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Alice’s Adventures in an Appalachian Wonderland

Alice’s Adventures in an Appalachian Wonderland

By Lewis Carroll, translated into Appalachian English by Byron W. Sewell and Victoria J. Sewell

First edition, 2012. Illustrations by John Tenniel. Cathair na Mart: Evertype. ISBN 978-1-78201-010-4 (paperback), price: €12.95, £10.95, $15.95.

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“In that direction,” the Cat said, waving its right paw around, “lives a Hatter: and in that direction,” waving the other paw, “lives a March Hare. Visit either you like: they’re both mad.”   Up the crick,” the Bobcat says, wavin hits right paw roun, “lives an ol bar what thinks he’s Chief Cornstalk: an down the crick,” wavin t’other paw, “lives a Civil War Vetran who fitt on both sides, agin hissef. Visit whichever you like: they’s both tetched.”
“But I don’t want to go among mad people,” Alice remarked.   “But I don’t wanna go mongst tetched folks,” Alice remarks.
“Oh, you ca’n’t help that,” said the Cat: “we’re all mad here. I’m mad. You’re mad.”   “Oh, you cain’t hep thet,” says the Bobcat. “We’re all tetched here. I’m tetched. You’re tetched.”
“How do you know I’m mad?” said Alice.   “How you know I’m tetched?” says Alice.
“You must be,” said the Cat, “or you wouldn't have come here.”   “You must be,” says the Bobcat, “or you would’n’a come up here in these high hollers.”
Lewis Carroll's classic Alice's Adventures in Wonderland has been translated into over a hundred languages, from French to Japanese to Esperanto. In this translation into the rich dialect of the Appalachian Mountains, the translators have treated the story as a folktale, in order to create the sense that the reader is listening as an adult tells the story to a child. The story has been transported from Victorian English to post-Civil-War West Virginia, into an Appalachian setting appropriate for the dialect.

On Dialect Orthography

Publishing text in an unstandardized orthography is a challenge. A balance must be found between faithful­ness to the sounds of the dialect and legibility to an audience who reads the standard language. Engish dialect spellings are nothing new, of course: from Robert Louis Stevenson’s representation of Scots in Kidnapped to Mark Twain’s repre­sentation of Missouri dialect in Adventures of Huckle­berry Finn various approaches have been taken. Often these approaches make use of what is known as “the apologetic apostrophe” to mark letters from the standard language which have been “dropped”.

Such spellings tend to create a distracting visual clutter; this was recognized in the 1947 Scots Style Sheet and the 1985 Recommendations for Writers in Scots, both of which discourage the apologetic apostrophe while retaining it for ordinary purposes. Many of these recommendations apply easily to the linguistic features of Appalachian English, and have been followed in the text used in this book.

Since the reader may appreciate a summary of the ortho­graphic conventions used here for the Appalachian dialect, a list is given below.

  • Words ending in -ing have been spelled as -in; participles in -en have been retained: writin ‘writing’, written ‘written’; nothin ‘nothing’.
  • The final apostrophe is not used: an ‘and’ is used instead of an’; em ‘them’ is used instead of ’em; o ‘of’ is used instead of o’; wi ‘with’ is used instead of wi’.
  • Before a vowel o is written of: one of em ‘one of them’.
  • The reduced vowel in to is written as te rather than as t’; when stressed the word is written to, as in I don’t have te wear shoes in the summer iffen I don’t want to.
  • Both hit and it ‘it’ are found, with the latter being more common, and used in unstressed positions.
  • Initial syllables of other kinds when dropped are simply dropped: member ‘remember’, spectin ‘expecting’.
  • Medial letters when dropped are not indicated with the “apologetic apostrophe”: lil ‘little’ (not li’l); agin ‘again; against’ (not ag’in).
  • Final clusters in -l- are reduced: sef ‘self’, hep ‘help’.
  • Final clusters in -t are treated variously: -pt is normally kept, while -ct is usually reduced to -ck: cept ‘except’, fack ‘fact’. Although -st is often pronounced -ss, orthographic -st is still written for clarity: most [moʊs].
  • Final clusters in -nd are treated in a number of ways. In most words where the -d is dropped entirely, it is written -nn: lann ‘land’, lannin ‘landing’, stann ‘stand’, stannin ‘standing’, but under ‘under’. In words where the -d is elided in final position but returns when a suffix is added, it is written -nd: find [fɑːn], findin [ˈfɑːndin].
  • Contractions of the negative particle are treated in two ways. In monosyllables which end in a glottal stop, n’t is written: ain’t [eɪnʔ], cain’t [keɪnʔ], don’t [doʊnʔ], won’t [woʊnʔ]; in polysyllables the syllabic nasal is written ’n: did’n [dɪdn]~[dɪtn], had’n [hædn]~[hætn], would’n [wʊdn]~[wʊtn].
  • The participial a- is prefixed with a hyphen to gerunds: a-readin ‘reading’, a-wearin ‘wearing’.
  • Reduced unstressed “have” is written ’a: had’n’a ‘hadn’t’ve’, I’d’a ‘I’d’ve’, would’a ‘would’ve’, you’d’a ‘you’d’ve’.
  • The word “Indian” has been respelt using the traditional form Injun (also used in Twain) because this reflects a normal phonetic development of [ˈɪndiən] to [ˈɪndʒən]; compare Arcadian [ɑɹˈkeɪdiən] and Cajun [ˈkeɪdʒən].
The intent here was to normalize towards a literary ortho­graphy, rather than towards a phonemic respelling of the language entirely; such a respelling would doubtless be filled with unnecessary “eye-dialect” (funkshun instead of function, and so forth). I would be interested to receive comment from readers regarding the suitability of this orthography for representing Appalachian dialect. Inevitably in such a venture there will be inconsistencies, of course. I trust these will not distract readers from their enjoyment of Byron and Victoria’s splendid re-telling.

Michael Everson
Westport, October 2012

HTML Michael Everson, Evertype, 73 Woodgrove, Portlaoise, R32 ENP6, Ireland, 2012-10-10

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