Ozarks - Orientation

Identification. The Ozarks is a geographical-cultural region in southern Missouri and northern Arkansas in the United States. The residents of the region have traditionally viewed themselves and have been viewed by outsiders as forming a distinct culture based on self-identity as "Ozarkers," a rural life-style, descent from immigrants from southern Appalachia, and a generally traditional-Conservative outlook. Since the end of World War II, the region has experienced considerable population and economic expansion, and the traditional way of life is no longer as common or as obvious as in the past. A notable current feature of the population is that it is divided between "traditionalists" who resist externally imposed change and "progressives" who encourage such change. For all Ozarkers, Ozark identity is traced patrilineally—if one's father is a native-born Ozarker, one is then an Ozarker; otherwise one is an outsider or a "furriner." In general, this summary focuses on the traditional way of life.

Location. The Ozark region covers some sixty thousand square miles, primarily in southern Missouri and northern Arkansas, and small sections of eastern Kansas and Missouri. The region is roughly bounded by the Missouri River on the north, the Mississippi River on the east, the Arkansas River on the south and the Grand River on the west. It is an upland plateau covered by a mix of hills, valleys, grasslands, and Forests. Running roughly north to south and west to east, the Region can be subdivided into a number of geographical zones: Missouri River Border, Osage-Gasconade Hills, St. Francis Mountains, Courtois Hills, Central Plateau, Springfield Plain, White River Hills, and Boston Mountains. The region is largely rural, with urban centers at Jefferson City, Springfield, and Joplin, Missouri, and Fayettville, Arkansas. Average winter temperatures range from 30° to 40° F and summer temperatures from 70° to 75° F. Average annual Precipitation is about forty inches.

Demography. The population of the Ozark region is about 2 million, which represents a tenfold increase since 1850. Since the mid-1960s the region has experienced rapid population growth at a rate about three times above the national average. Most of the growth is attributable to inmigration. Since the turn of the century, population shifts have resulted in a number of urbanized settlements near major lakes, existing cities, and transportation routes.

Linguistic Affiliation. Residents of the Ozarks speak a Regional dialect of American English, classified as South Midland English or as Northern Midland English in the northernmost sections. Use of regional or local dialect words and colloquial expressions is an important marker of Ozark identity.

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