So, Which American English Dialect Do You Speak?

It's not whether you speak English ... it's what dialect of American English do you speak.

A decade ago, Robert Delaney of Long Island University put together a map of the various American English dialects (and subdialects) that exist in the United States.

A few examples:

Eastern New England (1) This is one of the most distinctive of all the American dialects. R's are often dropped, but an extra R is added to words that end with a vowel. A is pronounced AH so that we get "Pahk the cah in Hahvahd yahd" and "Pepperidge Fahm remembuhs."

Boston Urban (2) Like many big cities, Boston has its own dialects that are governed more by social factors like class and ethnicity than by geographic location. Greater Boston Area is the most widely spoken and is very similar to Eastern New England. Brahmin is spoken by the upper aristocratic class like Mr. Howell on Gilligan's Island.

New York City (5)  Unlike Boston and other urban dialects, New York City stands by itself and bears little resemblence to the other dialects in this region. It is also the most disliked and parodied of any American dialect (even among New Yorkers), possibly because many Americans tend dislike large cities. When an R comes after a vowel, it is often dropped. IR becomes OI, but OIbecomes IR, and TH becomes D as in "Dey sell tirlets on doity-doid street" and fugedaboudit (forget about it).

San Francisco Urban (8)  Unlike the rest of California, which in the early twentieth century saw an influx of people from the South and other parts of the West, San Francisco continued to be settled by people from the Northeast and Northern Midwest, and elements of their dialects (North Midland, Upper Midwestern, Inland Northern) can be found. The Mission dialect, spoken by Irish Catholics in a specific part of the city, is very much like the New York City dialect.

Chicago Urban (10)  Influenced by the Midland and Southern dialects. Often spoken by the late John Belushi (Chicago's Second City comedy theater supplied many Saturday Night Live actors). SNL used to spoof it in the "Da Bears, Da Bulls" sketches. They call any sweet roll doughnuts.

Pacific Southwest (15)  The first English speakers arrived here from New York, Ohio, Missouri, New England, and other parts of the Northeast and Midwest in the 1840s, bringing the Northern and North Midland dialects with them. Words originally used by the gold miners of this period are still used today: pay dirt (valuable discovery), pan out (to succeed), and goner (doomed person).

The early twentieth century saw an influx of people from the South and other parts of the West. The people here are particularly fond of creating new slang and expressions, and, since Hollywood is located here, these quickly get spread to the rest of the country and the world.

During the late 1970s and early 1980s, an extreme exaggeration of this dialect that came to be known as "Valley Girl" or "Surfer Dude" was popular among teenagers and much parodied in the media with phrases like "gag me with a spoon" and"barf me back to the stone age." Sean Penn in Fast Times at Ridgemont High and Whoopie Goldberg in her one-woman show are two famous examples.

Cajun English borrows vocabulary and grammar from French and gives us the famous pronunciations "un-YON" (onion) and"I ga-RON-tee" as well as the phrase "Let de good times role!", but movies about cajuns usually get the rest wrong. A famous authentic speaker is humorist Justin Wilson, who had a cooking show on PBS, with his catch phrase, "How y'all are? I'm glad for you to see me." New Orleans is pronounced with one syllable: "Nawlns."

Read more over at FAST.

Which dialect do you speak?

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