Whimsy and wonderings about everyday life

Posts tagged ‘word nerds’

Diphthongs and monophthongs are not bathing suits, ya know.

North American English Dialects, Based on Pronunciation Patterns

North American English Dialects, Based on Pronunciation Patterns

Presenting the North American dialect map

Do you like accents? I love them. There is beauty to be found in the musicality of the molasses-slow Southern drawls that surrounded me when I was growing up in southern Alabama. The blustery nasal raucousness of blue collar Boston is uniquely robust and vigorous, at least until you visit the “yats” in New Orleans.  It’s easy to tell when you’re in the presence of someone from New York City. when you hear inventive urban smack talk delivered in the unique accent of Big Apple natives.

So, I am fascinated by this labor of love from Rick Aschmann. He lists eight major dialects and a host of subdialects in this incredibly detailed site. He augments the map with a huge amount of history, speculation and supporting data.

You can print the dialect map, record your voice, learn about classical southern English and the African-American vernacular. (The last was of particular interest to me, since I am originally from the deep South.)

There are sections about “pin” vs “pen,” “cot” and “cut,” “let” and “lot.” He includes links to videos of people like Bill Gates, representing the Seattle accent; the unmistakable West Virginia twang of the wonderfully named author Homer Hickam;  and the instantly recognizable middle class accent and vocal idiosyncrasies of New Yorker Howard Cosell. As a word nerd, history buff and people watcher/listener, I find it all fascinating.

I did not yet find the origin of people who refer to “Washington” but “warsh” their clothes, but if there were ever a place to find that kind of esoteric information, this would be it. He talks about New Orleans and the wide variety of dialects, but I need to read more to see if he discusses the Creole-based dialect indigenous to the some communities in the Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama Gulf Coast.  Another interesting dialect study could be developed on the Vietnamese communities that sprang up after the Vietnamese war. I suspect the Gulf Coast communities have some different linguistics from the communities here in Colorado, for example.

So, if you have traveled around North America and marveled – or simply noticed –  the wide variety of ways people deliver their gliding vowels, this site is for you. I found it via a post at bitrebels, by the way – another site worth checking out on a regular basis.