"Law Me! Can You Figure These Out??"
Exercise on Appalachian Language in Jack and the Three Sillies

by Ann Fulcher and Tina L. Hanlon

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Ann Fulcher (a seventh-grade language arts teacher) developed this activity for a Teachers Institute sponsored by East Tennessee State University and the National Endowment for the Humanities, 1988-89. Reprinted with permission from Journey Through Fantasy Literature: A Resource Guide for Teachers. Vol. I.  Ed. Roberta T. Herrin. You may need to adapt the discussion questions below to the grade level and abilities of your students.

Directions:  Look through the story Jack and the Three Sillies (retold by Richard Chase in picture book published in Boston by Houghton Mifflin, 1950). Find out how each of the following words and phrases is used in the story.

 1. reckon 11. We don't never plow with it. 21. directly
 2. out-doin' 12. holler 22. actin' unruly
 3. a-courtin' 13. let me see can I recollect 23. balkin'
 4. 'em 14. fin'lly 24. runnin'
 5. marryin' 15. said one time 25. drivin'
 6. figgered 16. ye 26. havin'
 7. tote 17. anyhow 27. hit's
 8. you-all 18. good 'un 28. carryin'
 9. a goner 19. bedad 29. down the road a piece
10. a jumpin' 20. 'taters 30. yonder

Discussion Questions:

  1. How do these words and phrases affect your impressions of the storyteller and characters as you read or listen to the story?

  2. Which words and phrases describe the everyday lives of the characters in the story? Are there details of rural life in past times that you were not familiar with?

  3. Which of these words and phrases represent the pronunciation of the storyteller and characters in the story (phonetic features)?

  4. Which of these words and phrases represent the vocabulary of the storyteller and characters (lexical features)?

  5. Which of these words and phrases represent sentence structures that are not used in standard English (syntactic features)?

  6. What other examples of Appalachian language (or dialect) can you find in this story?

  7. Can you find any language patterns in this list of dialect features? (For example, how are words that usually end in -ing often spelled/pronounced?)

  8. Why aren't the same dialect spellings used every time the same word occurs in the story? (For example, the word "it" is sometimes spelled "hit," but not always.) What do these variations reveal about speech patterns, or differences between speech and writing?

  9. Do you and your friends or family use some of these same words and phrases in your everyday conversation? Which ones would you not use? Do you live in the southern Appalachian region? (Remember that it is sometimes hard to report on your own conversational habits, and your answer may depend on your place of birth and family history.)

  10. Compare your answers to any of these questions with other background information and analyses of other children's books in AppLit's Resources on Appalachian Dialects.

See also:

Activities to Accompany Study of Appalachian Folktales and Dramatizations

Jack and the Three Sillies in Annotated Index of Appalachian Folktales

Study Guides on Dramatizations by the Jack Tale Players

Bibliography of Appalachian Folktales in Children's Literature

Complete List of AppLit Pages on Folklore

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This page's last update: 9/25/03
Links checked 9/25/03

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