29 December 2010

A (complex) map of American dialects

Click - twice - for bigger and bigger.

I was born in East Midland, grew up in Western North, went to school in Eastern New England and Lowland South, and then worked in Inland South and Central Midland before retiring to Inland North.  Whew.

Via Metafilter.


  1. I live in a region that is mapped as one dialect and I'm pretty darned sure there are at least 6 dialects in the region defined on the map.

    Are there sub-dialects?

  2. I don't have access to the primary data, but I would suspect that a map of this type has to default to displaying the "dominant" dialect in a region, spoken by the majority or plurality of people. Otherwise any major city would offer a dozen dialects and the map would be unreadable.

  3. Wow, this takes me back a few years. As an English major during my first few years of college, I considered pursuing the study of dialects of American English. Alas, I was sidetracked by anthropology and archaeology, but continued to be fascinated by dialects. I remember one of John Swanton's books having a wonderful map of indigenous native languages, most of which disappeared once European contact decimated so many of the continent's original inhabitants.

  4. This is a wonderful tool to understanding the US accents. I am originally from SF Bay, and yes I have an Uncle 'Don' and a cousin 'Dawn' and they are pronounced the same. I now live in the North Western New England area and have a difficult time understanding the dropped 'r' phenomenon. Though the natives don't understand me any better...

  5. It's interesting how similar the Long Island accents of my childhood are to the Providence accent where we live now. And how natural it sounds compared to the different patterns of Detroit and Chicago, and the twang of Colorado and the round "O" of south central Pennsylvania.

  6. Someone explain to a resident of the Western North dialect region how Dawn and Don sound different.

  7. Dawn would rhyme with "lawn."

    Don would rhyme with "con."

  8. Hey, what a beautiful map. Do you sell prints?

    I'm a displaced South Dakotan, married to a guy from Southern Wisconsin, whose accent is one I love, living in the Pacific NW.

    People speak strangely here:)


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