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American Regional Dialects

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AMERICAN REGIONAL DIALECTS Most languages have dialects, each with a distinctive accent, grammar, vocabulary, and idiom. Although the term usually refers to regional speech, it can be extended to cover differences according to class and occupation. Such terms as regional dialect, social dialect, class dialect, occupational dialect, urban dialect, and rural dialect are all used by linguists. Using a biological foundation, dialects can be described as the result of evolutionary process. The tendency of all languages to change in one detail or another and so develop dialects is restrained only by the need of communication between speakers, and so preserve a common core. Written forms, accompanied by the inculcation of a standard by the social and educational ´┐Żlites of a nation or group of nations, slow the process of change but cannot prevent it. Dialects are in fact often less changeable than the standard; their speakers tend to live in stable communities and to conserve forms of the language which are 'older' in terms of the development of the standard. Such a standard, however, is in origin also a dialect, and in the view of some linguists can and should be called the standard dialect (although for many this phrase is a contradiction in terms). ...read more.


The New England Dialects These dialects are non-rhotic: dropping r's before consonants and at the end of words. This area is further subdivided into Eastern New England, including Boston and much of Maine, where O and AU shift into an intermediate vowel so that cot and caught are merged. Transitional between Eastern New England and New York, Western New England is less well defined. Providence retains R-dropping, but does not merge O and AU. The New York Dialects New York City has a rather anomalous linguistic situation, in that its local dialect was not reproduced further westward and therefore cannot be fit into any larger regional grouping such as New England or the Midland. Like New England, the dialect is R-dropping; other features are more generally common to the Northeastern seaboard. The Hudson Valley dialect of Albany, though R-preserving, is nevertheless close enough to New York City's to be grouped with it: both of them shared a Dutch linguistic substratum which is now only vestigial. The Great Lakes Dialects Among all the dialect regions, the Great Lakes region is perhaps the most homogenous, since the major cities in this area (Syracuse, Rochester, Buffalo, Cleveland, Detroit, Chicago, Milwaukee) ...read more.


cot for both caught and cot, and the fronting of the long U class, e.g. "ih-oo" in words such as two. Otherwise it appears that the Western dialects were formed primarily from a Midland base, since both groups are similarly conservative in their phonology; in fact it was certainly Midland and Western dialects which were so often lumped together under the catch-all phrase "General American". Westward migration has also carried typically Northern features into the Pacific Northwest, and Southern features into the Southwest: both phonology and lexicon have been affected. Regional dialects are examined by their disposition geographically, although the varieties of English can also be determined by other factors that shape usage, such as age, ethnicity, gender, and social class. Therefore, the inclination of change within the pronunciation of the English language is inevitable. In time, the possibility of transitioning speech is certain and the basis of the English language becomes more distorted and even less unified. Among the differences between dialects are variances in perceived charisma and identity to the national region. Dialect transition, evolution, and crossover are all dependent upon community stability and other outside influence. Differences in enunciation, inflection, and speech amongst Americans act to preservce the distinct and variant cultural identities. ...read more.

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