In the 2005 PBS documentary sequence Do You Speak American? journalist Robert MacNeil traveled from fabled “sea to shining sea” to discover the mysteries of American English. Among the many questions he addressed at the time was once the popular concept that mass media is “homogenizing American language or making us all communicate the identical.” MacNeil, and the linguists he interviewed, discovered that this wasn’t true, however what accounts for the misperception?

One explanation why we could have been vulnerable to suppose so is that regional accents perceived to disappear from tv and different media, as the nation turned into extra suburban, and heart category white Americans distanced themselves from their immigrant roots and from African Americans and working-class Southerners. Aside from a number of large ethnic stereotypes, a lot of which additionally pale throughout the Civil Rights technology, the more-or-less original regional accents on TV gave the impression fewer and less.

A rush of media in contemporary many years, alternatively, from Fargo to The Sopranos, has reintroduced Americans to the regional sorts of their language. At the identical time, fashionable remedy of linguistics, like MacNeil’s documentary, have presented us to the equipment researchers use to check the range of distinction in American English. Those variations may also be measured, as an example, in whether or not other folks pronounce “R” sounds in phrases like “automobile,” a feature linguists name “rhoticity.”

In the previous century, Ben Trawick-Smith of Dialect Blog writes, “American and British attitudes towards non-rhoticity diverged. Where r-lessness was once as soon as a status function in each nations,” representing in the Southern planter category and Boston Brahmins in the U.S., as an example, “this can be a marker of working-class or vernacular speech in 21st-century America (standard of the broadest New York City, Boston and African American Vernacular Englishes).” In the brief movie at the most sensible, you’ll be able to pay attention a number of sorts of rhotic and non-rhotic American English in the mouths of audio system from 6 areas round the nation.

Presented by way of linguist Henry Smith, Jr. the 1958 documentary main points the phonetic variations of every speaker’s pronunciations. Linguists use positive phrases to check for a vernacular’s phonetic qualities, phrases like “water” and “oil,” which you’ll be able to pay attention additional up in a much more contemporary video, pronounced by way of audio system from other states round the U.S. Regional speech could also be measured by way of the selection of phrases we use to speak about the identical factor, with one in all the maximum outstanding examples in the U.S. being “Soda vs. Pop vs. Coke.” In the Atlantic video simply above, see how the ones other phrases smash down in keeping with area, and be informed slightly extra about the “at least 10 distinct dialects of English” spoken in the U.S.

Related Content: 

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The Speech Accent Archive: The English Accents of People Who Speak 341 Different Languages

Josh Jones is a creator and musician primarily based in Durham, NC. Follow him at @jdmagness

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