Linguistic Hybridity and the Construction of Pipeline Resistance Speaking Practices

Proposals for the building of mega-natural gas transmission pipelines have resulted in the formation of resistance groups and legal actions to stop their construction in several Appalachian states. The proposed route for the Mountain Valley Pipeline crosses primarily farm and forested land owned by those who speak various forms of English, including Appalachian speech varieties, and whose demographics cross multiple socioeconomic, educational, political, and cultural categories. The speaking practices that typify each group also vary, evoking different, sometimes highly negative, responses across the different groups. Historically, these regularized variations in talking facilitated or even caused factions to continue in a manner that created sociocultural and political boundaries between them. The pressing need to organize, however, has brought hundreds of residents to work together to talk, develop oral, written, and online strategies and initiatives, fundraise, lobby, engage in media visibility, seek legal action, and write substantive reports and comments within the frameworks of federal agency discursive formatting. This presentation describes how these activities over three years in Montgomery County, Virginia, have resulted in a communication hybridity that includes speakers of the local Appalachian vernacular, academic modes of speaking, business rhetoric, legal discourse, and the conversational American English speech of those growing up in in multiple states and foreign countries. Outcomes from these sociolinguistic changes have resulted in a restructuring of local speech that are facilitating change in sociopolitical relations in segments of the county that promise to be long lasting and with implications for alterations in county governance.