Appalachian Mountains and writes about in her blog, The Homesick Appalachian.

What’s in a Name?

Can you name the town in Virginia that has been referred to as ‘The magic city of Wise County? We asked our intern, Jade Artherhults to do a little digging. She spoke with Anneke Ever, from Wise County, Virginia.

How do you Pronounce Appalachia?

A few years ago on NPR’s A Way With Words, a woman from California called to ask the hosts of the show, “which is the real way to pronounce Appalachia?” According to Martha Barnette and Grant Barret, the hosts of A Way With Words, there are many ways to pronounce “Appalachia”, each of them correct, depending on where you are.


Credit David Tarasevich/ Appalachian Trail Conservancy
Sign at the Appalachian Trail Visitor’s Center, Harpers Ferry, West Virginia

There are at least six known pronunciations of the word Appalachia. Yes, that’s right, six different ways to say it so there’s. Listen to the show to hear host Jessica Lilly share them with you.

You’ll also hear from:

Robert Ward:Valley Crucis, North Carolina

             Josh Howard: Grew up in Sharon, Virginia

                                   Kisa Griffin and Pamela V. Lee: Wheeling, West Virginia

 Jeremy Horner: Jefferson County, West Virginia

             Robert Gillette: Jefferson County, West Virginia

                                    Scott Deaner: Logan, West Virginia, now lives in Ohio

Crystal Good: St. Albans, West Virginia

          Herb Smith: Eastern Kentucky

                           Katie Dollarhide: Kingdom Come Creek, Kentucky

The voices from Kentucky are from a 2002 film called Searching for an Appalachian Accent:″,”_id”:”00000174-a7b2-ddc3-a1fc-bffb402e0000″,”_type”:”035d81d3-5be2-3ed2-bc8a-6da208e0d9e2″}”>″><brightspot-cms-external-content data-state="{"url":"″,”_id”:”00000174-a7b2-ddc3-a1fc-bffb402e0000″,”_type”:”035d81d3-5be2-3ed2-bc8a-6da208e0d9e2″}”> Special thanks to Appalshop and to Charity Quillen and Kelli Caudil who produced the film.


Imagine an Appalachia without Accents

Plenty of people make a conscious effort to lose their accent. But what would happen to our region, do you think, if we all lost our local language and dialect? Paula Moore is a Sociologist at Eastern Kentucky University in Richmond, KY.

You Sound Like You’re Not From Around Here

Next, we head back over to Virginia for a bit, where linguistics professor Steven Weinberger at George Mason University explains how and when we develop accents and how they affect our identity. From With Good Reason, reporter Allison Quantz talked with Weinberger, who believes most people learn their accent from their peers, and before they even hit first grade.

Music in this episode was provided by the late Jean Ritchie, singing one of her signature songs, “Cool of the Day”, with some of her friends up in New York City about eight years ago. Alan ‘CatHead’ Johnston,  Ben Townsend, John Wyatt, Andy Agnew Jr., Dog and Gun and Jeff Bosley of The Wallace Horn Friendly Neighbor Show. Our What’s in a Name theme music is by Marteka and William with “Johnson Ridge Special” from their Album Songs of a Tradition.

Subscribe to our Inside Appalachia podcast here or on iTunes here, or on Soundcloud here or on Stitcher here.

Email us at Find us on Twitter @InAppalachia or @WVJessicaYLilly