The Southern Dialect as Seen in the Works of William Faulkner Essays

The Southern Dialect as Seen in the Works of William Faulkner Essays

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The Southern Dialect as Seen in the Works of William Faulkner


In the writings of William Faulkner, the reader may sense that the author has created an entire world, which directly reflects his own personal experience. Faulkner writes about the area in and around Mississippi, where he is from, during the post-Civil War period. It is most frequently Northern Mississippi that Faulkner uses for his literary territory, changing Oxford to “Jefferson” and Lafayette County to “Yoknapatawpha County,” because it is here that he lived most of his life and wrote of the people he knew.

Faulkner’s stories focus on the Southeastern United States at a time period when old traditions began to clash with new ideals. This is an era in American history with which most people can quickly identify, whether they are Southern or not. The South in Faulkner’s works are complete with all the expected features: an agricultural society, Southern belles and gentlemen, racial tensions, and especially the common characteristics of Southern speech. Faulkner strays from the normal customs of Northern literature to present a realistic portrait of the South that he grew up in. In doing so, he comes up with an excellent sample of the Southern language, including linguistic qualities of both black and white speech. Faulkner establishes a unique literary voice which is recognizable due to variances from standard English in vocabulary, pronunciation, and grammatical form, while juxtaposing speech elements foreign to anyone not familiar with Southern heritage.

The works of William Faulkner succeed in creating a literary dialect which is relatively consistent throughout all of his stories. A literary dialect is best defined as an “author’s attempt to represent in w...


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...n, 1971. 145-177.

7) Lockyer, Judith. Ordered By Words: Language and Narration in the Novels of William Faulkner. Southern Illinois University Press, 1991.

8) McDavid, Raven I., Jr. “Dialectology: Where Linguistics Meets the People.” The Emory University Quarterly XXIII (Winter, 1967), 219.

9) McDavid, Raven I., Jr. “Go Slow in Ethnic Attribution: Geographic Mobility and Dialect Prejudices.” Varieties of Present-Day English. Ed. Richard W. Bailey and Jay L. Robinson. New York: Macmillan Company, 1973. 258-270.

10)McDavid, Raven I., Jr., and Virginia McDavid. “Kentucky Verb Forms.” Montgomery and Bailey, 1986. 264-293. Smith, Alphonso. Cambridge History of American Literature. New York: Macmillan Company, 1951.

11)Stewart, William A. “Observations on the Problem of Defining Negro Dialect.” The Florida FL Reporter IX, Nos. 1 and 2 (Spring/Fall, 1971), 47-57.

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