I’ve had conversations with several commenters about the Scots Irish, and their impact on Appalachian English in the United States. This region was largely settled in the 18th-Century by “ethnically Scottish” immigrants from what is present-day Northern Ireland, hence the “Scots-Irish” moniker. For a frame of reference, this short documentary offers numerous samples of the dialect spoken in the Appalachian region:
The Scots-Irish have lent quite a bit of vocabulary to Appalachian English. But unlike the accents of contemporary Northern Ireland, which are clearly influenced by Scots and Scottish English, Appalachian English isn’t as patently “Scottish”-sounding. Why is this?
I see two possible answers to this question. The first relates to Ulster Scots, the Germanic language that would have been spoken by the earliest Scots-Irish settlers. Notably, this language is still heard in contemporary Northern Ireland, but is emphatically not spoken in Appalachia. This suggests that there was, for reasons that are unclear, much more pressure to speak “standard” forms of English* there than in Ulster. Hence, Scots had far less time to influence the English spoken in the United States.
But there is another important point that is often missed here. Note the following summary of Scotch-Irish migration to the US, from Wikipedia:
From 1710 to 1775, over 200,000 people emigrated from Ulster to the 13 Colonies, from Maine to Georgia. The largest numbers went to Pennsylvania. From that base some went south into Virginia, the Carolinas and across the South, with a large concentration in the Appalachian region; others headed west to western Pennsylvania, Ohio, Indiana, and the Midwest.
As this well-documented migration patterns implies, the Scots-Irish took a detour through Pennsylvania (and perhaps other states) before heading down to the inland South. Which invites the question: what about the children?
It’s logical to think that the offspring of these Ulster-Scots speaking immigrants would have picked up the accents of American English spoken in the areas where they first settled. By the time the Scots-Irish reached Appalachia, isn’t it possible that the younger generation already spoke with some type of “American” accent?
I haven’t come to any conclusions myself, but I find the question of how much the Scots-Irish influenced Appalachian English an endlessly fascinating debate.
*I am aware that Appalachian English might not be considered “standard” by many people. But, it isn’t Ulster Scots, despite some apparently lexical and grammatical influence.