Dialecty goodness
January 20, 2005 6:03 PM   Subscribe

Do you speak American? The companion website to a PBS series, full of interactive language and dialect tools. You can map your attitudes about regional correctness, guess the speaker's home, learn about American varieties, track the history of certain words, hear samples of regional dialects, and more.
Further reading: Dialect Map of American English [image], Slanguage's local terms, and this collection of local phrases.
Previously on MetaFilter: The Dialect Survey (and results), The Speech Accent Archive, Pop vs. Soda.
posted by stopgap (13 comments total)
Neat stuff stopgap. My wife is a linguist, and we'll see what she thinks when she gets a chance to look.

I have a funny Americ-english story: Once while driving to Detroit from Sarnia Ontario, I lost my way and had to stop at a motel for directions. I asked for a map to find my way back to the expressway, and the desk-lady gave me a look of utter confusion. I asked again for a map, and she said not to worry, the cleaning staff would take care of it. Now we were both very confused! It went on like that for ten minutes. We lived less than an hour away from eachother, but we could not distinguish between my a, and her o. Go figure.
posted by Popular Ethics at 6:34 PM on January 20, 2005

this is great! i loved the program, even if it did result in a shouting match between me and my father about whether hip hop slang is "real" language :b
posted by ifjuly at 6:38 PM on January 20, 2005

[this is good]
posted by Gilbert at 8:46 PM on January 20, 2005

Very interesting.

I've teased my mother for years about her pen/pin vowel merger. I wasn't aware that I do the cot/caught merger (trends of the pacific northwest and midwestern accent) on a regular basis. It took me a few tries to get the two words sounding different.
posted by Sangre Azul at 8:53 PM on January 20, 2005

We lived less than an hour away from eachother, but we could not distinguish between my a, and her o. Go figure.

A good friend of mine lives in London, Ontario, and whenever she comes to visit my mom puts her through her paces, making her pronounce such words as "Chicago" and "hospital", because, as mom puts it, "her accent is so cute!"
posted by Oriole Adams at 9:27 PM on January 20, 2005

posted by TwelveTwo at 11:51 PM on January 20, 2005

Good show, better website. There's some interesting discussion in my post on the subject.
posted by languagehat at 4:23 AM on January 21, 2005

Sangre Azul, I have the cot/caught merger as well (Native Seattleite here; my family has been in Western Washington since 1882), and I can't even figure out how to make them sound different!

I have this theory (backed up by no linguistic research at all) that we in the Seattle area are gradually sounding more Canadian. When I was a kid, no one said "sorry" with an "o" sound unless they were Canadian -- it was pronounced "sahrry". But I hear lots of people say "sorry" with the "o" vowel sound now. Many of them are PNW natives. But I suppose it could just be a fluke.
posted by litlnemo at 5:12 AM on January 21, 2005

When I was young, my father used to make me repeat "Mary will be merry when she marries" in order to learn the difference between "ay," "eh" and "aaa" (like "fat"). Now I have ultra-correct enunciation, and people think I'm either British or just pretentious. Thanks, Dad.

I am going to forward this link to my students so we can discuss the nifty etymology section in class.
posted by Uccellina at 6:52 AM on January 21, 2005

Popular Ethics, I'm not sure I get it - do you pronounce map "mawp"? That's how I imagine that Canadian woman would pronounce mop.
posted by jimmycurN at 11:18 AM on January 21, 2005

jimmycurN: Poo, I guess I didn't explain the story as well as I thought. The woman was an American. She said mop, like I (a Canadian) say map. She said map like "maep". (She practically yelled that when she figured it out, which made me chuckle.) I don't remember the name of the vowel merger at issue.
posted by Popular Ethics at 11:52 AM on January 21, 2005

linguist wife here. really good site, but i'm remarkably bad at the name that accent game. i fail, but to be fair, i consider myself an ex-linguist.
posted by purtek at 3:20 PM on January 21, 2005

Native Detroiter here, and I was interested to read there about how us Michiganders think we speak Standard American English, but don't. I've heard that repeated many times, but started to wonder about it after spending 10 years in Western Mass. Michigander-speak no longer sounded standard, or like the Network anchors (who don't sound the same to me, anyway).

Perhaps I'm a bad example. My accent changes, sometimes dramatically, depending on whom I'm speaking with and the context. I put that down to being a trained classical musician and having lived in a few different places with very different dialects.
posted by QIbHom at 10:19 PM on January 21, 2005

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