The fall of demonstrative them
Evidence from Appalachia
The varieties of English in the United States’ Appalachian region have undergone changes throughout the 20th century. This paper examines a change to one of the more stereotyped of vernacular dialect features, the use of them in a demonstrative determiner construction: them apples are the best. Although this dialect feature is found in English varieties around the world, this study is the first to take up a quantitative assessment of it as a sociolinguistic variable. In this paper, we discuss the historical background for demonstrative them, its current distribution in a corpus of modern Appalachian speech, and its relations to the other modern plural demonstratives, these and those. The data reveal that them functions primarily as an alternate to those, but the use of demonstrative them is sharply in decline across apparent time. As a stereotype of Appalachian speech, demonstrative them still remains, but younger Appalachian speakers have largely abandoned this stigmatized form.
Keywords: demonstratives, morphological variation, Appalachian English, language change, rural stereotypes, language stereotypes, them, US English
Published online: 17 February 2011
Cited by 9 other publications
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