Paula Deen: "Hard Boil" vs "Hard Ball" Merger


Even if you don’t like to cook, the Food Network is always entertaining for listening to speech patterns of the hosts, especially Georgia gal Paula Deen. Although she now lives in Savannah, she actually grew up and lived in Albany Georgia in the the southwest for about 40 years, so I’m not sure which Georgia accent she’s using. I suspect it’s the Albany accent.

In any case, the Paula Deen dialect has monophthongization so that boil /bojl/ and oil /ojl/ in standard English becomes /bɔl/ and /ɔl/. Similarly, pie which is /paj/ in Standard English is /pa/ or “apple pah” in the Deen dialect.

In fact, the monophthongization is so pronounced that she’s merged boil and ball (also /bɔl/). So during a toffee making demo, she had to explain that the toffee had to come to the hard ball stage (like candy), not the hard boilstage (like soup). It reminds me that historical linguists can sometimes date a phonological merger by looking for glitches like these.

And yes, apparently the South is still preserving the /ɔ/ phoneme. In standard English, this is starting to be lost, even east of the Mississippi.