6/7/13 - our american regional accents are growing further apart

In today's selection -- contrary to both popular opinion and expectations, regional dialects and accents in America are growing further apart, not closer together:

"People tend to believe that dialect differences in American English are disappearing, especially given our exposure to a fairly uniform broadcast standard in the mass media. One can find this point of view in almost any discussion of American dialects, as for example in a recent exchange on Dr. Goodword's Language Blog. A contributor, Bruce, wrote:

The accents I do hear from people from around the country seem to be disappearing. People from New Orleans interviewed on TV or Radio seem to sound like me, as do many of those I hear from New York and elsewhere. I used to hear distinctive accents from people from Minnesota for example and those also seem to be going.

"Dr. Goodword responded:

Bruce is absolutely right. Regional accents are dying out ... the original dialects in this country were the results of the accents of the various immigrants who came to this country looking for a better life. They all landed on the east coast, which is why all the accents are currently in the east. However, as they migrated to the west, all these accents merged into one, so there are no distinctive regional dialects west or north of southern Ohio (maybe southern Illinois and a bit in northern Minnesota).

"This overwhelmingly common opinion is simply and jarringly wrong. The research reported here will demonstrate that the reverse is actually the case. New sound changes in progress are driving the regional dialects of English further and further apart, so that people from Los Angeles, Chicago, Toronto, Philadelphia, and New York speak more differently from each other now than they did in the middle of the 20th century. I would not expect most readers of this book to accept this statement lightly, and I will do my best to put enough evidence before you to make it believable. We will be dealing with sounds that are not easy to describe in print, but I will try to direct your hearing so that you can begin to observe some of these new sound changes around you in everyday life.

"This book is a product of sociolinguistic research, in which we interview people in communities across the country and record conversation that comes as close as possible to the speech of everyday life. This approach produces surprising results that often run counter to preconceived intuitions and opinions."


William Labov


Dialect Diversity in America


University of Virginia Press


Copyright 2012 by the Rector and Visitors of the University of Virginia


barns and noble booksellers
Support Independent Bookstores - Visit

All delanceyplace profits are donated to charity and support children’s literacy projects.


Sign in or create an account to comment