Texan English
Early forms
Latin (English alphabet)
American Braille
Language codes
ISO 639-3
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Texan English is the array of American English dialects spoken in Texas, primarily falling under Southern U.S. English. As one nationwide study states, the typical Texan accent is a "Southern accent with a twist".[1] The "twist" refers to inland Southern U.S., older coastal Southern U.S., and South Midland U.S. accents mixing together, due to Texas's settlement history, as well as some lexical (vocabulary) influences from Mexican Spanish.[1] In fact, there is no single accent that covers all of Texas and few dialect features are unique to Texas alone. The newest and most innovative Southern U.S. accent features are best reported in Lubbock, Odessa, somewhat Houston and variably Dallas, though general features of this same dialect are found throughout the state, with several exceptions:[2] Abilene and somewhat Austin, Corpus Christi, and El Paso appear to align more with Midland U.S. accents than Southern ones.


After Mexico gained independence in 1821, Mexican Texas legally permitted an influx of American settlers from the United States (mainly the Southern United States),[3] who within a decade outnumbered Hispanics in Texas,[4] making English as common as Spanish in central and north Texas. After Texas became an independent republic in 1836, English, with its distinct Southern influences, became the predominant language. After the Mexican Revolution of 1910–1920, a great number of Spanish-speaking Mexicans immigrated to Texas,[5][6] slowing down in the mid-20th century only to increase massively since 1990,[4] driving the development of a young Spanish-influenced dialect of Texan English: Tejano English.


Some linguists draw dialect boundaries based upon phonological (sound-pattern) differences and others on lexical (word-usage) differences, leading to various views on how to classify dialects in Texas, often by dividing the state into an eastern versus a western dialect region.[7] 20th-century lexical research delimited Texas into two "layers": a southern Texas layer along the Mexican border with several Spanish loanwords and a central Texas layer settled by speakers of German and other European languages amidst a dominant Anglo-American settlement.[8][9] 21st-century phonological research reveals accents in Texas grouped in a way not easy to demarcate in terms of simple geographical boundaries,[10] and ongoing research reveals an urban–rural divide within Texas becoming more significant than a region-wide divide.

Some linguists propose that urbanization, geographic and social mobility, and the mass media have homogenized the speech of the United States to a national norm.[11] Due to rapid urbanization, increasing dominance of high tech industries, and massive migrations, Texan speech has been reshaped as well, especially since 1990.[4] The general tendency in the phonology of Texas English is that mergers expand at the expense of distinctions, although traditional Southern-style Texan English preserved older phonemic distinctions.[11] Since much of the traditional regional vocabulary concerned farming and rural life, these terms are now disappearing or being replaced by technical terms.[11]

Urban–rural contrast

As stated above, an internal rural–urban split is emerging within Texan English, meaning that most traditionally Southern (or stereotypically Texan) features remain strong in rural areas but tend to disappear in large urban areas and small cities.[4] The urban-rural linguistic split mainly affects Southern-style phonological phenomena like the pen-pin merger, the loss of the offglide in /aɪ/, and upgliding diphthongs, all of which are now recessive in metropolitan areas.[4] Meanwhile, some traditional grammatical features like y'all and fixin' to are expanding to non-natives in metropolitan areas as well as to the Hispanic population.[4]


Main article: Southern American English § Modern phonology

Essentially all Texas English phonologically falls under the Southeastern super-dialect region of the United States and often specifically the Southern dialect region, though noticeably not the cities of El Paso, Abilene, and Austin, and not particularly Houston and Corpus Christi.[2] Moreover, as of 21st-century research, the accents of Dallas show enormous variability.[10]


Main article: Southern American English § Grammar

Texas English may use many grammatical constructions typically associated with Southern U.S. English, including fixin' to,[19] multiple modals like might could and should oughta (reportedly used by every social class and, as of the 1980s Linguistic Atlas of the Gulf States, predominately in Upper and Lower East Texas), and plural verbal -s as in Our father and mother helps used by both Black and (somewhat less commonly) white Texans.[20]


Many of these lexical terms are shared with the Midland and Southern dialects generally:

Statewide Spanish loanwords

Due to Spain's past influence in Texas, the vocabulary of Texas is much more influenced by Spanish than the vocabulary of other states. Some of the Texan terms that originated from Spanish are listed below.[22]

South Texas vocabulary

Central Texas vocabulary

In the media

Texan English frequently shows up in the media. In the 1950s and 1960s, many Hollywood western movies like Giant, Hud, and The Alamo were set in Texas. In those movies, Hollywood stars like James Dean, Rock Hudson, Dennis Hopper, Paul Newman, and Patricia Neal first had to learn how to speak Texan English and were instructed by native Texans. Also the famous TV series Dallas was often characterized by Texan English.

Texas Instruments sometimes uses Texan English in its products. The TIFORM software for its TI-990 minicomputer sometimes displayed "Shut 'er Down Clancey She's a-Pumping Mud" as a humorous error message.[28]

The Texan accent gained nationwide fame with the presidency of native Texan Lyndon B. Johnson. A lifelong resident of the Texas Hill Country, Johnson's thick accent was a large part of his personality and brought attention and fame to the dialect.[4][29]

The Texan dialect gained fame again when George W. Bush started to serve as president. He had moved to West Texas at the age of two and has since retained the Texan dialect. In his speech, words like "America" sometimes sound like "Amur-kah" or even just like "Mur-kah".[4][30] Former U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson also speaks with a distinctively Texan accent.[31][32]

