Indianapolis, Indiana is located in the center of “The Crossroads of America.” It is in a centralized location within the United States and is also somewhat centralized dialectically. It is located within a dialect region that many people refer to as the “Midland” dialect and, suffice to say, Indianapolis has a heavy Midland dialect influence.
In comparison to the Midland:
The Midland dialect is often considered “standard” or “accentless” American English, and indeed, Midland natives would possibly consider themselves as having no accent at all. The fallacy with this, however, would be the fact that the Midland itself is incredibly varied and diverse with its speech patterns. Segregated into North and South Midland dialects among others, the Midland dialect can not only vary from state to state, but even from city to city. Deena Fogle explains in her article ““Indianapolis, Indiana: A prototype of Midland convergence” that St. Louis, Pittsburgh, and Cincinnati all have unique and separate dialects, for example. Suffice to say, because all of these are part of the Midland and all of these have distinct dialects, it is clear that the Midland itself is certainly not “accentless.” Indianapolis is one such city with its own unique set of dialect traits.
Indianapolis, more specifically, not only has most of what some researchers consider “traditional” Midland dialect traits, but also has heavy Southern dialect influence within it, such as the tendency to generalize carbonated beverages as “Coke” rather than the typical Indiana use of the word “pop.” This is significant for the fact that Indianapolis is located in what is technically categorized as the North Midland region of the Nation. The city of Indianapolis is unique in that it has many verbal traits and qualities that separate it from being an exclusively generic Midland dialect.
This is heavily in part due to its initial settling, but the Indianapolis dialect also varies because it is such a vast city. In fact, the Indianapolis dialect is not even a single dialect unto itself. Rather, it is a mixture of many dialects that vary from speaker to speaker. In fact, many individuals within Indianapolis have a variation of dialect and dialectical influences.
The large African American population of the city heavily influences the dialects spoken within Indianapolis, and it is common for speakers of African American Vernacular English (AAVE) to be bidialectical (or speak in two different dialects) depending on their social setting and who they are speaking with. This is to prevent discrimination based on their speech patterns and their own personal dialect by switching to what is deemed a more “acceptable” dialect, temporarily assimilating to the linguistic norm of the area. When speaking Black English, often the speaker will face discrimination in the workplace, at school, and in many other public places. When around close friends and family, however, it is common to revert back to the native dialect. In an interview conducted with a personal friend, he describes this code-switching as “blackness coming out full force.” Switching dialects in such a fashion means, of course, that one is not restricted to a single “standard” dialect. If one individual can be host to multiple dialects, imagine how many dialect variants and accents are within an entire city as large as Indianapolis.
Indianapolis has a large and varied population that is “at the center of everything” according to many. Though it is relatively well-contained in what most people would consider the Midland dialect region, it has many influences from various Southern dialects (such as the use of “coke” as a broad term for a carbonated beverage) and is heavily mixed with AAVE dialects due to the mixed population. Though some believe that the Midland dialect does not exist at all, there is evidence that shows that the Midland does indeed have some distinct speech patterns, and that Indianapolis, while displaying the Midland dialect traits, has some unique traits to it as well that may separate it from the rest of the Midland, making it a distinct dialect unto itself.
Other notable dialect patterns include:
What is a discourse marker?
A discourse marker is not a "filler word" per se, but is instead a word that is inserted into speech to add emphasis to specific parts of a sentence. According to Jucker’s “They may be connected to the information given directly, but they appear to deal primarily with presuppositions or implications of the information." In other words, they are words or phrases that put emphasis on assumed or implied information. The excessive use of the word "like," for example, is a form of discourse marker.
As stated by Anderson, the word “like” is generally used as a verb, a preposition, or a conjunction. However, one of our interviewees uses it in a different manner. She uses it as a clausal discourse marker, and it begins to take on it’s own form. It may be removed without much change to the sentence, or meaning of the statement, however many find it a vital part of their speech.
Take this sentence for example:
"I feel like when you turn eighteen, like it is the same as when you turn seventeen, ‘cause you can't really like do anything different. And then like when you turn nineteen it is the same as when you turn eighteen."
As Anderson said, the first “like” is used in a normal fashion, and the following are discourse marker “like’s” that may be removed from the sentence with a small change in the meaning or communication, meaning these words are clausal.
Despite the lean towards “like” as a clause, our interviewee frequently chose other words such as “and”, “well”, and “but” as discourse markers for prepositional, independent discourse markers. Examples of prepositional independent discourse markers are as follows: “Well… I don’t really remember that much.” “And… before that I worked at a shoe store”. They are independent because they could be removed from the speech without any changes to the speech.
As stated in Anderson’s research they are used at the beginning of sentences and share more in common with filler words. (Filler words provide the speaker with extra time to think about what they wish to say next, such as "um," "er," and "uhh.")
Age influences discourse
This type of discourse is used more frequently among an older generation than “like” is. The discourse marker “like” seems to profile an individual as younger, and at the oldest we assume that its use as a discourse marker virtually disappears among anyone thirty-five or older. This gives us hunch that it began scarcely showing up around 1975, but it was brought to light by scholarly articles as a part of speech mainly in the 90’s.
When our interviewee uses “well” as an independent discourse marker she pronounces it like the word “wool”, and therefore differentiating it from the word well that might indicate quality. For example: "Well (pronounced wool), I was still of the age where I didn't really grasp the concept of sledding that well (normal pronunciation)." Jucker states that the way she uses this word as a delay device is not found very commonly, however it’s popularity is increasing. The different pronunciation Is actually an unconscious thing, in her speech, and when asked to pronounce the word well like “wishing well” or to “get well” it seems that she had no idea she has been pronouncing the discourse marker differently. She actually seemed surprised when it was brought to her attention.
The information about discourse markers is newer research, and it could possibly be slang at the moment because people who overuse it have begun to be stigmatized as uneducated. We would have to disagree with this stigma because we know now that there is no correct way to speak English, and we all fashion our speech around the crowd we are around.