My love letter to language and dialect discussions

screenshot from NYTimes interactive media

screenshot from NYTimes interactive media

My newsfeed on Facebook blew up with all sorts of people taking the New York Times Dialect quiz based on the Harvard Dialect Study. The quiz is cool; answer 25 questions and you’ll have personalized info graphic depicting proportions of people who speak similarly along with the 3 cities that are the most similar to you. The first time I took the quiz I got (Tucson, AZ, Salt Lake City, UT and a random city in California). I retook the quiz today, so that I could include a screen shot here and I got three cities in California! top3cititiesnytimes

The quiz reminded me so much of a PBS documentary that my family watched a long time ago called, “Do You Speak American?” which as far as I know is not available online anywhere, but has some information about it here. If you can figure out how to watch it, I recommend it!

It was pretty exciting to have dialects and regional differences be the trending topic because it’s something I’ve loved to talk about for a really long time. When we first moved here my family catalogued all the newfangled words we learned “stop-and-go-light”, “parking ramp”, and “bubbler”. In college my housemates and I debated a length pop vs. soda, and we own mugs that say “It’s a bubbler, fountains are where you throw coins!”


For Christmas I got the book
Wisconsin Talk: Linguistic Diversity in the Badger State edited by Thomas Purnell, Eric Raimy and Joseph Salmons.

The book has individual chapters written by scholars on Wisconsin’s language past, present and future. It discusses the Native American languages in Wisconsin and current attempts to revitalize the languages. Another chapter discusses German immigrants educational model. There’s also a chapter that discusses the Hmong language in Wisconsin and one on The African American English dialect. Throughout the book there were so many beautiful maps and charts!

For me it was a succinct summary what I learned during my undergraduate career which as of late I’ve had a hard time explaining. It felt like a love letter to Wisconsin, language and diversity.


2 thoughts on “My love letter to language and dialect discussions

  1. Cool! I’ve wondered if prepositional use varies in different areas of the country. I edit for a person on the west coast and their use of prepositions is consistently, noticeably different than ours. But maybe it’s just personal quirkiness too….

    1. Yes I believe we have some differences in prepositional phrases because of the strong Germanic influence… I can’t remember what the specific differences are though.

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