The depiction of the vernacular of the Antebellum South in literature raises doubts regarding its faithfulness, and questions whether it may be used as a source of scientific data. This question stems from the fact that there is no certainty as to the extent authors wanted to replicate the actual vernacular of the time and the extent to which this replication was a result of literary creativity. This research investigates the literary dialect representation in Hardin E. Taliaferro’s 1859 work Fisher’s River (North Carolina) Scenes and Characters by “Skitt, who was raised thar”. More specifically, we examine his usage of past tense be forms. Instances of was and were found in the book are verified against real written records extracted from an online database Private Voices: The Corpus of American Civil War Letters. The research concludes that while in Fisher’s River we might observe a pattern where the allomorph were dominates in the singular and most plausibly in the plural, the data from letters selected from Private Voices present a different picture. In the authentic correspondence, leveling to was is by far the dominant variant form. Based on these findings we draw cautious conclusions and call for further studies based on works of other local colorist and authentic documents from the beginning of the nineteenth century.
Feb 14, 2023
Feb 13, 2023