I'm not at all surprised that Mark's posts on regional variation in American English (here) and (here) have stirred up such reader interest, because speech variability seems to be one of the first things people notice, even if they can't pinpoint exactly what it is. It's not as well understood that there is a long tradition of studying variation in the languages of the world, even in the United States. But there was a time when the study of linguistic geography was an important part of most linguistics departments. In the 1950s and 1960s you could study with nationally prominent linguists at universities in Ann Arbor, Chicago, New York, Washington, Providence, Berkeley, Cleveland, Madison, Seattle, Austin, and other places. The BIG names in linguistics back then included dialectologists such as Hans Kurath, Raven McDavid, Fred Cassidy, Albert Marckwardt, Harold Allen, Carroll Reed, E. Bagby Atwood, W. Nelson Francis, Uriel Weinreich, David Reed, James Sledd, and others. Their papers about regional dialects were prominent features at annual meetings of the Linguistic Society of America.
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