Tejano English

Further information: Chicano English

Due to hundreds of years of Spanish and later Mexican intermingling, around 6 million (ca. 29%) people in Texas speak Spanish as the first language.[33] Recent data shows that Spanish is still increasing.[34] Since there are so many Spanish speakers in Texas, Spanish has a high impact on the English dialect spoken in Texas.[35] Many Mexican Americans in Texas speak their own variety of English which has many Spanish features (terms, phonology, etc.), Tejano English, a Chicano English dialect mostly spoken by working-class Mexican Americans. A very distinctive feature of that dialect is the /-t,d/-deletion in words which contain a /t/ or /d/ in the final position.[36]


  1. ^ a b Colloff, Pamela (27 March 2019). ""Drawl or Nothin'." Do you speak American?". pbs.org.
  2. ^ a b Labov et al., 2006, p. 126-131.
  3. ^ Walsh, Harry, and Victor L. Mote. "A Texas Dialect Feature: Origins and Distribution." American Speech, 49.1-2 (1974). 40-53.
  4. ^ a b c d e f g h "Texas English." Do you speak American?. 6 Sept 2012
  5. ^ Wolfram, Walt, and Natalie Schilling-Estes. American English: Dialects and Variation. Malden: Blackwell Publishing, 2008.
  6. ^ Atwood, E. Bagby. The Regional Vocabulary of Texas. Austin: University of Texas Press, 1962.
  7. ^ Underwood, Gary N. (1990), "Scholarly Responsibility and the Representation of Dialects: The Case of English in Texas", Journal of English Linguistics 23: 95-112.
  8. ^ Walters, Keith. "Dialects". Handbook of Texas Online. Texas State Historical Association. Web. 14 August 2012
  9. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x y z aa Carver, Craig M. (1987), American regional dialects : a word geography. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press.
  10. ^ a b Labov, William; Ash, Sharon; Boberg Charles (2006). Atlas of North American English: Phonetics, Phonology and Sound Change. Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter.
  11. ^ a b c d e Bailey, Guy. "Directions of Change in Texas English." Journal of American Culture 14.2 (1991): 125-134.
  12. ^ a b Labov et al., 2006, p. 61.
  13. ^ a b Feagin, Crawford. "Vowel Shifting in the Southern States." English in the Southern United States. Ed. Stephen J. Nagle and Sara L. Sanders. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2003. 126-140.
  14. ^ Labov et al., 2006, p. 129.
  15. ^ a b Jung, Natalie A. (2011) "Real-Time Changes in the Vowel System of Central Texas English". "Texas Linguistics Forum" 54:72-78.
  16. ^ Bailey, Guy. "Directions of Change in Texas English.".Journal of American Culture 14.2 (1991): 125-134.
  17. ^ Thomas, Erik R. (2004), "Rural Southern white accents", in Schneider, Edgar W.; Burridge, Kate; Kortmann, Bernd; Mesthrie, Rajend; Upton, Clive (eds.), A handbook of varieties of English, vol. 1: Phonology, Mouton de Gruyter, p. 308, ISBN 3-11-017532-0
  18. ^ Labov et al., 2006, p. 71.
  19. ^ Pederson, Lee, ed. Linguistic Atlas of the Gulf States: Social Pattern for the Linguistic Atlas of the Gulf States. Athens: University of Georgia Press, 1992. (Shows the term used by 57% of the population of Upper Texas and by 43% in Lower Texas
  20. ^ Bailey, Guy, Natalie Minor, and Patricia Cukor-Avila. "Variation in Subject-Verb Concord in Early Modern English." Language Variation and Change, 1 (1989): 285-300 (Shows that 70% of the black population and 43% of the white population put an –s on the third person plural in folk speech.)
  21. ^ Barkley, Roy. "Blue Norther" .2012. Texas State Historical Association. 5 Sept 2012.
  22. ^ a b c d e f g Metcalf, Allan. How We Talk: American Regional English Today. Boston: Houghton Mifflin,2000.
  23. ^ a b c "Texas English". Do you speak American? Web. 14 August 2012
  24. ^ a b c "Drawl or Nothin'". Do You Speak American?. PBS. 2005. Retrieved 3 September 2010.
  25. ^ a b c "The Handbook of Texas Online".
  26. ^ Hisbrook, David (August 1984). "Texas Primer: The Icehouse". Texas Monthly.
  27. ^ Pelado
  28. ^ Lener, Jeffrey (1984-04-03). "TI Talks Texan". PC Magazine. p. 49. Retrieved 24 October 2013.
  29. ^ "Do You Speak American . Sea to Shining Sea . American Varieties . Texan - PBS". www.pbs.org.
  30. ^ "Drawl or Nothin’" Do you speak American?. 6 Sept 2012
  31. ^ Sarah Jasmine Montgomery (February 4, 2017). "This Week in Texas Energy: Rex Tillerson Sworn in as Secretary of State". Texas Monthly. Austin, Texas. Retrieved February 9, 2024. he stated in his notable Texas accent
  32. ^ Hodge, Shelby (December 17, 2018). "Rex Tillerson Urged to Run for President During Controversial Houston Talk". PaperCity Magazine. Urban Publishers. Retrieved February 18, 2024. the statuesque gentleman with the charming Texas accent
  33. ^ Feal, Rosemary G., ed. "MLA Language Map Data Center." Modern English Association. 4 Sept 2012
  34. ^ Feal, Rosemary G., ed. "MLA Language Map Data Center." Archived 2006-06-19 at the Wayback Machine Modern English Association. 4 Sept 2012
  35. ^ "MLA Language Map Data Center." Modern English Association. Ed. Rosemary G. Feal. 4 Sept 2012
  36. ^ Bayley, Robert. "Variation in Tejano English: Evidence for Variable Lexical Phonology." Language Variety in the South. eds. Cynthia Berstein et al. Tuscaloosa: The University of Alabama Press, 1997. 197-210.